US Presses Ukraine for “Decisive Breakthrough”: “Ukrainian Forces are being Methodically Neutralised”. Heavy Casualties
US officials are concerned that Ukraine is not making enough progress in its much-heralded counteroffensive, The Washington Post reported on July 18, citing unnamed sources. According to the media outlet, the US is urging Kiev to commit to a decisive breakthrough as Ukrainian commanders are, supposedly, yet to employ the full-scale offensive tactics Western instructors taught them.
A US official explained on condition of anonymity to the newspaper that the West had trained Ukrainian forces in integrated offensive manoeuvres and provided them with mine clearance equipment. The source stressed that it was critical for Kiev’s troops to apply these capabilities to break through Russian defences quickly.
Western officials have reportedly criticised Ukraine’s armed forces for taking an attrition-based approach by firing artillery and missiles at command, transport, and logistics locations at the rear of Russian positions rather than using Western-style “combined arms” that involve large-scale attacks with tanks, armoured vehicles, infantry, artillery, and the air force.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War explained that Ukrainian commanders chose to adopt more discreet advances, involving groups of 15 to 50 soldiers to preserve the military contingent.
“Russian defensive operations in southern Ukraine follow a pattern in which one echelon of Russian forces slows and degrades attacking Ukrainian forces until a second echelon counterattacks from prepared defensive positions to roll back the Ukrainian advances,” the journal wrote.
In this way, Ukrainian forces are being methodically neutralised by the Russian military as they have turned the battlefield into a meatgrinder.
This situation will not improve for Ukraine, especially following the acknowledgment by the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff that Kiev will have a “long,” “difficult,” and “bloody” fight against Russian forces, even if he did go on to sell an illusion that Ukraine can still win the war and that the offensive had not failed.
“It is far from a failure… I think that it’s way too early to make that kind of call,” US General Mark Milley said on July 18. “I think there’s a lot of fighting left to go and I’ll stay with what we said before: This is going to be long. It’s going be hard. It’s going to be bloody.”
Although he sold Kiev, once again, an illusion, he did have to begrudgingly acknowledge that it would take years and billions of dollars for the Ukrainian Air Force to gain parity with their Russian competitors.
“Ten F-16s are $2 billion. So, the Russians have hundreds of fourth and fifth-generation airframes. If they [the Ukrainians] are going to try to match the Russians, one for one or even two to one, you are talking about a large number of aircraft,” Milley said during the press briefing.
“That’s going to take years to train the pilots, years to do the maintenance and sustainment, years to generate that degree of financial support to do that. You’re talking way more billions of dollars than has already been generated,” he added.
In this way, he contradicts himself since he believes Ukraine can still win the war even though this is impossible without air superiority, something he acknowledges will take years and much more resources than the West has already committed to. Ukraine and the European Union do not have the years needed because their economic crises are only deepening, while the former faces significant manpower and labour issues.
To overcome this issue, Milley suggests that instead of supplying Ukraine with expensive aircraft, there should be a focus on air defences and tackling sort of offensive combined arms manoeuvres, i.e., artillery and long- and short-range artillery. But this, again, is problematic since any air defence systems that Ukraine receives from the West are destroyed almost immediately by Russian strikes.
It is recalled that Lieutenant General Douglas Sims, operations director for the Pentagon’s joint staff, said on July 13, “Conditions right now for the employment of the F-16s… they’re probably not ideal.”
“The Russians still possess some air defence capability. They have [air-to-air] capability. The number of F-16s that would be provided may not be perfect for what’s going on right now,” he added.
The three-star general’s comment came the same week as the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, during which a so-called “fighter coalition” of 11 European countries met to discuss providing Kiev with the American-made fighter jet. There, the US-backed European coalition announced its plans to begin training Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s in August, with Dutch and Danish aviators leading instruction, first in Denmark and later Romania.
Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive was an utter failure. All attempts to break through by the Ukrainian military have failed, resulting in heavy casualties. Even though the situation will not change, in fact, it will only worsen for Ukraine, Washington is still pushing the Kiev regime towards further conflict, which will only lead to the unnecessary death of thousands of more Slavs.
Ahmed Adel is a Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher.