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19 Feb, 2024 10:12

West was ‘overly optimistic’ about Ukraine – NATO commander

Ammunition and training were mistakenly believed to be enough for Kiev to win, Admiral Rob Bauer has said
West was ‘overly optimistic’ about Ukraine – NATO commander

The West grossly overestimated Ukraine’s chances of battlefield progress against Russia last year, a senior NATO commander has told the Financial Times. His comments came after Kiev’s botched counteroffensive and the recent loss of the strategic city of Avdeevka.

In an interview published on Monday, Admiral Rob Bauer, who chairs the NATO Military Committee, admitted that Western powers had been “overly optimistic about the war in 2023.” He was apparently referring to Kiev’s ambitious plans to breach Russian defenses and reach the Crimean Peninsula, which failed to materialize.

Bauer, who headed the Dutch armed forces between 2017 and 2021, claimed that the West believed that “if we give the Ukrainians the ammunition and training they need, they’ll win.” At the same time, he warned against being “overly pessimistic in 2024,” stating that despite recent setbacks, Ukraine remains a sovereign nation.

His remarks follow last week’s Munich Security Conference, which largely revolved around Ukraine’s military plight. This year’s event was starkly different from the one in 2023, the FT reported, claiming that “optimism… has flipped into unremitting gloom,” exacerbated by the realization that Kiev urgently needs major ammunition shipments that the West is struggling to provide.

Politico reported on Sunday that several officials used the conference to insist that Ukraine will lose the conflict unless the US approves a further $60 billion in aid, which is currently stalled in Congress. The measure has for months been blocked by Republicans who have demanded tighter security on the southern US border.

According to the outlet, officials “sounded far from certain about what a victory might look like for Ukraine,” even with renewed American aid. For now, the West’s plan is simply to “keep the Ukrainian military from collapsing,” Politico added.

Western fears of Kiev’s potential defeat were rekindled after its summer counteroffensive failed to breach Russian lines, despite the Ukrainian military being reinforced with a massive amount of foreign equipment. The Russian Defense Ministry has estimated Kiev’s losses at more than 215,000 service members in 2023 alone.

In another setback for Ukraine, Russian troops last week captured the fortified Donbass city of Avdeevka. According to Moscow, Ukrainian troops made a chaotic retreat, suffering heavy losses. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has insisted the withdrawal was “absolutely logical” and sought to avoid heavy casualties.