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15 Jul, 2023 17:27

Russia-Ukraine conflict ‘at a stalemate’ – Pentagon official

Western weapons won’t be enough to give Kiev a decisive advantage, John Kirchhofer has warned
Russia-Ukraine conflict ‘at a stalemate’ – Pentagon official

Fighting in Ukraine has reached “a bit of a stalemate,” US Defense Intelligence Agency Chief of Staff John Kirchhofer told a conference in Washington on Thursday. His assessment of Ukraine’s chances is considerably gloomier than that of other Biden administration officials. 

“Certainly we are at a bit of a stalemate,” Kirchhofer said, according to Bloomberg. “One of the things that the Russian leadership believes is that they can outlast the support of the West.”

Ukrainian forces have been bogged down in a counteroffensive against Russian defenses from Kherson to Donetsk since early June, and have failed to make any significant territorial gains against the Russians. The offensive has cost Ukraine 26,000 men and more than 3,000 pieces of military hardware, according to the latest figures from the Russian Ministry of Defense. 

Ukrainian President Zelensky and his top officials have publicly blamed the West for failing to provide enough weapons – including long-range missiles and fighter jets – to guarantee the offensive’s success.

However, Kirchhofer warned that no one weapon system will change Kiev’s fortunes. Neither US-supplied HIMARS rocket artillery and cluster bombs, nor British Storm Shadow cruise missiles, have thus far tilted the battlefield situation in Ukraine’s favor, he pointed out. 

“None of these, unfortunately, are the holy grail that Ukrainians looking for that will allow them to break through,” he said.

While recent media reports suggest that Kiev’s American and European backers are frustrated with the pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Washington officials have publicly insisted that all is well. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said last month that Ukrainian forces were “advancing steadily,” but that progress would be slow and “very bloody.” 

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN last month that heavy Ukrainian casualties are “to be expected,” but that Zelensky will continue to receive “the support he needs not just from the United States, but from 50 other partners.”

US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both repeatedly rejected the idea of Ukraine entering into peace talks with Russia. Both insist that Ukraine will decide when to sit down to negotiate, and neither have spoken on whether this position will change if Kiev’s counteroffensive continues to fail.

Russia maintains that Western arms deliveries will only serve to prolong the conflict, without altering its eventual outcome. 

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