Pentagon In Classified Briefing: Ukraine Retaking Crimea 'Unlikely'
During a meeting with Ukrainian defense officials on Jan. 20, chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley didn't make his counterparts too happy when he said, "I still maintain that for this year it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces from all –– every inch of Ukraine and occupied –– or Russian-occupied Ukraine,." He added at the time: "That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it’d be very, very difficult."
The Pentagon has backed Milley's assessment in a new classified briefing issued to lawmakers, and reported in Politico. "Ukrainian forces are unlikely to be able to recapture Crimea from Russian troops in the near future, four senior Defense Department officials told House Armed Services Committee lawmakers in a classified briefing."
The publication emphasized that the briefing's contents are sure to "frustrate" Ukrainian leaders, given it's become among their central goals in the war, for which they've argued the West should supply jets and longer-range missiles.
Politico states that it's "unclear" why the Pentagon came to the this conclusion, and writes, "But the clear indication, as relayed by three people with direct knowledge of Thursday’s briefing’s contents, was that the Pentagon doesn’t believe Ukraine has — or soon will have — the ability to force Russian troops out of the peninsula Moscow seized nearly a decade ago."
And finally, "A fourth person said the briefing was more ambiguous, but the point remained that Ukraine’s victory in an offensive to retake the illegally annexed territory wasn’t assured."
Regardless, Kiev has continued giving public statements vowing that its forces intend to liberate Crimia, with the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, this week reiterating that "Crimea will be returned to us. I’ll tell you more: It all started in Crimea in 2014, and it will all end there."
He even put a timeline on it: "we must do everything to ensure that Crimea returns home by summer."
Moscow has indicated that its sovereignty over Crimea is a bright red line, and some Russian officials have suggested willingness to deploy nukes in its defense. But Budanov dismissed this as a "scare tactic" and explained "Russia is a country that you can expect a lot from but not outright idiocy. Sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Carrying out a nuclear strike will result in not just a military defeat for Russia but the collapse of Russia. And they know this very well."
It remains, however, that any real or large-scale attempt to mount a Ukrainian offensive in Crimea would have to have the backing of Western allies, given Ukraine's military is at this point completely propped up by the weapons and funds being supplied via NATO countries.
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Interestingly, the White House has still kept up its talking point of "Crimea is Ukraine" - at the same time it announced Abrams M1 tank deliveries...
It's not a conspiracy theory that the M1 tanks we're sending are intended to help Ukraine retake Crimea.— Clint Ehrlich (@ClintEhrlich) January 26, 2023
It's a fact.
The White House confirmed it yesterday. pic.twitter.com/hGsNqwmiYF