Despite the row at this month's NATO summit in Vilnius caused by President Volodymyr Zelensky's angry tweet, for which he was accused by Western powers (especially the US and UK) of showing 'ingratitude', the Ukrainian leader is once again lashing out at his backers. This time, he's blaming the failing counteroffensive on lack of munitions and delayed training from the West.
"We did have plans to start it in spring. But we didn’t, because, frankly, we had not enough munitions and armaments and not enough brigades properly trained in these weapons," Zelensky told CNN's Fareed Zakaria via a translator in an interview which aired Sunday.
He also complained about training programs set up for Ukrainians to operate advanced systems, which are being sponsored and hosted in European countries under NATO guidance. Kiev has long pressed for a more expedited timeline on receiving US F-16 jets as well, but training has been "delayed" for this as well, set to begin next month.
"Still, more" - he continued of the problem - "that the training missions were held outside Ukraine. But, still, we started. And this is important." Zelensky said these factors have been key to the stalled counteroffensive, especially that Ukraine's forces are blowing through munitions at a very high pace to keep up with superior Russian fire.
"And because we started it a bit later on, it can be said, and it will be shared truth understood by all the experts that it provided Russia with time to mine all our lands and build several lines of defense. And, definitely, they had even more time than they needed," he explained.
"Because of that, they built more of those lines. And, really, they had a lot of mines in our fields. Because of that, a slower pace of our counteroffensive actions," Zelensky added. "We didn’t want to lose our people, our personnel. And our servicemen didn’t want to lose equipment because of that."
Very early in the counteroffensive in June, he had acknowledged a "slower than expected" advance. And in recent days and weeks, US mainstream media has increasingly featured pessimistic headlines for the first time in the conflict, suggesting the counter offensive is doomed, especially the longer it drags on without delivering a significant punch to Russian front lines.
Zelensky continued in his remarks to CNN, "Yes, I do understand that it’s always better to see victory come sooner. This is what we also want. But the question is the price … of this victory. So, let us not throw people under tanks literally. Let us plan our counteroffensive as our analysts, our intelligence suggests. And some of our residential areas have been liberated already. So, I do believe in our victory."
The consistent messaging from Kiev forces has been that Western aid is always insufficient - no matter the tens of billions poured in...
Update: in an interview with WashPo, Ukraine’s top general Zaluzhny confirms that the Western equipment provided so far (at a cost of $100B+) is insufficient to achieve the originally stated goals of the counteroffensive: “these plans are not feasible at all.” pic.twitter.com/Bwa5EOyFuj— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) July 1, 2023
Analysts have long described this current phase of the conflict as a war of "attrition" - and that Russia has ample resources and manpower to execute a long-haul strategy. The question that remains is whether the US and NATO allies will jump in more directly against Russia in the event of an eventual clear and overwhelming defeat of Kiev forces. Another question is whether this will hasten willingness among Western allies to see Zelensky negotiate a peace deal, likely involving territorial concessions, namely the Donbas and recognition of Russian Crimea.