Ukraine’s Intel Chief Thinks Crimea Will Be Taken, But US Officials Disagree

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius says many US and Ukrainian officials think taking the peninsula is 'impossible'

The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, thinks Ukrainian forces will be able to take Crimea from Russia, and he hopes it will happen by this summer.

But Ukraine’s backers in Washington as well as other Ukrainian officials, don’t hold the same view. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote in a January 24 article that there is a “widespread view in Washington and Kyiv that regaining Crimea by military force may be impossible.”

Ignatius added that any Ukrainian success in the Zaporizhzhia oblast could threaten Russian control of Crimea but that “an all-out Ukrainian campaign to seize the Crimean Peninsula is unrealistic, many US and Ukrainian officials believe.” He said this was due in part to the fact that “Putin has indicated that an assault on Crimea would be a tripwire for nuclear escalation.”

But the risk of nuclear war has not discouraged the US from considering helping Ukraine launch attacks on Crimea. The New York Times reported in January that the Biden administration was holding talks with Ukrainian officials on a potential assault on Crimea even though the US doesn’t think Ukraine can actually take the peninsula.

The US thinking is to put the peninsula under threat to give Ukraine any leverage for future negotiations. But assaults on Crimea threaten a major escalation of the war, as Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrated by starting large-scale attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure after the truck bombing of the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to the Russian mainland.

The Times report said that the Biden administration isn’t as concerned about nuclear escalation as it was before, and Budanov also isn’t concerned. “This is not true,” Budanov said in a recent interview when asked if he thinks Ukrainian troops entering Crimea could trigger a nuclear response from Putin.

“And Crimea will be returned to us. I’ll tell you more: It all started in Crimea in 2014, and it will all end there,” Budanov said. Russia annexed Crimea following the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv that ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and sparked the civil war in the Donbas.

Russia held a referendum at the time that saw 97% of voters in favor of joining the Russian Federation. While the US and Ukraine dispute the results, polling since then has shown that the people of Crimea are happy they joined Russia.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.