Senior Pentagon officials told lawmakers in the House Armed Services Committee last week in a classified briefing that Ukraine is unlikely to retake Crimea from Russia, POLITICO reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the briefing.
The briefing reflects other recent reporting that said US officials don’t think Ukraine has the capability to take the peninsula, which Russia has controlled since 2014. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said back in November that the probability of Ukraine kicking Russia out of the territory it captured since last February and Crimea is “not high.”
Milley reiterated this point on January 20. “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 said.
According to the POLITICO report, the Ukrainian government was “furious” with Milley’s comments. Ukrainian officials maintain that kicking Russia out of Crimea is still one of their war goals, although Ukraine is beginning to lose more territory in its battle against Russian forces in the east.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the head of the House Armed Services Committee, declined to discuss the contents of the briefing his panel received on Crimea but signaled the US might be looking to wind the war down.
According to POLITICO, Rogers said the war needs to “end this summer” and said the US must rapidly supply Kyiv for a coming offensive. He also indicated the US might try to put pressure on the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to have a more realistic idea of victory and said that “Russia is never going to quit and give up Crimea.”
“What is doable? And I don’t think that that’s agreed upon yet. So I think that there’s going to have to be some pressure from our government and NATO leaders with Zelensky about what does victory look like,” Rogers added. “And I think that’s going to help us more than anything be able to drive Putin and Zelensky to the table to end this thing this summer.”
But a lot could happen between now and the summer, and as the US and its allies continue to announce major escalations of military aid, a direct clash between NATO and Russia becomes more likely.