The US is helping Ukraine prepare for a potential counteroffensive against Russian forces as the Biden administration wants Kyiv to retake more territory in the coming months.
According to The New York Times, senior US generals at the headquarters of US Army Europe and Africa in Germany hosted Ukrainian military officials for tabletop war games exercises, demonstrating Washington’s intimate involvement in the war.
The drills are meant to help Ukrainian officials strategize what their next move on the battlefield could be. After a wargaming session on Thursday, Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, the supreme allied commander in Europe, said the US would continue to help Ukraine’s “adaptability” and said the US and NATO “can keep going as long as necessary.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also attended the Thursday session, and described the purpose of the drills. “The Ukrainians are moving things around on these maps to determine what is their best course of action, and they determine the advantages and disadvantages of the risks associated,” he said.
The exercises come as Russian forces are closing in on the Donestk city of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian officials have hinted they might withdraw from soon as they are facing heavy casualties. US officials speaking to the Times said Ukraine was considering launching a counteroffensive in the eastern Donbas region.
Ukrainian forces could also try to mount a southern offensive, an idea US officials seem to favor. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in January that cutting off the land bridge Russia has established from Crimea to the Russian mainland could be a “realistic goal for this year.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his forces are preparing an attack on Crimea, but Russia still controls a significant portion of territory to the north of the peninsula. But that hasn’t deterred US officials from declaring their support for Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, which could risk a major escalation of the war.
While the US is prepping Ukraine for a counteroffensive, Russia has been building up its forces for months after mobilizing 300,000 fresh troops, and Moscow could be planning to launch a major offensive of its own.