Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley predicted Thursday that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will be long and “very violent” following a meeting of military officials in Brussels.
Milley made the comments when asked how long he expects the counteroffensive to last, saying it was “premature” to put a timeline on the battle. “This is a very difficult fight. It’s a very violent fight, and it will likely take a considerable amount of time and at high cost,” Milley said.
The Biden administration has been pushing for the violent counteroffensive as it’s explicitly opposed to a ceasefire and peace talks, a position Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined earlier this month.
Milley claimed Ukraine has been making “steady progress,” but the battle lines have not changed much since Ukraine launched the assault early last week. According to The New York Times, it’s been three days since Ukraine claimed any gains, and Ukraine’s deputy defense acknowledged it was “very difficult to advance” in the southeast.
Asia Times reported on June 10 that American and European military observers in Ukraine described Ukraine’s attempted counteroffensive as a “suicide mission” because of the way they were attacking Russia’s positions.
“If you want to conduct an offensive and you have a dozen brigades and a few dozen tanks, you concentrate them and try to break through. The Ukrainians have been running around in five different directions,” a senior European officer told Asia Times.
“We tried to tell them to stop these piecemeal tactics, define a main thrust with proper infantry support and then do what they can,” the officer added. The report said Ukraine lost 38 tanks, including numerous German-made Leopard 2 tanks, on June 8 by sending them into minefields without deploying mine-clearing vehicles first.
The US has already announced a new weapons package to replace Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles that Ukraine has lost in the offensive, and Ukraine has been asking for more tanks, including the Leopard 2.
Speaking alongside Milley on Thursday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin downplayed Ukraine’s losses, claiming that Russia was showing different pictures of the same damaged vehicles. “This is a war, so we know that there will be battle damage on both sides … I think the Russians have shown us that same five vehicles about a thousand times from 10 different angles. But quite frankly, the Ukrainians have — still have a lot of combat capability — combat power,” he said.
At the conference in Brussels of military officials from more than 50 countries, known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, Austin stressed the need to support Ukraine for the long-term. He said the Netherlands and Denmark shared the progress they’ve made on training Ukrainians on F-16s, but it’s still unclear how many of the US-made fighter jets Ukraine will receive.