Even though the US and its NATO allies have provided a massive amount of arms to Ukraine, the country’s commander-in-chief has said more is needed for Ukrainian forces to advance more rapidly in their counteroffensive.
In an interview with The Washington Post published Saturday, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny said he was frustrated because Ukraine’s Western backers would never launch a major counteroffensive without air superiority and complained about that lack of modern fighter jets.
Zaluzhny also said Ukrainian forces should be able to fire as many artillery rounds as their enemy on the battlefield. But in some cases, Russia has fired 10 times as much artillery as Ukraine. He said because of these reasons, Western comments about the counteroffensive being off to a slow start “pisses me off.”
Western officials recently told CNN that the counteroffensive was “not meeting expectations,” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the assault was going “slower than desired.”
“This is not a show,” Zaluzhny said. “It’s not a show the whole world is watching and betting on or anything. Every day, every meter is given by blood.”
“Without being fully supplied, these plans are not feasible at all,” he added. “But they are being carried out. Yes, maybe not as fast as the participants in the show, the observers, would like, but that is their problem.”
Zaluzhny said that he has been expressing his concerns to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley. “We have an agreement: 24/7, we’re in touch. So, sometimes I can call up and say, ‘If I don’t get 100,000 shells in a week, 1,000 people will die. Step into my shoes,’” Zaluchny said of his conversations with Milley.
Ukraine’s main demand is for more ammunition and F-16 fighter jets, which aren’t expected to be delivered from European countries until at least the end of the year. Ukrainian pilots need to be trained on F-16s, and Kyiv has still not received a concrete pledge from any countries that say they’re willing to provide the US-made jets.
Regarding ammunition, it’s not clear if the US and NATO policy of providing Ukraine with artillery rounds is sustainable. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this year that Ukraine is using significantly more rounds than the entire alliance can produce.
Zaluzhny also discussed Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short-lived uprising in Russia, saying the Wagner fighters withdrew from Bakhmut months ago, so it didn’t impact the counteroffensive. “We didn’t feel that their defense got weaker somewhere or anything,” he said.
In the months leading up to Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the Discord leaks and media reports showed that the Biden administration did not expect Ukraine to be able to regain significant territory. But the administration still pushed for the assault as it explicitly opposes the idea of a ceasefire, a position Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined in a speech last month.