The Washington Post reported Tuesday that US officials believe Ukraine should be launching large-scale assaults against Russia’s defensive lines despite the risk of major losses and are blaming Ukraine’s tactics for the struggling counteroffensive.
The report said that the pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive “has generated concerns in the West that the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky may not deliver as powerful a blow as it could.”
The main complaint from the US and other Western countries is that Ukraine is not using “combined arms” tactics, which integrate infantry, armored vehicles, and artillery. Instead, Ukraine is relying on artillery and sending small teams of engineers to clear minefields, which Ukrainian officials say they are doing to prevent unnecessary losses.
The New York Times also reported that the US was frustrated by Ukraine’s caution. The report reads: “Senior US officials in recent weeks had privately expressed frustration that some Ukrainian commanders, exasperated at the slow pace of the initial assault and fearing increased casualties among their ranks, had reverted to old habits — decades of Soviet-style training in artillery barrages — rather than sticking with the Western tactics and pressing harder to breach the Russian defenses.”
Ukrainian troops received combined arms training in NATO countries ahead of the counteroffensive, and the Biden administration wants them to use it. But Ukrainian forces did launch large armored assaults in the first weeks of the counteroffensive, which resulted in heavy losses. According to Times, 20% of all of Ukraine’s weaponry deployed to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed during the first two weeks of the counteroffensive.
Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, has hit back at Western criticism of the counteroffensive, saying NATO would never launch such an assault without air superiority. He’s been demanding that the US and NATO provide US-made F-16 fighter jets, which aren’t expected to arrive until next year.
According to the Post, US officials are privately saying that Western jets won’t make much of a difference due to Russia’s exstensive air defenses. John Kirchhofer, the chief of staff for the US Defense Intelligence Agency, offered a bleak assessment of Ukraine’s prospects at a conference last week, saying that no weapon will be the “holy grail” to help Ukraine “break through.”
Despite the situation on the ground for Ukrainian soldiers, the Biden administration is still pushing for more fighting and shows no interest in a ceasefire or diplomacy. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley insisted on Tuesday that the counteroffensive is not a failure.
“It is far from a failure, in my view. I think that it’s way too early to make that kind of call. I think there’s a lot of fighting left to go,” Milley said. “And I’ll stay with what we’ve said before, this is going to be long, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be bloody.”