Ukrainian forces have a “significant amount of combat power” which which to take the fight to Vladimir Putin’s Russia which has not yet been committed to the war, the top US military officer said today.
Speaking to reporters after defence leaders from around the world met to discuss Ukraine’s military needs, Army General Mark Milley was asked about the slow pace of Ukraine’s offensive to take back territory seized by Russia.
Mr Milley said Ukraine will decide when to use the combat power and complex training the US and allies have provide and flatly dismissed any suggestion that the offensive is failing.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “It is far from a failure, in my view. I think that it’s way too early to make that kind of call.
“Right now they are preserving their combat power. And they are slowly and deliberately and steadily working their way through all these minefields, and it’s a tough fight. It’s a very difficult fight.”
Milley and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met with reporters at the close of the 14th meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which is made up of the defence and military leaders from more than 50 nations.
The group met virtually Tuesday to discuss how to continue to meet Ukraine’s need for weapons and training.
Mr Austin said he asked allies to “continue to dig deep into their military stocks,” particularly for ammunition, which Ukraine urgently needs.
The officials announced no new military aid, but the US this month agreed to provide thousands of cluster munitions to Ukraine, and included them in a £613 million ($800 million) aid package. The munitions, which are being taken from Pentagon stocks, began arriving in Ukraine for the war effort last week.
Overall the.US has provided more than £30 billion ($40 billion) in aid to Ukraine.
Austin and Milley’s comments came as tensions between the US and Russia continue to spike.
There has been a recent series of close calls between Russian and US military aircraft over Syria, including a Sunday incident when a Russian fighter jet flew very close to a US surveillance plane that was carrying a crew of four.
The Russian Su-35 flew so close to a US MC-12, that it forced the American plane to go through the turbulent wake, putting the crew’s lives in danger.
Lt Gen Alex Grynkewich, the commander of US Air Forces Central, said Tuesday that “these actions against a manned aircraft represent a new level of unsafe and unprofessional actions by Russian aircraft operating in Syria”.
He said flying into the turbulence reduced the US crew’s ability to safely operate their aircraft. The MC-12 is a twin engine turbo prop.
Asked about the recent incidents, Milley said the US is “monitoring it very closely. As to the reason why the little bit of an uptick, I’m not really certain. We’ve got analysts trying to figure that out.”
He added that US forces in the region have the capabilities and the authorities they need to protect themselves.