Informants included Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
We are not going to comment on classified briefings behind closed doors, or discuss hypotheticals or speculate on possible future operations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said. “In terms of Ukraine’s ability to fight and retake sovereign territory, its remarkable performance in repelling Russian aggression and its continued adaptability on the battlefield speaks for itself.”
A House Armed Services spokesperson declined to comment.
The briefers’ assessment echoes what General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has alluded to in recent weeks.
“I still maintain that for this year it would be very, very difficult to eject Russian forces militarily from everything – from every square inch of Ukraine and occupied Ukraine – or Russian-occupied Ukraine” , he said at a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact. Group in Germany on January 20. “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it would be very, very difficult.
Russian forces have occupied Crimea since 2014, and the peninsula is bristling with air defenses and tens of thousands of troops. Many of these infantry forces are entrenched in fortified positions stretching for hundreds of kilometers facing Ukrainian troops along the Dnipro River.
The issue of taking over Crimea has been contentious for months, as US and European officials insist the peninsula is a legal part of Ukraine, while often stopping short of fully equipping Kyiv to cross into the region.
A person familiar with the thought in Kyiv said the Zelenskyy administration was “furious” at Milley’s remarks, as Ukraine prepares for major offensives this spring. The Ukrainians also note that US intelligence on their military capabilities consistently missed the mark throughout the nearly year-long war.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Zelenskyy adviser Andriy Yermak rejected the idea of a Ukrainian victory without taking Crimea.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” Yermak said, adding that victory means the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders “including Donbass and Crimea.”
Ukraine has repeatedly requested longer-range weapons, including artillery rockets and guided munitions fired by fighter jets and drones, to target Russian command and control centers and ammunition depots far behind the front lines in Crimea.
After the United States gave Ukraine the high-mobility artillery rocket system this summer, Russia moved many of its most vulnerable assets out of its 50-mile range. The Biden administration continues to refuse to send missiles for the 300-mile launcher, which would put all of Crimea at risk.
Chairman of the Household Armed Services mike rogers (R-Ala.) said in an interview on Wednesday that the war “must end this summer,” putting urgency on the United States to quickly supply Ukraine for an upcoming offensive and on Kyiv to forge insight clearer of the end of the conflict.
“There is a school of thought… that Crimea must be part of it. Russia is never going to give up and give up on Crimea,” said Rogers, who did not address the contents of the classified briefing his committee received last week. Vladimir “Putin needs to decide what he can walk away with and claim victory.”
“What is doable? And I don’t think it’s agreed yet. So I think we’re going to have to put pressure on the part of our government and NATO leaders with [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy what victory looks like,” added Rogers. “And I think that’s going to help us more than anything to be able to get Putin and Zelenskyy to the table to end this thing this summer.”