The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, acknowledged on Friday that it will be difficult for Ukrainian troops to “eject” Russian forces from the entirety of Ukraine this year.
“From an army perspective, I'm still adamant that this year, it will be extremely difficult to remove all Russian forces from each and every inch of Ukraine and even occupied or the Russian-controlled Ukraine. This doesn't mean that it won't occur, nor does it suggest it will never happen, but it's going to be extremely difficult,” Milley said in Germany.
He suggested that what could occur is the possibility of a “continued defense stabilized in the front.”
However, he poured cold water on the notion of a victory in the military for Ukraine.
“But I do think at the end of the day this war, like many wars in the past, will end at some sort of negotiating table, and that'll be determined in terms of timing by the leaders of both countries, both Russia and Ukraine,” he added.
Milley spoke at a press conference following the gathering of around 50 leaders in defense from nations who support Ukraine, called the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. Friday was the eighth meeting for the organization.
Defense secretary Lloyd Austin pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” The announcement was followed by a second amount of military aid for Ukraine of the sum of $2.5 billion.
The U.S. has sent $27.5 billion worth of military equipment, most of it from its own stock, in aid to Ukrainian forces since January 2021 and more than $100 billion in aid in total.
In November, the New York Times reported that Milley has been arguing in the White House that the Ukrainians have achieved as much progress on the battlefield as they can before winter and that they must try to consolidate these gains in negotiations. However, other Biden administration officials did not agree that the time is right to begin negotiations.
But Milley immediately sought to explain his comments afterward, reiterating the administration's statement that the United States would “continue to support Ukraine as long as it takes to keep them free.”
Milley did mention on Friday, however, that it was “very, very possible” for Ukraine to to begin aggressively against Russian forces in order to “liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible,” however, Milley did say there was a “short window of time” for Ukraine to equip and form Ukrainian forces.
“They've been paired together with the equipment, and then taught. When you consider the weather conditions and the terrain and so on, you'll observe that you're given an extremely short amount of time to complete both of these crucial tasks. This makes it extremely demanding to complete,” he said.
“For all of these different nations that were here today, to assemble all of the equipment, get it all synchronized, get the Ukrainian troops trained, et cetera, that'll be a very, very heavy lift,” said the general. “I think it can be done but I think that it'll be a challenge.”