The US has helped train and equip the Ukrainian military for the upcoming operations, whether offensive or defensive, but the fighting is unlikely to produce a clear winner in 2023, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has told the outlet Foreign Affairs on a podcast that aired on Tuesday.
Asked what he expected of the much-heralded Ukrainian counteroffensive, Milley told Foreign Affairs that the US and its European NATO partners have helped Ukraine train and equip “about nine brigades worth of combined arms, armor, and mech[anized] infantry type forces” over the past several months, as well as some light infantry.
Read more: Ukraine can’t join NATO now – Member State’s President
Kiev’s forces “right now have the capability to attack, they can conduct offensive operations, and they also have the capability to defend, significantly enhanced from what they were just a year ago for conventional operations,” he said. “They’ve got a significant amount of planning and coordination and all of that to do, if they were to do an offensive operation.”
According to Milley, if the Ukrainians do launch an offensive, anything is possible, from collapsing the Russian front entirely to no success at all.
Milley claimed the Russian military had suffered 250,000 casualties and that the army, society and economy have all been severely impacted by the conflict. He would not speculate about Ukrainian casualties. The Kremlin has laughed off US estimates of Russian deaths as fabricated “out of nowhere.”
Read more: Zelensky’s top adviser blames US for Ukraine conflict
The US general stuck by those claims, however, and also asserted that Russia had “failed” to achieve any of its objectives in Ukraine. Based on that, he argued that “rational folks” in Moscow would be convinced “over either months or a year or two” to negotiate, “because they’re not going to win.”
Congressman Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Monday that the offensive needed to present a success so the West could keep funding Kiev, “after which we can then maybe have negotiations, to finally resolve this.”
The bulk of the podcast was devoted to China, with Milley arguing that the US “should do what it can to make sure” that Russia and China don’t set up a strategic military alliance. He dismissed the present level of military ties between Moscow and Beijing as “very, very modest.”
Milley also maintained that both Russia and China were aware of the US military might and did not wish a direct confrontation with Washington.