The US intelligence community has assessed that Ukraine’s Spring counteroffensive will fail to meet its core objectives. Western officials said their war games had predicted massive Ukrainian losses, but that Kyiv would remain committed to the operations and gain the upper hand on the battlefield.
The Post reports it spoke with Western and Ukrainian officials familiar with the intelligence assessment. Washington declined to offer an official statement on the bleak outlook for Ukrainian forces.
Washington hoped Kyiv’s forces would recapture Melitopol, a Ukrainian city near the Sea of Azov in the country’s south. However, Moscow has several layers of defenses and minefields defending the town.
Western countries helped Kyiv conduct simulations of the counteroffensive, which began in early June, for several months prior to the operations. The US and UK concluded that Ukrainian forces would suffer massive losses but believed Kyiv would ignore the losses and maintain the offensive at full scale.
“In the first week of fighting, Ukraine incurred major casualties against Russia’s well-prepared defenses despite having a range of newly acquired Western equipment, including US Bradley Fighting Vehicles, German-made Leopard 2 tanks and specialized mine-clearing vehicles,” the outlet explains. Adding, “Joint war games conducted by the US, British and Ukrainian militaries anticipated such losses but envisioned Kyiv accepting the casualties as the cost of piercing through Russia’s main defensive line, said US and Western officials.”
Retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis wrote earlier this week that Kyiv lacked the military equipment needed to conduct a successful counter-offensive. “Ukraine also suffers from a chronic lack of air defense capacity, inadequate numbers of howitzers and artillery shells, insufficient electronic warfare systems, a dearth of missiles, and perhaps most crucial of all, barely 25 percent of the de-mining capacity needed,” he explained in 19FortyFive on Tuesday. “When Ukraine launched its offensive across a broad front on June 5th, it should have surprised no one in Kyiv, Washington, or Brussels that they ran into a Russian buzzsaw.”
Last month, the Wall Street Journal spoke with Western officials who drew a similar conclusion as Davis. “When Ukraine launched its big counteroffensive this spring, Western military officials knew Kyiv didn’t have all the training or weapons – from shells to warplanes – that it needed to dislodge Russian forces.” The report continues, “But they hoped Ukrainian courage and resourcefulness would carry the day. They haven’t.”
Administration officials denied to the Washington Post that giving Ukraine additional arms would have changed the result of the offensive. “The problem remains piercing Russia’s main defensive line, and there’s no evidence these systems would’ve been a panacea,” a senior US official told the Post.
The lack of success by Ukrainian forces is creating political issues for the White House. The Post reports that some Republicans are turning against approving Joe Biden’s proposed $24 billion aid package to Ukraine after they learned of the grim intelligence assessment.
The failed counteroffensive has ignited a blame game that extends outside of Washington. Western officials told the Post that had Kyiv massed forces in specified locations, then Ukrainian forces could have broken Russian lines. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lashed out at critics of Kyiv’s military operations on Thursday. He encouraged critics of the offensive to “go and join the foreign legion.”