Home News U.S. official says Russia unlikely to seize more Ukrainian territory

U.S. official says Russia unlikely to seize more Ukrainian territory

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U.S. officials say Russia is unlikely to make significant territorial gains in Ukraine in the coming months because its poorly trained troops would struggle to penetrate Ukrainian defenses, which are currently reinforced with Western munitions.

This spring and early summer, Russian forces attempted to seize territory outside the city of Kharkiv and re-advance into eastern Ukraine to exploit its Capture of Avdiivka. Russia suffered Thousands of casualties There was little new progress made in the driving process.

Russia’s problems represent a significant shift in the war dynamic, which had been tilting in Russia’s favor in recent months. Russian troops continue to inflict damage on Ukraine, but their gradual advance has been slowed by a tough Ukrainian defense.

The coming months will not be easy for Ukraine. But allied leaders gathering in Washington this week to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can say with confidence that their efforts to strengthen Ukraine are working.

“Ukrainian forces are stretched thin and face difficult fighting in the coming months, but Russia is unlikely to make a major breakthrough at this point,” said Michael Kofman, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Russia and Eurasia Program, who recently visited Ukraine.

Leaders at the summit are expected to pledge new funding for Ukraine, announce plans for NATO to coordinate weapons deliveries and reaffirm Kyiv’s commitment to eventually becoming a full ally.

That last point has become the focus of the war, even more so than the recovery of territory. While Ukrainian officials insist they are fighting to reclaim their land, a growing number of U.S. officials see the war primarily as over Ukraine’s future in NATO and the European Union.

The summit was marked by concerns about Russian arms purchases from Iran, North Korea and China, particularly missiles, drones and their components.

Three years into the devastating war, concerns have been raised about Ukraine’s ability to keep its infrastructure, including its power grid, functioning under long-range Russian attack.

But perhaps the biggest uncertainty is U.S. policy toward Ukraine after this fall’s presidential election.

While Russia has been unable to seize much of Ukraine, the prospects for Kiev to retake more ground from invading forces are fading. At the urging of American advisers, Ukraine is focusing on strengthening its defenses and launching attacks deep behind Russian lines.

Eric Ciaramella, a former intelligence officer who works with Mr. Kofman as a Ukraine expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it had become clear over the past 18 months that neither Russia nor Ukraine “has the capability to significantly change the battle line.”

Ciaramela said the United States has always defined its strategic goal as “a democratic, prosperous, Europeanized, secure Ukraine.” Ciaramela and current U.S. officials said the United States and its allies need to make long-term investments to enable Ukraine to hold its ground, consume Russia and inflict damage.

“It remains an extremely fluid situation,” Ciaramella said. “That’s why Western leaders also really need to focus on integrating Ukraine into European and transatlantic security structures.”

The European Union agreed last month to start accession talks with Ukraine, a key step in the long process. While NATO is not yet ready to invite Ukraine to join, NATO leaders this week will approve language that all but commits Kiev to becoming part of the alliance.

The statement was intended to avoid a repeat of what happened at last year’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, when leaders declared that “Ukraine’s future lies in NATO” but no specific invitation was subsequently extended. Diplomats called the confusing wording a “hodgepodge of words” and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky angrily complained that the EU had not set a timetable for member states.

Before Russia’s 2022 invasion, Ukraine’s NATO membership seemed remote. Allies were reluctant to provoke Russia or take on what seemed like a huge security commitment. Since then, Ukraine’s partnership with the United States, Britain and other European countries has grown, and the West has invested billions of dollars in training and equipping Ukrainian forces.

Preventing Ukraine from joining NATO has been a goal of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia since Russia launched the war, and ironically, his invasion has made that goal more likely. Peace talks break down in April 2022 Moscow insists Ukraine remains neutral and vetoes any outside military aid.

Since then, Ukraine has become more determined to integrate into Europe.

Russia seized much of Ukraine’s pro-Russian areas in the first year of the war. U.S. officials say privately it will be nearly impossible for Ukraine to retake all of its territory, but that it could insist on further integration into Europe if it shows stronger performance on the battlefield.

Some officials say Ukraine could still emerge as a winner in the war even without formally regaining its lands by moving closer to NATO and Europe.

The officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss secret military and intelligence assessments, battlefield locations and sensitive diplomatic issues.

U.S. officials acknowledge that Russia would make significant gains if it made major strategic shifts, such as expanding its conscription and training programs.

Their predictions could also be thrown off if U.S. policy toward Ukraine and Russia changes.

Under the Biden administration, the United States has provided it with military advice, real-time intelligence and billions of dollars worth of weapons.

Former President Donald J. Trump promised that if elected he would initiate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. While he did not outline the peace conditions he seeks, quick negotiations could force Ukraine to cede large tracts of territory and abandon ambitions to join NATO.

But officials said it would be a mistake to call for negotiations to begin now. Congress approved $61 billion in aid in May After months of wrangling, Ukraine’s defenses have been strengthened and Russia’s territorial advance has been stopped.

Throughout the war, U.S. intelligence agencies have been far more pessimistic about Russia’s prospects than the Pentagon, whose top brass have been working closely with the Ukrainian military to help shape strategy. But now the administration appears more aligned in its assessment of Russia’s prospects on the battlefield.

Through supplies of electronic components from China, drones from Iran, and missiles and artillery from North Korea, Russia has acquired enough weapons to keep its troops supplied.

But it lacks the talent to make a major breakthrough.

Lara Jacks and Anton Troyanovsky Contributed reporting.

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