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Ex-NATO commander believes Ukraine is living on borrowed time

Kiev’s limited resources could force its troops to retreat in the coming months, a former NATO commander warns

Ukraine is unable to reclaim land taken by Russian forces and will likely have to accept territorial concessions before the conflict winds down, ex-NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis has argued.

Writing in a Bloomberg op-ed published on Thursday, Stavridis painted a gloomy picture for Ukrainian troops, saying there is little reason to expect “significant shifts” on the battlefield in the near future, even after months of costly offensive operations.

“Ultimately, Ukrainian forces seem unlikely to be able to expel Russia from much of the currently occupied portion of the nation,” he observed, proposing that Kiev “might consider temporarily or even permanently ceding Crimea” in exchange for Ukrainian membership in the European Union and NATO alliance.

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FILE PHOTO: A Leopard 2 tank and several Bradley fighting vehicles destroyed by the Russian forces near Robotino.
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However, Moscow has repeatedly stated that one of its top objectives in the current military operation is to ensure Ukraine remains neutral toward the US-led military bloc, making it unlikely the Kremlin would ever accept such an offer. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also stated that new territories gained during the conflict – including the Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions – can never be returned, a principle enshrined in Russia’s constitution. Putin has also ruled out handing back Crimea, which voted to reunify with the Russian Federation soon after Ukraine’s 2014 Euromaidan coup.

Though Stavridis said that renewed foreign military aid to Kiev could, at best, result in “fairly static battle lines through the spring” of 2024, he noted that Western reluctance to approve such support could mean a “far darker scenario” for Ukrainian forces.

“If the US and Europe draw down military assistance, Putin’s armies might gain the ability to return to the offensive. Without sufficient armaments, the smaller Ukrainian forces could be forced to retreat,” the former commander continued.

Stavridis’ dismal forecasts come on the heels of a six-month Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in June, which largely failed to reclaim lost territory despite exhausting large sums of arms and manpower. 


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Last month, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky announced that Kiev’s forces would switch from attacking to building fortifications, acknowledging that the much-hyped offensive had ended without achieving its goals. According to Russian Defense Ministry estimates, Ukraine lost over 125,000 troops and 16,000 pieces of heavy equipment since June alone, including a long list of sophisticated weapons supplied by the West.

Unnamed US officials told the New York Times earlier this week that Washington and Kiev are working out “a new strategy,” with the Pentagon now urging Ukrainians to focus on consolidating the territory they still control rather than fighting for new battlefield gains.

December 15, 2023 at 10:52AM
RT

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