Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it is unlikely that Kyiv can militarily force Russia out of all of the territory it occupies, in a Pentagon press conference.
“The probability of a Ukrainian military victory – defined as kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include what they claim as Crimea – the probability of that happening anytime soon is not high, militarily,” Gen. Milley said.
“Politically, there may be a political solution where, politically, the Russians withdraw. That’s possible,” he added, saying Russia “right now is on its back.”
However, he also acknowledged that Moscow is “hurting bad” and will likely struggle through the cold weather in the coming months, when operations “naturally slow down”.
Russia is “imposing a campaign of terror, a campaign of maximum suffering on the Ukrainian civilian population in order to defeat Ukrainian morale,” Gen. Milley said.
Many of the recent strikes – including a barrage of dozens of missiles across Ukraine on Tuesday – have targeted the country’s energy infrastructure.
Gen. Milley said he attempted to call his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valeriy Gerasimov, to avoid escalation over the missile in Ukraine, but his staff were “unsuccessful” in getting through.
Moscow’s attacks on civilian infrastructure – which Gen. Milley said are likely to increase suffering this winter – came after a string of Russian failures to achieve its military objectives in Ukraine.
“The Ukrainians have achieved success after success after success. And the Russians have failed every single time. They’ve lost strategically, they’ve lost operationally, and I repeat, they lost tactically,” the general said.
He called Russia’s invasion “one of the most significant attempts to destroy the rules-based order that World War Two was fought all about.”
Gen. Milley said the US and its allies will continue to support Ukraine for as long as is needed for Ukraine to be “free, sovereign and independent with its territory intact.”
Ian Bremmer, president and founder of global political risk firm Eurasia Group, tweeted on Wednesday, “The US government is now saying out loud what everyone has been saying privately for months: the complete removal of Russian troops from Ukraine territory (read particularly: Crimea) is extremely unlikely.
“At some point negotiations are the best option. Ultimately, negotiations have no chance of succeeding unless the Nato alliance stays together and Ukraine is in a strong military position,” Mr Bremmer said.