WASHINGTON – The vicious Russian attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, far from breaking the back of Ukrainian civilians, have increased resistance to Vladimir Putin’s invasion, senior U.S. and British military leaders said yesterday.
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Royal Navy Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, the United Kingdom’s chief of defense staff, said the Russian leader has continued to make calamitous mistakes in Russia’s war on Ukraine. The two men spoke during the Wall Street Journal’s Chief Executive Officer Council meeting in Washington, D.C.
The two men also discussed Chinese challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Russian war on Ukraine has now lasted 10 months and Putin has failed across the board, Milley said. The Ukrainians defeated the initial attack on Kyiv and then more than held their own in the battles in the eastern part of the nation. Ukrainian forces launched a counterattack in Kharkiv that drove the Russians back from the second-largest city in the country and then pushed the Russians out of the strategic city of Kherson, Milley said.
But Russia still occupies portions of Ukrainian territory, “and there’s still a significant amount of fighting to go.,” Milley said. “But right this minute the situation on the ground … is the lines are stabilizing and as winter rolls in, things will slow down a little bit as a result of the freezing cold. Then there’ll be some potential opportunity for offensive action by either side in the depth of the winter because of the weather and the terrain. So we’ll see what happens with respect to that.”
Right now, Russia is also attacking the civilian population of Ukraine launching waves of missiles into the country attacking the energy infrastructure of Ukraine. “That is an attack on the civilian population of Ukraine,” the chairman said. “The Ukrainian military … is not dependent upon that energy infrastructure for the conduct of the military operations.”
The missile attacks are attacks on civilians. “That’s just flat out unacceptable,” he said. “What they’re trying to do is break the back, break the will, of the Ukrainian people. What you’ll see is it’s not breaking the back but increasing the level of resilience and resistance on part of the Ukrainian people.”
Radakin said the Russian missile attacks are not effective in the least. “This is an existential conflict for Ukraine, … the brutality of this is fueling an even stronger resolve in the Ukrainian people,” he said. “You’re seeing that on a daily basis.”
The illegal attacks also strengthen the resolve of nations supporting Ukraine, the admiral said.
Neither Milley nor Radakin would put a timeline on the war in Ukraine, but both essentially said their nations would support Ukraine as long as it takes.
“Russia has made this catastrophic mistake,” Radakin said.
Not only has the attack galvanized Ukrainian resistance. But it has provoked “a phenomenal reaction” from nations around the world. “For those of us that are in Europe, we’ve got to pay tribute to the extraordinary support that America has provided, once again, to Europe,” the admiral said.
The two were asked if the Russian invasion of Ukraine would embolden China to possibly attack Taiwan. Radakin challenged the very premise of the question that the Russian invasion encouraged war. “The calamitous nature of the invasion by Russia into Ukraine, and the consequences that have flowed … doesn’t create a case that looks very attractive for other leaders,” he said. He noted that Russia is isolated diplomatically, and economically crippled. Their tactics and strategy have been exposed as flawed or incompetent. The war on Ukraine should act as a deterrent for other nations thinking along those lines, Radakin said.
Milley said that no one should underestimate the strength, power and expertise of the United States military. “It’s the number one military in the world, and it’s the most capable that combined arms maneuver,” the general said. “We’re one of the few militaries remaining in the world that can bring it all together in time and space and in all the domains of space, cyber, land, sea and air and undersea. We are very skilled and talented at doing all that. And, and no adversary should underestimate our capabilities.”