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Aug 18, 2023, 6:45am EDT
securityEurope
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Semafor Signals

The US is worried that Ukraine won’t meet its counteroffensive’s key goal

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U.S Air Force F-35 jets and Polish Air Force F-16 jet participate in the military parade on Armed Forces Day, celebrated annually on August 15 to commemorate Poland's victory over the Soviet Union's Red Army in 1920, in Warsaw, Poland, August 15, 2023. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
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U.S. intelligence officials are concerned that Ukraine won’t meet a key goal in its ongoing counteroffensive against Russia. Kyiv has been making inroads in its campaign, but a recent briefing given to U.S. politicians suggests that its forces face a tougher battle than initially expected, The Washington Post reports.

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U.S. intelligence officials don’t believe it’s possible for Ukraine to reach Melitopol, a southeastern city occupied by Russia. The city is key to Ukraine’s offensive and goal of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea, but Moscow’s forces have fortifications and defensive lines in place. Ukraine may be able to breach one, “but can they breach all three and have enough forces available after taking attrition to achieve something more significant like taking Tokmak or something beyond that,” military analyst Rob Lee asked in an interview with The Washington Post.1

The U.S. has approved the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv, but Ukrainian defense officials don’t believe they will receive them before the new year. That would make the counteroffensive more difficult, though not impossible.2 “If you expect Ukraine to fight like we fight, then they have to have the tools that we have, and we have not given them those tools,” former NATO commander Philip Breedlove told The New York Times.3

Russia has proven more resilient against Ukraine’s offensive than previously expected. But Ukraine could still push ahead, as long as Western countries commit to the funding and supplies the country requires to break through Russia’s defenses, Frederick Kagan, Karolina Hird, and Kateryna Stepanenko argued in Time magazine. “It is still maneuver warfare rather than attritional warfare, just at a slower pace. It therefore requires patience, but it can succeed,” they wrote.4

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