The next phase of the war will have important implications for Russia and Ukraine, the US says

WASHINGTON – Senior Biden administration officials say they believe the next four weeks will shape the final outcome of Russia’s war in Ukraine, with lingering ramifications that will affect the drawing of Europe’s map for many decades to come.

While officials still expect the war to be long and bitter, they say it’s imperative that Ukraine rush to supply as many new weapons as possible – particularly long-range artillery and anti-aircraft radars – to repel Russia’s new advance in the eastern Donbas. land.

Reflecting a renewed sense of urgency, President Biden on Thursday announced that the United States would send Ukraine an additional $800 million in military aid, the second such package in just over a week.

Biden said the latest aid package sent “an unmistakable message” to Russian President Putin: “He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine.”

In remarks at the White House, Mr Biden said that while the US would release many details about the weapons it was shipping to Ukraine, some weapons would be kept secret. The president borrowed and modified Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote, saying that the United States would “speak softly and carry a large Javelin,” referring to anti-tank weapons that the Ukrainians had used effectively against Russian armor.

Determined to act quickly, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to allies around the world this week and said: Next month is the pivotal month.

If Russia can push east, Mr. Putin will be better positioned at home to sell his so-called “special military operation” as a limited success and claims he has secured protection for Ukraine’s pro-Russian minority, US officials said. He could then seek a ceasefire but would be encouraged to use Donbas as leverage in any negotiations, they said. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational issues.

But if the Ukrainian military is able to halt Russia’s advance in the Donbas, officials say Mr Putin will face a wise choice: pledge to bolster combat power for a war that could drag on. years or negotiate in earnest at the peace talks.

The first option could mean nationwide mobilization and political risk for the Russian leader, officials said.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who visited Ukraine in March, said the next phase of the war “will be extremely important. “The escalation of hostilities in the Donbas, and all areas affected by armed conflict, is of primary concern.”

At the Pentagon this week, both Mr. Austin and General Milley had non-stop phone calls and meetings with allies centered around one topic: weapons. Mr. Austin spoke with his Romanian counterpart on Monday and with the Spanish Defense Minister on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he met with the Polish Defense Minister, and on Thursday he met with his Czech counterpart.

With all four, the discussions were the same, officials said: how to ship more powerful weapons to Ukraine in the coming weeks.

After weeks of focusing on anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons such as Javelins and Stingers, new shipments last week included long-range artillery, tactical vehicles and mobile radar systems to help Ukraine detect and destroy. destroy Russian artillery positions.

Other countries are sending tanks, more artillery and anti-ship missiles.

General Milley’s phone log this week is like a roll call to the countries with artillery and heavy weapons: Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Turkey.

A senior US Department of Defense official described next month as an important turning point for both Russia and Ukraine. This phase of the battle seems to work in Russia’s favor to some extent, as Russian troops move over open ground rather than bogged down in cities.

However, the official said the Pentagon believes that with the right weapons and continued high morale and motivation, Ukrainian forces can not only stop Russia’s advance, but can repel it.

“The Russians can recover if given enough time and new conscripts,” said Evelyn N. Farkas, the Pentagon’s most senior official for policy toward Russia and Ukraine under Obama. Peninsula. “It is therefore paramount to attack them now with all that we can offer the Ukrainians.”

Current and former US military commanders with experience in Ukraine and Europe agreed.

“The good news for Ukraine is that they have to stop the Russian advance to take all of the Donbas,” said Major General Michael S. Repass, a retired former commander of US Special Operations Forces in Europe, was involved with Ukraine. defense issues since 2016, wrote in an email.

If Putin succeeds in seizing the east and establishing a land corridor to Crimea, General Repass thinks Moscow will be in a stronger position in any negotiated settlement.

General Repass wrote: “In a month or so, I predict both sides will be exhausted with no military decision/outcome,” General Repass wrote. “A deadlock means Putin wins, and if Putin ‘wins’ then we’re in trouble.”

To try to prevent such an outcome, current and former US commanders say that the Ukrainian military will seek to disrupt the Russian military system around the eastern city of Izium and key staging areas. with long-range artillery and armed drone attacks.

“It’s also about interrupting the Russians while they’re still in finishing and preparation mode, before they do it,” said Lieutenant General Frederick B. Hodges, a former commander of US troops in Europe. being able to get up again”. now with the European Center for Policy Analysis.

Even as Moscow narrows its goals and strengthens its troops in southern and eastern Ukraine, the outcome of the war remains unclear, military analysts say. In fact, the fundamental weaknesses of Russian forces, which were evident in the early weeks of the conflict, have not yet disappeared, they say.

For example, the thousands of Russian reinforcements pouring into Ukraine – including mercenaries, conscripts and troops drawn in from eastern Russia and Georgia – did not train together, analysts say. know.

Defeated units retreating from northern Ukraine will also need time to regroup. Some will be replenished and sent back to the battle. But others are so damaged that their remaining pieces will be patched together into a new unit, analysts said.

“They don’t have a lot of options to create new forces if the units,” said Rob Lee, a Russian military expert at the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies in Philadelphia and a former US Marine officer. currently facing too much attrition.

“Once this attack begins in earnest, Russia will face more losses,” Mr. Lee said. “At a certain point, the attrition will be too great and will limit the ability of the Russian military to conduct offensive operations effectively.”

As Russian forces enter the Donbas, officials say, they will widen their supply lines and could face the logistical shortages that plagued them before.

“We’ll see how much they’ve learned and fixed over the next few weeks,” General Hodges said.

Even if Russian forces prevail over the next month, the specter of that army then moving toward western Ukraine or beyond Ukraine’s borders – a real fear at the start of war – can now be seen. seems too far-fetched, some officials said.

“Win, lose or draw, the Russian military will likely be the spending force after this next phase,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a think tank in Arlington, Va. to sustain any campaign other than Donbas. ”

But the senior Defense Ministry official warned that for Putin, all of Ukraine – not just Donbas – is always the final prize.

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