People familiar with the classified forecasts told The Washington Post that the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that a Ukrainian counteroffensive will be unable to reach the key city of Melitopol in the southeast, a finding that, if correct, would mean that Kiev will be unable to achieve cuts to its main force. Target. Russia's offensive this year is a land bridge to Crimea.
The grim assessment is based on Russia's brutal ability to defend occupied territory through minefields and trench phalanxes, and could lead to allegations within Kiev and Western capitals of motives for a counteroffensive costing tens of billions of dollars worth of Western weapons and military equipment. did not meet its goals.
U.S. officials said Ukrainian forces were advancing on Melitopol from the town of Roboteny, more than 50 miles away, but would remain several miles away from the city. U.S., Western and Ukrainian government officials interviewed for this report all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military operations.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
Melitopol is the center of the Ukrainian counteroffensive as it is considered the gateway to Crimea. The city is located at the junction of two major highways and a railway line, enabling Russia to transport military personnel and equipment from the peninsula to other occupied territories in southern Ukraine.
Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in early June, hoping to replicate the stunning success of last fall's capture of the Kharkov region.
But in the first week of fighting, despite Ukraine's array of newly acquired Western equipment, including American Bradley fighting vehicles, German-made Leopard 2 tanks and specialized mine-sweeping vehicles, Russia's well-prepared defenses Ukraine suffered heavy casualties.
U.S. and Western officials said such losses were expected in a joint exercise by U.S., British and Ukrainian forces, but that Kiev would accept the casualties as the price of breaking through Russia's main defenses.
But Ukraine has opted to stave off battlefield losses in favor of a strategy that relies on smaller forces advancing across different parts of the front. This led to incremental gains for Ukraine in different areas over the summer.
Kiev has recently put more reserves on the front line, including Stryker. and Challenger forces, but have yet to break through Russia's main defenses.
Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Institute, said the road to Melitopol was extremely challenging, and even recapturing closer cities such as Tokmok would be difficult.
"Russia has three main lines of defense there, and then the defensive cities," he said. "It's not just a question of whether Ukraine can break through one or two of them, it's whether it can break through all three and deplete enough forces to achieve more important goals like capturing the tokmok or whatever .”
The bleak situation, which some Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill reported to Capitol Hill, has sparked a finger-pointing game behind closed doors. now some republicans are againstPresident Biden's requestGiven the ineffectiveness of the offensive, requested an additional $20.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. Other Republicans and (to a lesser extent) hardline Democrats have accused the administration of not delivering more powerful weapons to Ukraine sooner.
U.S. officials dismiss such criticismF-16 fighter or long-range missile systemas ATACMSwill lead to different results. "The problem remains piercing Russia's main line of defense, and there is no evidence that these systems are a panacea," said a senior administration official.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview this week that the United States is well aware of the daunting task it faces. Ukraine.
"I said months ago that this offensive was going to be long, bloody and slow," he told The Washington Post. "It's what it is: long, bloody, slow, and it's a very, very tough fight."
While it fell short of its goals, it underscored Kiev's success in weakening the Russian military. "The Russians are in a pretty difficult situation," he said. "They suffered a lot of casualties. His morale was not very good."
U.S. officials said the Pentagon had repeatedly advised Ukraine to concentrate a large force on one point of advance. Although Ukraine chose a different strategy, officials said it was Kiev's decision given the enormous sacrifices Ukrainian troops made on the battlefield.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba acknowledged on Thursday that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had been slow, but said Kiev would not stop fighting until it had retaken all of its territory. "We don't care how long it takes," he told AFP.
He encouraged critics of the crime to "join the Foreign Legion" if they wanted faster results. "When you're not there, it's easy to say you wish everything went faster," he said.
Ukrainian officials privately say the timing depends on how quickly troops can penetrate the minefields, a difficult process that has exhausted military demining resources across swaths of the territory.
Analysts say the challenges facing Ukraine are multifaceted, but almost all agree that Russia has exceeded expectations in its ability to defend the occupied territories.
"By far the most defining factor in this offensive has been the quality of the Russian defense," Lee said, pointing to Russia's use of trenches, mines and aviation. "They had a lot of time and prepared well... They made it very difficult for Ukraine to qualify."
Questions have also been raised about how and where Ukraine deploys its troops.
For months, the Ukrainians poured vast resources into Bahmut, including soldiers, ammunition and time, but lost control of the city and made only limited progress in seizing surrounding territory. While Bahemut's hand-to-hand and trench warfare is not the same as the landmine problem in the South, the focus remains on the Biden administration. The government worried that overinvestment in the east might weaken the strength of the southern counteroffensive.
The new intelligence assessment complies withSecret US forecast for February.show Shortages in equipment and troops could mean a counteroffensive would be "far short" of Ukraine's goal of cutting off its land bridge with Crimea in August. A classified document leaked on the social media app Discord details the assessment, identifying either Melitopol or Mariupol as targets for "preventing Russian land access to Crimea".
U.S. officials said Washington remained open to Kiev, surprising skeptics and defying odds. A defense official said Ukraine could defy historical norm and continue its counteroffensive through the winter, when everything including keeping soldiers warm, feeding and ammunition would become more difficult.
but it depends Depends on several important factors, such as how much rest a unit needs after a tough fighting season. It also depends on how much specialized equipment and winter clothing they have on hand, the defense official said. But Moscow can also excel in winter military operations.
"The Russians are known to be able to fight in cold weather," the official said.
Leigh Ann Caldwell and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.
What You Need to Know About the Ukrainian Counteroffensive
at last:Ukrainian army launches long-awaited military operationCounter-offensive against Russian occupying forces.The battle opens a critical phase aimed at restoring Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and maintaining Western support against Moscow.
battle:Ukrainian troops have intensified their assault on the front lines in the southeastern region, pushing aggressively into Russian-occupied territory, according to several members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
front:Washington post600-mile front drawn between Ukrainian and Russian troops。
How you can help:These are the methods commonly used by Americansyou can support the ukrainian peopleand donated content from people around the world.
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