Despite nearly $200 billion in sent or promised aid, U.S. officials are painting a grim picture of the conflict in Ukraine, openly stating that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s latest counteroffensive against Russia is not working.
“Our briefings are sobering. We’re reminded of the challenges they face,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who recently returned from meetings in Europe with U.S. commanders training Ukrainian armored forces, told CNN in an interview. “This is the most difficult time of the war.”
Other officials who spoke on condition of anonymity supported Quigley’s assessment with less-than-optimistic assessments about Ukraine’s ability to prevail against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They’re still going to see, for the next couple of weeks, if there is a chance of making some progress. But for them to really make progress that would change the balance of this conflict, I think, it’s extremely, highly unlikely,” said a senior western diplomat.
Ukrainian forces are reportedly having difficulty breaking though Russia’s multi-layered defense lines, which have tens of thousand of mines and vast trench networks.
“Russians have a number of defensive lines and [Ukrainian forces] haven’t really gone through the first line,” said a senior Western diplomat. “Even if they would keep on fighting for the next several weeks, if they haven’t been able to make more breakthroughs throughout these last seven, eight weeks, what is the likelihood that they will suddenly, with more depleted forces, make them? Because the conditions are so hard.”
The official added, “We all recognize this is going harder and slower than anyone would like – including the Ukrainians – but we still believe there’s time and space for them to be able make progress.”
News of trouble for U.S. and NATO-backed Ukraine comes on a day when Russian officials take a victory lap after having intercepted multiple missiles, while destroying numerous pieces of military hardware.
Russian state media agency TASS says the country’s air defenses intercepted five U.S.-made rockets and destroyed 17 Ukrainian combat drones over the past day in Ukraine. Russian officials also say they are advancing against Ukrainian forces.
“In the Kupyansk direction, assault teams of the western battlegroup gained more advantageous positions near the settlement of Olshana in the Kharkov Region in their offensive operations on a wide front,” Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant-General Igor Konashenkov told TASS on Aug. 8.
He added that in the Kupyansk region, as many as 110 Ukrainian soldiers, three motor vehicles, and two D-20 howitzers were destroyed in the last 24 hours. In the Krasny Liman area, roughly 80 Ukrainian troops were killed after they launched a failed assault using three brigades against Russian forces.
In the Donetsk region, Russian officials say that have repelled 18 attacks and killed an estimated 210 Ukrainian soldiers. In South Donetsk, Russia says they have killed roughly 125 Ukrainian troops.
In just the past day, Moscow says in the Zaporozhye region, another 110 Ukrainian solders were killed.