CNN spoke to a quartet of unnamed defense and diplomacy officials since the start of the Ukrainian counterattack, who described the chances of the Ukrainian armed forces retaking any territory as “extremely, highly unlikely”.
The quotes come alongside news that the first shipment of refurbished, older-generation Abrams tanks are ready for delivery to Kyiv, more than 6 months since they were promised, and more than 2 months since the start of the all-important counterattack.
“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,” a senior Western diplomat told CNN on Tuesday.
“Russians have a number of defensive lines and they [Ukrainian forces] haven’t really gone through the first line,” said another or the same 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”.
Dave DeCamp, writing at Antiwar reminds continuously that the recent Discord Leaks showed that the US did not believe Ukraine could regain much territory. “But the Biden administration pushed for the assault anyway, as it rejected the idea of a ceasefire,” he wrote on Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy admitted that progress hasn’t been as fast as expected.
“The counteroffensive is complex. It is perhaps unfolding slower than some might wish,” he said in an interview with the Latin American media outlets published on August 8th. Last month at the Aspen Security Forum he made a similar statement, which he blamed on the slow arrival of sophisticated weapons.
Slow arrival of sophisticated weapons
In World at Large’s last update on the counteroffensive, retired Army lieutenant colonel John Nagl was quoted as telling the WSJ that “America would never attempt to defeat a prepared defense without air superiority, but they [Ukrainians] don’t have air superiority”.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that they were trying to get F-16 fighter bombers into the hands of Ukrainian pilots as soon as the end of the year. But it’s not only the F-16s and the ATACAM long-range rocket artillery desired by Kyiv’s generals that are still far away on the horizon. The main battle tanks, deemed eligible for transfer to Kyiv back in January at the conclusion of a conference of 50 defense chiefs from as many countries, still haven’t arrived from the US.
31 refurbished M1A1 Abrams tanks are slated for arrival in Kyiv in the fall—potentially more than 100 days after the counteroffensive began.
U.S. Prepares to Send First Batch of Abrams Tanks to Ukraine.
The U.S. has officially certified the transfer of the first batch of M1A1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, which will be delivered in September. The total number of tanks is 31, which is enough for one Ukrainian tank… pic.twitter.com/ud8LqGJlgx
— Intel Drop (@IntelDrop_) August 7, 2023
Losses of tanks, mostly the German Leopard 2s, have been quoted as being as high as 10 individual tanks, or one-third of all those received from Germany, which was the first nation to deliver them. This was reported by the New York Times on July 15th, but losses are likely to have slowed in the following days as Kyiv altered its strategy to a slower, plodding advance that relied on more artillery barrages.
Designed for combat in the 1980s against the Soviets, and then quickly repurposed for the First Gulf War, the M1 Abrams has a drivetrain powered by a gas turbine, not by diesel. If estimates of their arrival in Ukraine in the autumn are correct, these sophisticated engines may prove a headache for maintenance crews trying to keep them going near the battle lines in the rain.
President Biden is expected to request an additional $10 billion from Congress as part of a supplemental funding bill that includes military aid to Taiwan, and domestic disaster preparedness. So far the US Congress has authorized $113 billion for Ukraine’s military, while Biden has constantly increased that with his executive drawdown authority which allows him to expedite movements of weapons and ammunition from US stockpiles.
The Kyiv Independent reports that a raid by Ukraine across the Dnipro River toward Kherson in the southeast of the country, near Crimea, seized an estimated 800 meters of territory, which would represent a major breakthrough if their forces were able to hold it. Russian officials denied the gains, and said the landing boats and troops were driven back by artillery fire. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a visit in Bucha, 2022. PC: Man Hai. CC 4.0.