Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley urged Kyiv and Moscow to find a “political solution” as the winter months approached, warning that the chances of a total military victory were “unlikely”.
“They want to negotiate from a position of strength. Russia is on its back at the moment,” Milley told reporters after the 7th Ukraine Contact Group meeting. “The probability of Russia achieving its strategic goals of conquering Ukraine is close to zero.”
But he also warned that Russia’s ability to recruit more men into its ranks despite significant casualties, and the fact that it still occupies about 20 percent of Ukraine, means the war is not going to end anytime soon.
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“Now Ukraine has achieved great successes,” he continued, referring to recent successes in Kharkiv and Kherson. “But Kherson and Kharkiv are relatively small.
“In terms of probability, the probability of a Ukrainian military victory, defined as the expulsion of the Russians from all of Ukraine, including alleged Crimea…is not high militarily,” he added.
Milley made headlines last week when he suggested peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow could begin after Ukrainian forces experienced another major success when Russia withdrew from Kherson.
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stepped up these proposals after the general was criticized for allegedly messing up Washington’s position on US support for Ukraine.
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Both security officials pointed out that while combat might have some tactical advantages once the ground is frozen, winter weather typically has a slowing effect in war.
“President Biden and President Zelensky himself have said that at the end of the day it will be a political solution,” Milley said. “If there is a slowdown in actual tactical combat, that may become a window for a political settlement, or at least the beginnings of talks to initiate a political settlement.”
Milley said Russia occupies an area approximately 560 miles long and 50 miles wide of Ukrainian territory.
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“It’s not a small piece of land,” he added. “Physically expelling the Russians from Ukraine is a very difficult task.”
Zelenskyy said he would not hold peace talks with Russia until they withdraw all forces from Ukraine, including Crimea, and pay for the war crimes they have committed.