Putin still wants a ‘significant portion’ of Ukraine or even the whole country, but Russia won’t be able to do it: Pentagon official
Natalie Musumeci and John Haltiwanger – June 15, 2022
- Vladimir Putin likely still wants to take much or all of Ukraine, but won’t be able to, a US official said.
- “I do not think he can achieve those objectives,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl.
- The “Ukrainians are holding tough” against Russia’s unprovoked invasion of the country, said Kahl.
Russian President Vladimir Putin likely still wants to control a “significant portion” of Ukraine or even capture the entire eastern European country — but he likely won’t succeed in that mission, according to a top Pentagon official.
“I still think he has designs on a significant portion of Ukraine, if not the whole country,” US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Kahl, while speaking at the Center for a New American Security’s National Security Conference, added, “That said, I do not think he can achieve those objectives,” according to the news outlet.
The US official said that Russian forces “may make tactical gains here and there” in the Kremlin’s months-long unprovoked war against Ukraine, but that the “Ukrainians are holding tough.”
“I do not think the Russians have the capacity to achieve those grandiose objectives,” Kahl explained.
Putin “went into this war seeking to gobble Ukraine up,” but failed to capture Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv early on, Kahl noted.
“I think he envisioned some kind of a thunder run to Kyiv that would change the regime,” said Kahl, adding, “The Russians were badly defeated in the battle of Kyiv. They’ve also been pushed out of Kharkiv.”
Kahl said that the Russians have been making incremental gains in the south and east of Ukraine, but that the Ukrainians have remained “stalwart defenders.”
The UK’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that “it is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion.”
Steven Pifer, who was US ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000, told Insider that Putin has made it clear that “he sees his mission as the recovery of Russian lands,” alluding to the Russian leader’s recent comparison of himself to Peter the Great. If Russia is able to conquer Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where the heaviest fighting is occurring at present and Russian forces are gradually making gains, “he might return to that objective” and “try to go for Kyiv and such.”
“Whether everybody in Moscow shares that ambition is a very different question. But then you also have to ask — does the Russian military have the wherewithal to make that kind of offensive operation?” Pifer said, adding, “There are a lot of Russian soldiers who are not particularly thrilled that they’re fighting in Ukraine. The Ukrainians are getting battered and may have some morale issues. But I think most Ukrainians still think that this is an existential fight and that if they lose their democracy is gone and their vision of what Ukraine would be as an independent state.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its 112th day on Wednesday — and since the war began on February 24, thousands have been killed on both sides.
Since the early days of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the West have accused Putin’s forces of committing heinous war crimes in Ukraine.