Ukraine will be on back foot in war for months, says UK armed forces chief

    WORLD  28 February 2024 - 10:32

    Ukraine is expected to remain short of ammunition and on the back foot in its war with Russia for several months until the west agrees further steps to support Kyiv, the head of Britain’s armed forces has acknowledged.

    Adm Sir Tony Radakin, speaking at a conference in London, did not directly comment on a French suggestion of deploying western ground troops in Ukraine, but instead emphasised an urgent need to increase industrial assistance, The Guardian reports.

    The military chief said Ukraine faced a difficult situation on land where its army “was struggling in terms of its ammunition and its stockpiles” with US military aid halted by Republicans in Congress, and Europe not yet able to plug the gap.

    The US president, Joe Biden, met congressional leaders in the White House on Tuesday, February 27, for talks on the Ukraine aid bill, in a meeting described by the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, as intense.

    Radakin said conversations were going on among Nato allies about “how we can strengthen our support for Ukraine” – with fresh announcements expected at or in the runup to Nato’s July summit in Washington DC.

    Russia was already “at the tactical level gaining relatively small amounts of territory”, the military chief said, including the eastern front town of Avdiivka, captured after five months for the loss of 17,000 Russians killed and 30,000 wounded.

    Intense fighting is now taking place near Chasiv Yar, another town in the Donbas, where Ukraine retreated after losing Bakhmut last year. “Fierce battles are already taking place on the outskirts” of Ivanivske and Bogdanivka, two villages immediately east, said a Ukrainian army spokesperson, Ilia Yevlash.

    “I think that’s the predicament that’s likely to last for at least the next few months,” Radakin concluded, suggesting Kyiv was un likely to be able to mount a fresh counteroffensive until late summer at the very earliest and most likely next year.

    On Monday the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said the deployment of ground troops to Ukraine should not be ruled out, although he acknowledged there was “no consensus” on the topic among allied nations.

    There was no immediate backing for his suggestion among Nato members.

    A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak, the UK prime minister, said Britain had no plans to deploy ground troops – and similar statements were made by the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and other western countries.

    More likely scenarios would be further gifts of weapons, a more sustained supply of arms plus deeper long-term economic assistance such as a form of “lend-lease”, a reference to a second world war programme in which the US provided billions worth of supplies free to 30 allied nations in return for deferred payment.

    Radakin also sought to crush speculation, after a speech given last month by the head of the army, Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was keen to reintroduce a form of national service in response to Russia aggression.

    “We are not on the cusp of war with Russia. We are not about to be invaded. No one in the Ministry of Defence is talking about conscription in any traditional sense of the term,” Radakin said in a thinly veiled rebuke to the army chief.

    Sanders is said to have been summoned for a dressing down by Radakin after his speech, which was not signed off by either Downing St or the MoD, and was blamed for the suggestion to emerge that a form of conscription to create a reserve citizen army was an idea considered attractive to some senior military figures.

    The general had said that British people as part of a “prewar generation” may have to prepare themselves to fight in a major war against Russia because the UK’s standing army at 74,110 was relatively small. The UK needed to take “preparatory steps to enable placing our societies on a war footing”, he added.

    Russia, Radakin argued, was fully embroiled in Ukraine and did not pose a major military threat to the UK or Nato’s eastern members. To do so would require Moscow to “reconstitute her tanks and armoured vehicles, rebuild her stocks of long-range missiles and artillery munitions and extract itself from a protracted and difficult war”.

    “I am not saying that Russia is not dangerous,” the admiral added. “It has demonstrated that with the aggression it employs both domestically and internationally. But at the same time it is also significantly less capable than we anticipated.”

    Allies of Radakin said the idea he was angry with Sanders was overstated. Last month’s speech was largely well constructed, but a few paragraphs “mangled in the coverage”, they added.

    Caliber.Az

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