- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Ukraine will likely mount offensive operations against Russian invaders in the spring when battlefield conditions improve, and Kyiv’s allies aim to ensure it has the weapons and training to carry it out, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Tuesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Austin acknowledged that Moscow has been shipping a large number of combat troops to the theater. He called them “ill-trained and ill-equipped.”

“Their casualty rates have been really high,” Mr. Austin said.

Most of the recent fighting has been focused on the Bakhmut area of eastern Ukraine. Gen. Milley described it as a “grinding battle of attrition” with high casualty rates. He said Russian troops are facing leadership and morale problems.

“They’re struggling mightily,” Gen. Milley said. “However, they do have numbers, and whether or not they’re successful in pressing the fight, that remains to be seen.”

Although Ukrainian leadership regularly presses the allies for combat airpower such as the U.S.-made F-16 jet fighter, Mr. Austin said that hasn’t been the main topic of conversation during the latest meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the gathering of allied nations supporting Ukraine’s fight.

The allies have provided Kyiv with enough firepower to fill more than eight combat brigades, including tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers, Mr. Austin said.

“They’re contemplating an offensive in the spring, and that’s just weeks away. We have a lot to get done,” he said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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