Key takeaways from Blinken’s visit to Kyiv. Ukrainian troops could break remaining Russian lines of defense by the end of the year, America’s Defense Intelligence Agency says. For the first time, the U.S. is transferring to Ukraine assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs.
Key takeaways from Blinken’s visit to Kyiv
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday. It is his first overnight stay in Kyiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. U.S. officials said Blinken’s decision to stay overnight in Kyiv is intended to send a symbolic signal of American support for Ukraine as the 18-month-old war drags on.
In his remarks in Kyiv, Blinken confirmed earlier media reports that the aim of his mission to Ukraine is to discuss how the counteroffensive is going, announce additional support to Ukraine and discuss a strategy to rebuild the country. During his meetings, the Secretary also discussed steps required to fortify Ukraine’s energy security before winter and alternative routes for grain shipments.
Blinken’s first stop Wednesday, after a brief visit to the U.S. embassy, was at the Berkovetske military cemetery, where he laid a wreath in honor of Ukraine’s fallen soldiers. Later, he met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Blinken announced new U.S. assistance totaling more than USD one billion that includes USD 665.5 million in new military and civilian security assistance.
“We’ve seen good progress in the counteroffensive, which is very heartening. We want to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs not only to succeed in the counteroffensive, but it has what it needs for the long term,” Blinken said in his remarks as he met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Ukrainian troops could break remaining Russian lines of defense by end of year, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency says
Ukraine’s recent successes give its forces a “realistic possibility” of breaking the remaining Russian lines by the end of the year, the director of analysis for America’s Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Trent Maul, told The Economist. But he warns it could be “very difficult”.
After three months of achingly slow progress, Ukraine’s counter-offensive is gaining some momentum, he said.
Mr Maul says that the DIA will be watching for signs that Russia can keep up the flow of artillery ammunition to the front lines and maintain leadership at the local level.
He concedes that American and Ukrainian officials failed to appreciate the depth of Russia’s defences and how difficult it would be for Ukraine to “smash through” them with armour. Ukrainian generals have told the Guardian newspaper that 80% of Russia’s effort went into building its first and second lines. But Mr Maul cautions that the bulk of Russia’s reinforcements remain at the third.
More important [than the sort of tactics the Ukrainians have deployed] are two critical variables: Ukraine’s stockpile of ammunition, vital for sustaining the artillery barrages that enable progress, and the weather, which becomes wetter in the autumn.
One Biden administration official says that Ukraine has around six to seven weeks of combat left before its offensive culminates. Mr Maul is somewhat less gloomy.
He notes that Sergei Surovokin, the Russian general who built the defensive lines, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner Group mercenaries achieved Russia’s most tangible gains of the past year, are both off the battlefield—the former sacked and the latter dead in a plane crash.
Mr Maul, choosing his words with care, says that Ukraine’s recent successes are “significant” and give its forces a “realistic possibility”—intel-speak for 40-50% probability—of breaking the remaining Russian lines by the end of the year. But he warns that limited ammunition and worsening weather will make this “very difficult”.
Attention is already turning to the next fighting season. Even without a breakthrough this year, the DIA is moderately confident that if Ukraine can widen the salient around Robotyne, hold its positions and keep ammo flowing in, it will be well placed for a fresh push in 2024.
For first time, U.S. transfers to Ukraine assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs
For the first time, the U.S. is transferring to Ukraine assets seized from sanctioned Russian oligarchs, which will now be used to support Ukrainian military veterans, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on a visit to Kyiv on September 6.
“Those who have enabled Putin’s war of aggression should pay for it,” Blinken said.