Washington doubts the mission can achieve its “principal objective,” officials told the newspaper
US intelligence agencies have made a “grim” assessment of Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive, believing Kiev will fail to plunge south toward the Crimean Peninsula by the end of the year, according to the Washington Post.
Officials voiced doubts about the Ukrainian mission in a classified intel report, the contents of which were relayed to the Post on Thursday, with the outlet citing Moscow’s “brutal proficiency” in defending captured territory.
“The US intelligence community assesses that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol,” the report said, adding that Kiev would then be unable to “fulfill its principal objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to Crimea in this year’s push.”
Though the peninsula has been under Moscow’s control since its residents voted to rejoin Russia in 2014, Ukrainian officials have repeatedly vowed to retake the region by force, insisting it is Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
In Kiev’s plans to reclaim Crimea, Melitopol would reportedly play a significant role as one of the largest urban centers near the Azov Sea coast. Taking the city could offer a staging area for further attacks on the peninsula itself, which has already been the target of several Ukrainian strikes this year.
The Post report appears to echo recent revelations by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. In a story published earlier on Thursday, he cited an unnamed US intelligence official who bluntly stated that Ukraine “will not win the war.”
“The word was getting to [US Secretary of State Antony Blinken] through the [CIA] that the Ukrainian offense was not going to work,” Hersh’s source said. He added that the offensive has merely been “a show by [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky.”
The Ukrainian counteroffensive began in early June, with Kiev deploying its best Western-equipped and trained brigades in an attempt to sever Russia’s land bridge linking the Donbass with Crimea in the southern province of Zaporozhye. The operation has been a failure by most accounts, and according to Russian estimates, has cost Ukraine more than 43,000 troops and nearly 5,000 pieces of heavy equipment in exchange for a handful of villages.
Since June, Zelensky has repeatedly blamed his military’s lack of success on the West, insisting he was not provided adequate weapons to penetrate Russian lines while demanding fighter jets and long-range missiles. Ukrainian leadership is now split on whether to continue the operation or wait and try again next spring, Newsweek reported on Wednesday. According to the American magazine, Zelensky must now decide “whether to go all-in and risk a costly failure, or to cut Ukraine’s losses and accept a politically damaging defeat.”