Russia has already “lost” its “barbaric” war of aggression in Ukraine, the United States’ highest ranking military officer declared in Brussels Tuesday — as the bloody invasion nears its one-year anniversary.
“President Putin thought he could defeat Ukraine quickly, fracture the NATO alliance and act with impunity,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told reporters following a meeting with NATO defense ministers in the Belgium capital, where 54 countries were represented.
“He was wrong. Ukraine remains free. They remain independent. NATO and its coalition has never been stronger. And Russia is now a global pariah, and the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience,” he continued.
“In short, Russia has lost; they’ve lost strategically, operationally and tacitly, and they are paying an enormous price on the battlefield.”
Milley made the strong remarks at a joint press conference with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Tuesday while in Brussels for a two-day meeting to discuss additional aid to Ukraine with European allies.
The summit came as Moscow was expected to redouble its offensive in the spring to capture four disputed eastern provinces of the former Soviet territory, which Russia had illegally claimed without fully occupying them.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year to prevent the country from joining NATO, an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 European countries, the US and Canada.
Ukraine defenses prevented Moscow from immediately taking its capital Kyiv — or other key cities — and the war soon became a stalemated battle of attrition.
Russia has instead focused on destroying infrastructure while suffering heavy losses at the hands of the heavily motivated rag-tag Ukrainian army.
Ukraine claimed last month that it had killed 117,000 Russian troops, which is more than the number of Americans that perished in World War I — or in the Vietnam and Korea conflicts combined.
Kyiv on Tuesday also renewed its appeal for fighter jets — but won no assurances from its Western allies.
The wartime leader had already visited the UK and France last week to lobby for combat planes.
“I don’t have any announcements on aircraft to make today,” Austin told reporters.
However, allies pledged more weapons, ammunition and tanks as senior defense officials at the meeting said the war with Russia is approaching a “critical stage.”
“This isn’t about one single capability,” Austin said. “It’s about delivering all the capabilities that we promised. It’s about integrating these systems together.”
Meanwhile, some leading House Republicans have mounted an effort to convince their noninterventionist party members to pull back on its aide.
The US has spent some $113 billion in aid to Ukraine since the invasion started, but some GOP members aligned with former President Donald Trump had recently introduced a “Ukraine Fatigue” resolution — calling on the US to close its purse strings.
“America is in a state of managed decline, and it will exacerbate if we continue to hemorrhage taxpayer dollars toward a foreign war,” sponsor Rep. Matt Gaetz (R Florida) said last week.
A poll released last week found that almost two-thirds of Americans supported ongoing aid to Ukraine, but Democrats were more supportive of the effort than Republicans of Independents.
With Post wires