Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Mark Milley urged Kyiv and Moscow to find a “political solution” as the winter months loom, warning that the chances of a total military victory was “unlikely.”
“You want to negotiate from a position of strength. Russia right now is on its back,” Milley told reporters following the 7th session of the Ukraine Contact Group. “The probability of Russia achieving its strategic objectives of conquering Ukraine…is close to zero.”
But he also warned that Russia’s ability to pull more men into its ranks despite substantial losses and the fact that it still occupies roughly 20 percent of Ukraine meant the war would not end any time soon.
“Now Ukraine has had great success,” he continued referring to recent gains in Kharkiv and Kherson. “But Kherson and Kharkiv are relatively small.
“So in terms of probability, the probability of a Ukrainian military victory, defined as kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine, to include what they claim is Crimea…is not high, militarily,” he added.
Milley made headlines last week when he suggested peace talks could begin between Kyiv and Moscow after Ukraine’s armed forces saw another major success when Russian withdrew from Kherson.
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin doubled down on these suggestions after the general faced some criticism for allegedly muddling Washington’s position when it comes to U.S. support for Ukraine.
Both security officials pointed out that while there may be some tactical advantages to fighting once the ground has frozen over, winter weather in war typically has a slowing effect.
“President Biden and President Zelenskyy himself has said that at the end of the day it will be a political solution,” Milley said. “If there’s a slowdown in the actual tactical fighting, if that happens, then that may become a window possibly, it may not, for a political solution, or at least the beginnings of talks to initiate a political solution.”
Milley said that Russia occupies an area of roughly 560 miles in length and 50 miles wide of Ukrainian territory.
“It’s not a small piece of ground,” he added. “Kicking the Russians physically out of Ukraine is a very difficult task.”
Zelenskyy has said he will not engage in peace talks with Russia until they withdraw all forces from Ukraine, including Crimea and pay for the war crimes they have committed.