The bottom line of the whole Russian invasion of Ukraine is that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has failed to achieve any of his strategic objectives in launching the brutal and unprovoked attack, a senior defense official said on background today.
Putin launched the attack on his peaceful neighbor on February 24, and aimed a lightning-fast attack on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with the idea of removing Ukraine's leadership and installing a puppet regime.
It failed, and the Russians withdrew from the region near the capital and moved troops to the east. "On September 1, … President Putin called for the entirety of Donetsk province to be under Russian controlled by September 15," the official said. "But Putin's forces clearly have failed to deliver."
At the same time, Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive against the region north and east of its second-city of Kharkiv. That offensive has been successful, with Ukrainian troops re-taking an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, the official said.
The Russian military is having a tough time recruiting personnel to fight in the misguided war on Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has caused significant casualties among the Russian forces invading the country and "we're seeing the Kremlin increasingly straining to find new recruits to fill out their thin ranks, and the Russians are performing so poorly that the news from Kharkiv province has inspired many Russian volunteers to refuse combat," the official said.
The official cited a video that has been circulating on social media of a representative of the private Russian military contractor Wagner, tries to convince Russian prisoners to join the fight in Ukraine. "We believe this is part of Wagner's campaign to recruit over 1,500 convicted felons, but many are refusing," the official said. "Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters."
In contrast, the Ukrainian military has high morale as it continues to push forward in a very deliberate fashion.
In the eastern part of the nation, Ukraine now controls all its territory, west of the Oskil River. The official said the Ukrainians have liberated more than 300 towns in Kharkiv province.
A senior military official said the Ukrainians are still making "deliberate progress" against the Russians in the south. The Russians have pushed in the Donbass region, but the advances amount to just a "few hundred meters."
Russian forces have fought back, but they are attacking civilian infrastructure rather than military targets. U.S. officials see these attacks as retaliation rather than making any kind of military sense.
"We all know that this fight is far from over," the senior defense official said. Ukraine has made tremendous progress against a far larger foe. But Ukraine must have support from the United States, allies and partners to continue its effort.
Nations of the world are working together to ensure Ukraine gets what it needs, when it needs it. They are also working to ensure Ukrainian service members have the training needed to operate new equipment or integrate new capabilities into their military operations. "We will continue to also work on Ukraine's mid- and long-term needs, even as we support their fight today," the official said.