Russia has broken the stalemate in Ukraine: Former US Defense secretary

The Russian military has broken the stalemate in the Ukraine war, Robert Gates, former CIA director and secretary of Defense, said Wednesday, following Moscow’s successful push to take the front-line city of Avdiivka.

“It’s no longer a stalemate. The Russians have regained momentum,” Gates told The Washington Post’s David Ignatius in a streaming interview. “Everything I’m reading is that the Russians are on the offensive along the 600-mile front.”

Russia has suffered staggering losses in the war, he noted, but with Ukraine now confronting artillery shortages due to flagging U.S. support, “the Russians are feeling that the tides have turned, and while there is much to be done, the initiative has passed to them,” Gates said.

“They have more and more supplies coming in — I’ve read that for every artillery shell fired by Ukrainian forces, the Russians fire 10,” he added.

Russian officials announced Monday that its forces finalized their capture of the key Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after taking full control of the city’s large coke plant. The costly operation marked Russia’s first major victory in months, and its most significant gain since taking nearby Bakhmut last spring.

President Biden pinned the blame for Ukraine battlefield losses directly on House Republicans, who have refused to back additional aid to Kyiv without major immigration reform.

Gates noted that European allies in NATO, “who we so often criticize,” have stepped up their support to Ukraine, but lack the ability to immediately send weapons. Production timelines will see NATO support reach the battlefield in 2025, he estimated.

Right now, “the only real military lifeline comes from the United States. And as we all know, that is, shall we say, on pause right now,” he said.

Aid to Ukraine still lingers in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is caught between moderates who support Ukraine and far-right members who oppose it without major concessions from Democrats on the border.

Gates called out Congress specifically for being too slow on approving key battlefield capabilities throughout the war, such as missile systems that have allowed strikes against Russian-occupied Crimea, which he called a “no-brainer.”

“Congress will debate for a year or more whether to send the Ukrainians tanks, and after a year, they’ll send tanks,” he said. These weapons could have arrived “a year and a half” earlier, and their delay has restrained Ukraine’s abilities, he said.

The timing of the current aid package — Biden requested a $60 billion supplemental, which was part of a bipartisan Senate package passed earlier this month — is going to be a determining factor in Ukraine’s survival against a revived Russian offensive in 2024, Gates said.

“One of the main values of the package of assistance that’s on the Hill right now, is it would provide Ukraine with significant air-defense capacity, and the wherewithal to establish a strong defensive barrier so they don’t lose any more territory,” Gates said.

Passing the package would send a message to Russia that “they’re not going to be successful in achieving their goals,” a necessary step toward a cease-fire, rebuilding Ukraine and its eventual induction into NATO, he added.

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