Gen Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said even with the billions or dollars of aid and military equipment being provided from nations such as the US, UK and Poland, removing each Russian fighter from every patch of Ukrainian territory would be a major challenge.
“President Biden, President Zelensky, and most of the leaders of Europe have said this war is likely to end in a negotiation. From a military standpoint, this is a very, very difficult fight,” he said, speaking at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Gen Milley said there was still heavy fighting along the frontline, which stretched hundreds of miles, roughly the equivalent of from Washington DC to Atlanta.
“I still maintain that for this year, it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces from every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But it’d be very, very difficult.”
Gen Milley make the remarks as the US announced the latest major package it is sending, which totals $2.5bn and includes – for the first time – Stryker armoured vehicle.
It also will provide eight air defence systems, 350 Humvees, 53 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, more than 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and rockets, and missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, according to the Associated Press.
Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, has asked Western nations to provide its very latest military equipment as it seeks to force Russian forces from his country.
Some, such as the UK, have said they will send 14 of their Challenger tanks. Germany is still in negotiations as to whether or not to dispatch its Leopard 2 tanks.
It has claimed it will only do so if Washington sends its own Abrams tanks to Kyiv, something the US has declined to do so far, despite sending more than $100bn in aid and equipment.
“We all cannot say today when a decision will be made and what that decision will be on Leopard tanks,” Germany’s newly appointed Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said at Ramstein.
He added: “We will make our decisions as soon as possible.”
Asked meeting whether Germany was “doing enough,” Mr Austin said: “Yes, but we can all do more.”
Gen Milley repeated his call for Russian president Vladimir Putin to bring an end to hostilities.
“I think at the end of the day, this war, like many wars in the past, will end at some sort of negotiating table,” he said.
“That’ll be determined by the leaders of both countries, both Russia and Ukraine. President Putin could end this war today. He started it. It’s his war of choice.”
He said: “And he could end it today, because it’s turning into an absolute catastrophe for Russia, [with] massive amounts of casualties, lots of other damage to the Russian military. So he should, and could, end this war right now.”