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Key US Commander ‘Very Confident’ Ahead of Expected Ukrainian Offensive

FILE - Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Christopher Cavoli addresses a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Jan. 19, 2023.
FILE - Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Christopher Cavoli addresses a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Jan. 19, 2023.

Ukraine’s military forces have all the equipment, weapons and ammunition they need to launch their long-awaited spring offensive, according to a top U.S. military commander.

Ukrainian officials and their Western allies have made no secret of the anticipated military campaign aimed at retaking Ukrainian territory still under Russian control, with speculation mounting that it will get underway in the coming weeks, if not sooner.

Whenever the offensive does start, the commander of U.S. military forces in Europe is “very confident” Ukraine’s forces will not be held back by a lack of weapons systems or supplies.

"We have been shipping it into the country,” U.S. European Command’s General Christopher Cavoli told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday. "Over 98% of the combat vehicles are already there."

Western tanks, including British-made Challengers and German-made Leopards, began arriving in Ukraine last month.

And just last week the United States unveiled more military aid for Kyiv, a $325 million package promising more artillery rounds and rockets, as well as TOW anti-tank guided missiles and other anti-armor weaponry.

"We sat down with the Ukrainians, with our Ukrainian colleagues, and we calculated the amount of materiel they would need,” Cavoli, who also serves as NATO’s top military commander, told lawmakers when asked about Ukraine’s preparations.

“I am very confident that we have delivered the materiel that they need and will continue a pipeline to sustain their operations.”

While some Ukrainian officials have urged patience regarding the potential offensive, an analysis of recent video posted by pro-Russian bloggers suggests key pieces are moving into place.

According to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, the video indicates Ukrainian forces have set up positions on the eastern side of Dnipro River, a possible staging point for any effort to recapture the Crimean Peninsula.

Despite the deliveries of U.S. and European military aid, Ukrainian officials have consistently pressed their Western allies for more, specifically asking for longer-range missiles and aircraft.

But Assistant U.S. Defense Secretary Celeste Wallander insisted to lawmakers Wednesday that Kyiv’s most critical needs were being met.

“While on the list, Western, modern aircraft, is about eighth on the list,” she said, saying air defense systems, artillery and armored capabilities remain the priorities.

U.S.-made Patriot missile defense systems arrived in Ukraine earlier this month, and Cavoli said those types of systems were helping Kyiv “control the airspace over its country and over its forces.”

“That’s the thing that’s most imperative right now,” he said. “They've been doing that very effectively with ground-based air defense."

Cavoli and Wallander also warned lawmakers against overconfidence, cautioning that despite the heavy losses in Ukraine, key parts of the Russian military machine remained unscathed.

"Although Russia's conventional military capabilities are diminished, Russia continues to present serious risk as it retains capabilities in nuclear, cyber, information operations, counterspace and undersea warfare," Wallander said.

"Much of the Russian military has not been affected negatively by this conflict," Cavoli added, pointing to Russia’s fleet of submarines.

"Their patrols into the Atlantic and throughout the Atlantic are at a high level," he warned. “More active than we've seen them in years.”