Ukrainians to Suffer More Battlefield Defeats in 'Counteroffensive': Analyst
20:11 06.09.2023 (Updated: 10:39 07.09.2023)
© Sputnik / Evgeny BiyatovRussian soldier with cat friend in special military operation zone
© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov
According to many military experts, including retired Indian Army generals, Ukraine's so-called counter-offensive has failed.
Ukrainians are set for "bashing" in their so-called counteroffensive as they are ill-equipped to breach the strong Russian defenses, an American military expert has said.
The comments of Michael Maloof, who served as a senior security policy analyst in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense come days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sacked Oleksiy Reznikov from his position as the country's Defense Minister following a series of setbacks against Russian forces in the battlefield.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sputnik, Maloof also spoke about why the West, particularly the US was prolonging the conflict, why Zelensky will have to leave Ukraine once the military confrontation with Moscow ends, how the Western support to Kiev is viewed as unfavorably by Americans and Europeans alike and much more.
Sputnik: The Ukrainian Armed Forces have lost their first Challenger 2 tank. The British Ministry of Defence on its website says that this tank "has never experienced a loss at the hands of the enemy." How much of a blow, in your view, is the news for the Challenger's image?
Michael Maloof: If confirmed, it shows that the Challenger, like any other equipment that's fielded, is capable of being destroyed. There's nothing indestructible. It also demonstrates that the Ukrainians are not really equipped. They have a limited number of Challengers - only 14 and their training is minimal. You need months and months of training and they don't have it.
I would add that that's what we're encountering with the F-16s. The pilots in the case of the F-16s, not only have to learn how to fly the F-16, they also have to learn English first, all instructions are in English. I'm sure that this applies also to the British equipment, which is very sophisticated.
The Challengers are very sophisticated and they already have one Challenger destroyed out of 14. Now their use and effectiveness, which is going to be minimal because of their numbers, is going to get even worse because of the changing weather.
The weather is going to be changing shortly. So the tanks could become ineffective, and they could get bogged down, which makes them easy targets.
Not to mention the logistical training that they would require just for those 14, and on top of the logistical training that would be needed for the 31 Abrams which, even though it's supposed to be very powerful and effective, it has vulnerabilities and the Challenger does, too. After all, nothing is invulnerable.
© AFP 2023 JAAP ARRIENSA Challenger 2 tank, this one belonging to the British army, seen during NATO drills in Estonia, May 2023.
A Challenger 2 tank, this one belonging to the British army, seen during NATO drills in Estonia, May 2023.
© AFP 2023 JAAP ARRIENS
Sputnik: What about the tank crew's capabilities - are Ukrainian crews experienced/qualified enough to use such a sophisticated tank in full?
Michael Maloof: I think they're not experienced enough. I would add that even though the Ukrainians rejected Western training and many of them that have been destroyed now have undergone Western training, they lack air power.
The fundamental tenet of Western fighting is that they take out any defenses and clear minefields so that tanks and ground troops can move in but the Ukrainians are not in that position. On the other hand, the Russian defenses are very formidable.
I think what the Ukrainians are encountering are the difficulties with the minefields. The Russians also have set up tank traps. You don't see it while they're rolling, but all of a sudden the ground beneath the tanks vanishes in no time, and the tanks are incapacitated because they're in a huge ditch.
The Ukrainians can't see them because they don't have air power. If they use drones to look ahead, that will be one thing. But I don't see evidence that drones have been used to look ahead to try to avoid the tank traps, something which has been increasingly effective for the Russians.
Sputnik: It's the second loss of Challenger ever. Why do you think this happened?
Michael Maloof: I don't recall Challengers being used all that much in actual combat. I don't think Challengers have been subjected to the types of warfare that the Abrams tanks and others have been subjected to. Certainly, the Russian tanks have experience on the battlefield.
The British have not engaged in a lot of wars. I think they have very strict limitations on exports to other countries which has also lessened any Challengers being engaged in any warfare. I don't think they were using them in Afghanistan as the terrain doesn't apply to that. I think the Challengers are getting a first taste of actual combat and they're not making it.
Sputnik: What do you consider to be the Challenger's main vulnerabilities?
Michael Maloof: It is a technical question, and I would have to defer to the techies. But I know Abrams has a few vulnerabilities, particularly in the interior and in the undercarriage. I would suspect that Challenger has similar vulnerabilities.
Sputnik: BAE Systems recently admitted that the UK is no longer able to manufacture large-caliber gun barrels. How much does this fact add to the problem of future tank supplies to Ukraine?
Michael Maloof: Well, the bigger the better, I guess. They got Bradleys, but, you know, they're not the most effective. You need something that's going to bring in their artillery. I think that's an important consideration. They have HIMARS, but a lot of those have been destroyed.
The Ukrainian artillery has been destroyed. Hence when you have tanks that have limited capabilities and their inventory is less too, this makes for a very unequal means of conducting a so-called counteroffensive. I just don't see it. Nobody is seeing a counteroffensive as such.
They might be able to take over a few villages here and there, but the Ukrainians have been unable to push back Russian forces to the point where anybody in the West certainly sees any incentive to continue pouring money and equipment into this effort at this point.
There are a lot of increasing political considerations in prolonging this conflict from polls in Europe and especially in the United States. That's what I'm seeing. It's going to become increasingly difficult to get further funding.
Biden wanted 113 billion, which was approved for the fiscal year 2023. But it's been chewed up, used, and done. He is asking for another, I believe, 34 billion. There's already resistance in Congress to approving that amount. And it's all embodied in our defense authorization bill and that is bogged down.
Now the Congress is out of session for now. But the funding of the Defense Department and other agencies is going to come up soon and the US faces a strong risk of having a government shutdown at the end of September. Unless Congress agrees on a resolution, funding of the agencies remains uncertain. That's why this is going to be another challenge.
People have got other problems. They've got inflation. A lot of the domestic problems are overtaking the whole concerns about Ukraine. The Democrats themselves are going to have to try to make Ukraine a nonpolitical issue for 2024.
This is going to be very important because if they don't, the Republicans in the House are going to make it an issue of impeachment for Biden, or else they will focus on alleged corruption done by his administration in support packages to Ukraine. I believe that's going to be a real turnoff for people as far as support for Ukraine is concerned.
Sputnik: Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said in a recent interview that to hit targets deep inside Russia, Ukraine’s military needs a munition capable of traveling 2,000 kilometers. Asked if Ukraine was developing such a munition, Reznikov answered, "Yes." Does Ukraine really have the capability and facilities to produce intermediate-range ballistic missiles?
Michael Maloof: I don't think so. Their industries are pretty well depleted, and if they showed signs of making such a missile, I think Russia would hit them very hard. I don't think they have such an industrial base. They're not going to be getting missiles from the West. So I have no clue what he's talking about.
If they want to have some showpiece, where are they going to get the money? Who would pay for it? I mean, if you're going to develop something like that and develop the factory to make it, who pays for it? The United States? The United States doesn't support long-range or medium-range missiles for Ukraine that have the capability of being fired into Russia and further escalate the situation.
The United States doesn't support that. I think if there's evidence of that, then the funding would certainly be cut off after that and it should be because the last thing the world needs is an escalation of this conflict. So I think if that's the case, then this is going to call for a reevaluation of all assistance to the Ukrainians.
Sputnik: Could this be an indication that Ukraine will insist on receiving longer-range missiles in the next military packages from the West?
Michael Maloof: They can insist on it, but they're not going to get it. Look, the war will stop immediately when the supplies stop. I think that's going to be happening very, very soon. This is the only way you're going to bring it to a close because Ukrainians don't want to settle. They don't want to compromise.
Russia is going to hold on to what it has. It's clear to me that now if the Ukrainians want to continue doing this, they're just going to get bashed even more and they're going to have further battlefield defeats, which is going to be reflected very clearly in the press. That will send signals to the West to put pressure on them to finally stop the flow of resources to Ukraine.
Sputnik: How trustworthy, in your view, are the disgraced minister's statements?
Michael Maloof: I have some real questions on the credibility of the Ukrainian minister's statements on where they are in terms of any counteroffensive or what capabilities they're trying to build back up.
They don't have the industrial base and they don't have any money. All the money that they're getting now is coming from the West. All the supplies, again, are coming from the West to fight this war.
I just don't see how they can justify its existence, number one. They can't even justify its necessity when the world is calling on Ukraine and Russia to sit down and negotiate. But it doesn't appear to be the case. So I think Russia is going to have to mount its counteroffensive.
The other thing that's lingering in the background that people conveniently like to forget, that's the weather. The weather is going to be coming in here very soon. We're already approaching fall and it's projected to be rather severe in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere.
I think that this is going to be another indicator of the effectiveness. They're already losing in this counteroffensive. What's the fall and the winter going to bring? It's going to be a disaster for the Ukrainians, certainly.
Once they wake up and can smell the coffee and agree to settle down, this is going to mean, of course, politically, that Zelensky is a dead man walking.
Because Azov and all these other neo-Nazi groups are going to rise and attempt to take him out if he and his family don't already leave. So he's going to need protection for life.
Sputnik: Reznikov said that one day of the conflict costs Ukraine $100 mln. Is it a lot in the Pentagon's understanding?
Michael Maloof: The Pentagon claims they find certain money here and there. I mean, there's no accountability for the expenditures going on right now in Ukraine. They cannot account for it, for all these expenditures.
But $100 million a day of spending is a lot in the minds of the American people, especially when they're confronted with inflation. That's real money to them.
When he comes up and starts making comments like that and we're seeing the disasters that we are in, the question then arises, why are we continuing to fund this thing? We're not seeing results. The West is not seeing results and Europe is saying the same thing.
So I think the reality is beginning to set in and would add that in terms of budgeting, where's the money coming from? The United States is broke. $32 trillion-plus already in debt and no means to pay for it.
Also, some 40 countries have agreed to go off the dollar as their medium of currency. We call it de-dollarization. It's a purposeful thing because they want to get out from the sanctions and the hegemony that the U.S. has imposed on the world by weaponizing the dollar in the economies. I think that this is a significant trend.
When you spend $100 million a day on a battlefield for a war that no one really understands, it's going to raise a lot of questions. I guess that might be one reason why Zelensky had to get rid of the defense minister because he was being truthful for once.
Sputnik: Is it a lot in terms of general budget planning in the US?
Michael Maloof: It's an incredible amount. The way the Biden administration has been spending it, it's like nothing. You spend as much as the printing presses will print. That's what it is. It's all flat.
It's not backed by anything unlike the ruble and all the other currencies of countries that now are going to be joining BRICS.
They have tangibles that back up their currencies, oil and gas.
I would advise Saudi Arabia and UAE to go off the dollar in terms of oil and gas trades. That was the way the United States was financing a lot of its debt, it was from returns on those dollars in terms of the oil that they would produce.
The United States' ability to continue such extravagance is going to diminish greatly and it's not going to be in the too-distant future. The quality of life in the United States is going to be affected by this.
I would add that this is going to cause even greater inflationary trends in the U.S. economy. The Biden administration is just totally oblivious and doesn't have a response to all of this. They're just acting now and doing what they can, knowing that perhaps their own time is limited unless they can fix the election again and retain power.
But then what do they have to offer? Nothing. So from a budgetary standpoint, it's a disaster. It's a total disaster and it's almost an insult to hear the Ukrainian former defense minister say that they spend $100 million a day. It's clear that that's not going to last long.
Sputnik: How long, in your view, will the US be able to pay?
Michael Maloof: The Congress isn't back in session yet, but it will be very shortly. I think you're going to see great resistance in the House. It's all tied up in the defense authorization bill.
I would add that in the House, there was a provision for accountability of funds and the Democrats opposed it. Now the Senate doesn't even have a provision for that.
So I think there's opposition. The Senate is controlled by the Democrats. So that's going to really affect the passage of the defense authorization bill and as I said earlier, if these budgets are not approved and they cannot get a continuing resolution to fund the government, it shuts down come September 30.
That's just the reality of the system. The Congress is going to be under severe pressure to get funding going and unless they get the continuing resolution going, further funding for Ukraine could be greatly affected.