Austin Talks Uncertainties Of War As Ukraine Prepares Counteroffensive


By Jim Garamone

The Ukrainian military is prepared for a counteroffensive against the Russian invaders, but this is war and supporters of Kyiv must be ready for the long haul, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said Sunday.

War is uncertain, Austin said. “Anybody that thinks they can accurately produce any type of outcome in a war, … have another think coming to them, because … it doesn’t happen that way,” the secretary said to reporters in Singapore. “There will be stops and starts. There will be things that happen that [the] Ukrainians didn’t anticipate. There will be opportunities for the Ukrainians to exploit.”

There is no certainty in war, and all those who support Ukraine in its existential fight need to be prepared to continue to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” he said.

Allies understand this uncertainty and recognize that support to Ukraine could be required much longer than anyone anticipated, Austin said. The secretary spoke to reporters at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Ukraine has been preparing for a counteroffensive against the Russian troops that invaded their country. “Our goal has been to provide them with the capability so that they have an opportunity to be successful,” the secretary said.

Ukraine has been remarkably successful in combating the Russian military, which has more troops and more equipment. The Ukrainian military has “managed to really inflict significant damage on Russian forces and destroyed a lot of their equipment” he said.

The aid Ukraine has received allowed the country to create nine additional motorized and mechanized brigades to add to its combat power. “It will make a difference,” he said. “In addition to that, we trained an additional three brigades to serve as reserve or follow-on forces. Those brigades are now in Ukraine as well, so that’s a total of 12 brigades.”

Even as preparations for a counteroffensive continue, nations opposed to Russia’s invasion continue training and equipping Ukrainian forces. “But what I convey to our colleagues in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group is, this doesn’t end when [Ukrainian forces] cross the line of departure.”

Countries need to be ready to provide further support to “continue to help them maintain and I think everybody has that mindset,” Austin said. “Everybody’s hopeful that you’ll see overwhelming success, but … I think most people have a realistic outlook on this.”

Austin said what really matters is what the Ukrainian leaders feel, and he believes Ukrainian leaders are “increasingly confident in the capabilities that they have and opportunities that they may have,” he said.

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