Mark A. Milley, top US general, defends military support for Ukraine

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Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended ongoing weapons and security aid to Ukraine by saying that “the numbers clearly favor the Russians” in the war’s current state.

Ukraine has in recent weeks sent urgent pleas for more weapons, as it has been outmanned and outgunned in defending its eastern Donbas area from Russia. Ukraine has lost ground in recent days, with Russia forecast to gain control of the key city of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region of Donbas in the coming weeks.

Milley, speaking to reporters on Wednesday from Brussels, said the United States was working to give “as much capability as fast as we can … to ensure that Ukraine can be successful on the battlefield.”

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“Right now, Severodonetsk, the city is probably three-quarters taken by Russian forces, but the Ukrainians are fighting them street by street, house by house, and it’s not a done deal,” he said, adding that “there are no inevitabilities in war.”

President Biden announced Wednesday that the United States would send Ukraine an additional $1 billion in defense assistance, including artillery, rocket systems, coastal defense weapons and ammunition. Additional arms are to be provided from other nations, including three multiple-launch rocket systems from Germany, helicopters from Slovakia and additional artillery from Canada, Poland and the Netherlands.

The United States and its European allies have gradually expanded the weaponry they have provided Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion. But they continue to withhold certain systems, including fighter jets, and have provided only limited numbers of other arms for fear they might be used to attack deep into Russian territory.

Milley said the United States has already sent Ukraine more than 6,500 Javelins and 20,000 other anti-armor systems, among the nearly 97,000 antitank systems that he said have been provided to Ukraine by the international community — “more antitank systems than there are tanks in the world.”

“We have on a number of occasions gone down line by line what they need that is relevant in this fight,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said of the Ukrainians. “So we feel pretty confident that we’re working hard to give them what they think is relevant.”

In an interview with NPR on Wednesday, airing Thursday, Milley said that while Russia has gained ground after amassing greater numbers of combat units and artillery than Ukraine, the defenders have a moral advantage over their aggressors. “The moral is to the physical as three is to one,” Milley said, quoting Napoleon Bonaparte.

Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

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