U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that while Ukraine has retaken half of the territory that Russia initially seized in its invasion, Kyiv faced a “a very hard fight” to win back more.
“Ukraine is in a battle to get back more of the land that Russia seized from it,” Mr Blinken told CNN at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
“It’s already taken back about 50 per cent of what was initially seized. Now they’re in a very hard fight to take back more. These are still relatively early days of the counter-offensive. It is tough.
“In terms of what Russia sought to achieve, what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin sought to achieve, they’ve already failed. They’ve already lost.
“The objective was to erase Ukraine from the map, to eliminate its independence, its sovereignty, to subsume it into Russia. That failed a long time ago.”
Hopes that Ukraine could quickly clear Moscow’s forces from its territory after the launch of a summer counter-offensive are fading as Kyiv’s troops struggle to breach heavily entrenched Russian positions in the country’s south and east.
Mr Blinken conceded that Ukraine’s goal to reclaim territory captured by Moscow would be “a very hard fight”.
He predicted that the war, which recently passed 500 days, will “not play out over the next week or two” but would continue for “several months”.
Late last month, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quoted as saying that progress against Russian forces was “slower than desired” but that Kyiv would not be pressured into speeding it up.
Ukraine has recaptured some villages in the south and territory around the ruined city of Bakhmut in the east, but has not had a major breakthrough against heavily defended Russian lines.
When asked if Ukraine will receive US-made F-16 fighter jets, Mr Blinken said he believed it would.
“And the important focus is on making sure that when they do, they’re properly trained, they’re able to maintain the planes and use them in a smart way,” he said.
A coalition of 11 nations will start training Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 fighter jets in August in Denmark, and a training centre will be set up in Romania.
Ukraine has long appealed for the Lockheed Martin-made F-16s, but US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last month there was no final decision on Washington sending the aircraft.
US officials have estimated it would take at least 18 months for training and delivery of the planes.
© 2023, GDC. © GDC and www.globaldefensecorp.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to www.globaldefensecorp.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.