NATO commander says Ukraine in 'good position' for spring counteroffensive

By Tony Bertuca / April 26, 2023 at 3:10 PM

Gen. Christopher Cavoli, chief of U.S. European Command and NATO, told lawmakers today that Ukraine has nearly all the weapons it requires to commence a spring counteroffensive against Russian troops who have dug into the eastern region of the country.

“According to the modeling that we’ve very carefully done with them, the Ukrainians are in a good position,” he told the House Armed Services Committee.

Cavoli noted that 98% of promised combat vehicles have arrived in Ukraine.

“I am very confident that we have delivered the materiel that they need and we’ll continue a pipeline to sustain their operations as well,” he said. “We checked it a couple of times, and we gathered it from our allies, who were very generous, especially with regard to tanks and armored fighting vehicles, and we have been shipping it into the country.”

Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said air defense, artillery and armor remain Ukraine’s top priorities, while acquiring fighter jets -- which the United States has not yet provided -- is “about eighth” in terms of importance.

Wallander said the Pentagon is also wrestling with a “time issue” related to supplying Ukraine in the most efficient way.

“What do they require right now, which is what we’ve been focused on for the battles that they’re facing,” she said. “What can we deliver that will be timely and effective?”

Cavoli said helping Ukraine “control the airspace over its country” with ground-based air defense systems provided by the United States and other NATO nations “is most imperative right now."

The United States has provided a Patriot air defense battery to Ukraine and has trained Ukrainians to use the system, which recently arrived in the country.

Cavoli said Russia remains a formidable foe for the Ukrainians, despite suffering severe losses since the invasion began in February 2022. For instance, he said, the Russian ground force is larger today that it was at the start of the conflict. Additionally, he said the Russian air force has “lost very little” or about 80 planes.

“They have another 1,000 fighters and fighter bombers,” he said.