SOUTH OF ENGLAND – After a series of Russian defeats in the war, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is urging Ukraine to “keep the pressure up, keep the momentum” and their rapid-fire attacks on Vladimir Putin’s forces over the winter months to continue.
“Given the advantage the Ukrainians have in equipment training and the quality of their personnel over the demoralized, ill-trained, ill-equipped Russians, it would be in Ukraine’s interest to keep the momentum going through the winter Wallace said. “They have 300,000 pieces of arctic warfare equipment, from the international community” – a critical requirement for any winter offensive.
Wallace told The Daily Beast that this was the advice he would give to his Ukrainian colleagues, with whom he speaks “almost weekly.” He praised the Ukrainians for shocking the world by displaying their own courage and skills, as well as the huge shortcomings of the Russian armed forces.
The intervention comes at a time when senior US officials have been trying to push Ukraine away from the battlefield and onto the negotiating table.
Two weeks ago, General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that because Ukraine may not achieve a complete victory on the battlefield, it should use the expected slowdown in military operations over the winter as a “window” for talks. with the Russians.
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But President Volodymyr Zelensky has stated he will not negotiate with Russia as long as Putin remains in power, saying any settlement must end when Ukraine gains control of all its post-independence territories, including Donbas and Crimea.
In an exclusive interview at a British army base in the south of England, Wallace instead suggested that now was the time for Ukraine to exercise its advantage, pointing to the abysmal quality of Russia’s armed forces.
“Recently a Russian unit was deployed with no food, no socks and not many weapons. That’s catastrophic for someone going into the field… The Russians have scale, but they’re not very good. Well, most of the good guys are dead,” he said. “They are a meat grinder – they put them in the meat grinder – and they use massive amounts of artillery. Only a nation that doesn’t care about its own people can send 100,000 of its own people to be either dead, wounded or abandoned.”
As we spoke last week, the crackle and whistle of rifle bullets rang out behind him, from a training ground where a team of British and New Zealand military trainers instructed the Ukrainian armed forces. Some 5,000 Ukrainian troops have already completed a grueling three- to five-week training program designed to give them a crash course in the basics of modern combat.
The program is run by the UK and trainers are sent from countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Norway. They teach stripped-down infantry tactics with a focus on “survivability and lethality,” as one trainer put it. Many are sent directly to the front lines upon completion. Overhead you could hear the hum of the rotor blades of a British military helicopter descending to pick up Wallace and his New Zealand counterpart.
In his interview with The Daily Beast, Wallace also denounced successive British and European governments for decades of neglecting their armed forces.
When asked what he had learned from his experiences visiting and working with his Ukrainian colleagues, he said: “I can speak for myself and some others in Europe, it looks good from the front – but under the hood , ammunition supplies, maintenance, availability, reliability of our equipment and the willingness of our soldiers to go anywhere has eroded over decades.”
He noted that a variety of global crises, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the COVID pandemic and the rise of China, have led “the world to be more fearful” and aware of “the need for resilience…resilience , that is our middle name.”