Ukraine has a “very good chance” at launching a successful counteroffensive during the spring, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, speaking at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on Tuesday, March 28. He added that due to the significant depletion of Russian forces and new Western weapons supplies to Kyiv, he remains quite optimistic regarding the upcoming perspective on the battlefield.
“The Ukrainians have inflicted significant losses on the Russians and depleted their armored vehicles in a way no one could have imagined. And now we see Russia decommissioning T-54 and T-55 tanks because of the level of losses that the Ukrainians inflicted upon them,” the Pentagon chief stressed.
According to Austin, right now Ukraine desperately needs air defense, long-range weapons, and armored vehicles. Meanwhile, fighter jets, which Kyiv constantly is constantly requesting, “won't help Ukrainians” at this stage of the war.
“Right now, the main need of the Ukrainians is air defense. This is a critical need on the battlefield. They also need long-range weapons and armored vehicles,” Austin said, noting that the US is providing a significant package of such capabilities, including training and guaranteed provision of the supplied weapons.
Austin did not rule out the possibility of Ukraine receiving fighter jets in the future. Still, he explained that if a decision is made to provide these capabilities, it would take approximately 18 months.
“Can the Ukrainians get fighter jets in the future? We all believe that they will. Potentially they could get F16s or other fourth-generation aircraft,” the Defense Secretary noted and assured the committee that the US would continue to work with partners to ensure that Ukraine has exactly what it needs.
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