Will Russia Abandon Crimea?: Even with Crimea now within firing distance of Ukrainian HIMARS in liberated Kherson, U.S. Army General Mark Milley doesn’t believe that Ukraine will be able to liberate the southern Ukrainian territory that has been occupied by Russia since it was annexed in 2014.
Speaking this week, the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cast doubt on Ukraine’s ability to completely force Russian forces out of Ukraine, noting that Russian troops still occupy roughly 20% of Ukrainian territory.
“In terms of probability, the probability of a Ukrainian military victory, defined as kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include what they defined, or what they claim as Crimea, the probability of that happening anytime soon is not high, militarily,” Milley said.
Will Russia Abandon Crimea?
Milley thinks that, should Ukraine ever reclaim Crimea, it is more likely that it will be a result of Russia abandoning the territory.
Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin annexing the territory in 2014 and proclaiming Crimea an inseparable part of the Russian Federation. Milley believes that the Kremlin could eventually make a “political decision” to leave the territory as a result of the Russian military struggling so much in the conflict.
“The Russian military is really hurting bad,” he said. “So you want to negotiate at a time when you’re at your strength, and your opponent is at weakness. And it’s possible, maybe, that there’ll be a political solution. All I’m saying is there’s a possibility for it.”
Zelenskyy Remains Committed
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy won’t want to hear Milley say that Ukraine doesn’t have the capability to liberate Crimea – not just because it flies in the face of what he has been telling the Ukrainian people for years now, but also because it may suggest that Washington, D.C., is not as committed to that goal as Kyiv is.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly promised to reclaim Crimea, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began this year. Zelenskyy hasn’t backed down from that pledge, telling Czech TV earlier this month that he intends to visit Crimea as soon as the conflict comes to an end, and once Ukraine has reclaimed the territory.
“I will go to Crimea. I really want to see the sea,” he said.
Milley’s words, however, come as the White House continues to urge Kyiv to express willingness to engage in peace negotiations with Russia. It could indicate that the United States would like to see some resolution come soon, even if it means Russia maintaining control of Crimea.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.