The United States is likely to host an expected gathering of over 40 nations on Tuesday for Ukraine-related defence talks that will focus on arming Kyiv so it can defend against an unfolding and potentially decisive Russian onslaught in the east, U.S. officials said.
United State Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is holding the event at Ramstein Air Base in Germany after a trip to Kyiv, where he pledged additional support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s war effort.
The Army General of the United States, Mark Miley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the primary goal of the talks was to synchronize and coordinate mounting security assistance to Kyiv that includes heavy weaponry, like howitzer artillery, as well-armed drones and ammunition.
Milley said, “The next several weeks will be very critical. They need continued support to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”
Driven back by Ukrainian forces from a failed assault on Kyiv in the north, Moscow has again deployed its troops into the east for a ground offensive in two provinces known as the Donbas.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. officials assess that Russia will rely heavily on artillery strikes, trying to pound Ukrainian positions as Moscow moves in ground forces from multiple directions to try to envelop and wipe out a significant chunk of Ukraine’s military.
But the United States also estimated many Russian units are depleted, with some operating with personnel losses as high as 30%, a level considered by the U.S. army to be too high to keep fighting, officials said.
The U.S. officials cite anecdotes like Russian tanks with sole drivers and no crew and substandard equipment that is either prone to breakdowns or out of date.
British assessments showed that around 15,000 Russian personnel had been killed in the conflict while 2,000 armoured vehicles, including some 530 tanks, had been destroyed, along with 60 helicopters and fighter jets, Defence Secretary Ben Wallance said on Monday.