Espreso. Global

Ukraine's front, Bakhmut, Western weapons and reforms: what former CIA director discussed in Kyiv

7 September, 2023 Thursday

The West should give Ukraine more weapons, Russia has no real gains on the battlefield, and the Ukrainian government should focus on reforms. This was stated by General David Petraeus during a special event at the Kyiv Security Forum on September 5

Commander of the US Central Command in 2008-2010, Director of the CIA in 2011-2012, General David Petraeus is a member of the Security Council of the Kyiv Security Forum, which was founded by the Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Open Ukraine Foundation. Together with top American economists and figures and former Ukrainian officials, he took part in Top of Mind: Frontline and Recovery special event. Espreso was a media partner of the event.

On the situation at the front

"I have not seen anything like this since World War II. The Russian forces are not particularly impressive in terms of knowledge or actions on the battlefield, but they have created an extremely outstanding defense system, and it is quite difficult to overcome," the speaker said.

At the same time, he emphasized that the Armed Forces of Ukraine demonstrate impressive abilities to adapt to warfare in the face of huge minefields, trenches, anti-tank ditches and constant enemy shelling: "The Ukrainian response to all this is very impressive."

Petraeus emphasized that Ukrainian troops are keeping the Russian forces on an extremely long front line, and are creating conditions for continued success by striking Russian warehouses, air bases, naval bases in Crimea and logistics lines. "You may not be able to destroy the bridge, but you can make it impossible to drive across," the general said.

According to him, using Western artillery systems, the Ukrainian Armed Forces can strike at Russian positions at a greater distance. "Stretching the frontline reduces the capabilities of the Russians. That is, conditions are being created on the battlefield, and when the opportunity arises, the Ukrainian Armed Forces will be able to strike with reserve forces," he added.

The general emphasized the success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Robotyne and stressed the importance of the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk directions. "This is all accumulating. When the Russian forces start to fall, it is important how the Ukrainians will use this to break the line of communication and cut off Crimea. Ideally, it would be good to destroy the Kerch Bridge, and when that is done, Russian forces will be in a situation of destruction," David Petraeus is convinced.

The former CIA director also praised the work of the Ukrainian air defense forces: "Ukraine has an extremely impressive air defense, so it is difficult for the Russian forces to achieve success in the air, they cannot use their air forces effectively."

"I think that the progress of the Ukrainian Armed Forces will continue, and eventually it will become sustainable, and we will see it on the battlefield," David Petraeus summarized.

He also assessed the "successes" of the Russians on the battlefield. "The only achievement of the Russian troops during the winter offensive they carried out is the destruction of the city of Bakhmut at the cost of 25 thousand soldiers' lives," said David Petraeus. He emphasized that the Ukrainian Armed Forces impressed the whole world when they won the battle for Kyiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and recaptured Kherson.

About weapons

David Petraeus emphasized that NATO member states continue to support Ukraine in countering Russian military aggression. "Although sometimes I would like to see decisions made faster, in particular regarding F-16 aircraft or long-range missiles. However, the amount of support is absolutely incredible," he said.

According to him, Western countries, in particular the United States, should provide Ukraine with even more support in the form of military equipment and weapons so that the Armed Forces are as well-prepared as possible during the offensive.

The general noted the leadership of the United States in providing military support to Ukraine: "We must pay tribute not only to the White House, but also to the Congress and the entire American people, as they have provided unprecedented support for the entire period since World War II."

At the same time, according to the general, some decisions, in particular on providing Ukraine with certain types of weapons, should have been made more quickly.

"I would very much like to see some decisions made in favor of Ukraine that could play a catalytic effect. In particular, I would like to see a decision on Abrams tanks at least 6 months earlier. We also need to make decisions on F-16s faster. We have already passed a certain stage when there were some concerns, now we need to do everything within our power," he added.

The former CIA director expressed hope that the West's support for Ukraine will grow: "We have to do everything possible to make sure that Ukraine is as well prepared as possible for the next period of offensive."

On reforms

The Ukrainian state should work not only to win on the battlefield, but also to reform the country by attracting investment, the speaker said. He is convinced that reforms should be the main task for the Ukrainian government.

"It is extremely important not to just be tied to the battlefield. Everyone should focus on winning in the future, winning the future," he said.

David Petraeus is convinced that the Ukrainian government should decide which direction to prioritize in attracting investment. 

"Real success is when global investment companies come to Ukraine," he said.

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