Russia failed to achieve strategic military objectives in Ukraine -US officials

"The Russians have failed every single time. They've lost strategically, they've lost operationally, and I repeat, they lost tactically," said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

 A Ukrainian serviceman walks near captured Russian tanks with installed Ukrainian flags, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine September 19, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)
A Ukrainian serviceman walks near captured Russian tanks with installed Ukrainian flags, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Izium, recently liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine September 19, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)

Russia has failed to achieve any of its strategic, operational and tactical objectives in its invasion of Ukraine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

Austin said that Russia had established several strategic objectives in its invasion of Ukraine: "They wanted to overthrow President Zelenskyy and his government. They wanted to secure access to the Black Sea. They wanted to capture Odessa. They wanted to seize all the way to the Dnipro River, pause, and then continue to attack all the way to the Carpathian Mountains."

"They wanted to overrun all of Ukraine, and they lost."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin

Russia failed to achieve these objectives, said Austin, and was failing at the operational and tactical levels as well. The Kremlin changed the goals of the war in face of this strategic upset, focusing on the seizure of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces of Ukraine.

"The strategic reframing of their objectives, of their illegal invasion have all failed, every single one of them. And we've just witnessed last week Russia's retreat from Kherson. They retreated across the Dnipro River, they moved to more defensible positions south of the river," said Austin. "So across the entire front line trace of some 900 or so kilometers, the Ukrainians have achieved success after success after success and the Russians have failed every single time. They've lost strategically, they've lost operationally, and I repeat, they lost tactically."

Austin said, "In short, they wanted to overrun all of Ukraine, and they lost."

 A Ukrainian service member stands next to a damaged Russian tank T-72 BV, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Donetsk region (credit: REUTERS) A Ukrainian service member stands next to a damaged Russian tank T-72 BV, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Donetsk region (credit: REUTERS)

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, also in attendance at the briefing, assessed that "the probability of Russia achieving its strategic objectives of conquering Ukraine" is " close to zero."

The difficulty for Ukraine to achieve objectives

However, Milley also said that a full Ukrainian military victory was also unlikely. 

Moscow's forces, said Milley, "currently occupy about 20 percent of Ukraine. So they occupy a piece of ground that's about 900 kilometers long and, I don't know, probably about 75 or 80 kilometers deep. So it's not a small piece of ground." Milley said the Kherson and Kharkiv were small compared to the amount of land held by Russia, and expelling Kremlin forces from the remaining territories would by a difficult task unlikely to be completed "in the next couple of weeks unless the Russian army completely collapses, which is unlikely."

He noted that Russia had invaded with at least 180,000 military personnel, and despite suffering "a tremendous amount of casualties" have reinforced its armies, and so have a significant force within Ukraine.

"A Ukrainian military victory defined as kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine to include what they define or what they claim is Crimea, the probability of that happening anytime soon is not high, militarily," said Milley. "Politically, there may be a political solution where, politically, the Russians withdraw, that's possible."

Russia announced last Friday that it had completed its retreat from Kherson and the west bank of the Dnieper River, one of the biggest voluntary losses of ground since its initial advance on the capital of Kyiv was halted. 

The Kremlin is currently seeking to shore up defensive lines on the east bank of the Dnieper. 

Russia's current strategic approach

According to a Thursday United Kindom Defense Ministry intelligence update, Russia is pursuing a campaign to degrade Ukraine's national infrastructure. This has been primarily conducted through long-range missile and suicide drone strikes. 

On Tuesday, "Russia carried out up to 80 long-range missile strikes, mostly against power infastructure targets across Ukraine. This is likely the largest number of strikes that Russia has conducted in a single day since the first week of the invasion," said the UK Defense Ministry. 

While Ukrainian forces had managed to intercept many of the projectiles, "Ukraine is facing a significant decrease in the power available from its national grid. This will impact upon civilian access to communications, heating and water supplies."

However, the Defense Ministry noted that Russia was depleting its reserve of cruise missiles in the pursuit of the bombardment campaign.

Reuters contributed to this report.