Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley made a startling prediction Tuesday on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that stood in stark contrast to his earlier claims on potential conflict ending within “72 hours.”
Despite missing the mark substantially, Milley said of the war, “I think it’s at least measured in years.”
Milley was joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Capitol Hill where the two testified before the House Armed Services Committee with regard to President Joe Biden’s proposed defense spending in the $5.8 trillion budget. Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) noted redlines that Russia had presented to U.S. leaders on February 17.
“So when I look at this commitment, what I’d like to ask,” Keating posed to Milley, “is what is the timeframe you foresee…that we’re involved in this type of conflict?”
“It’s a bit early, still. Even though we’re a month-plus into the war, there is much of the ground war left in Ukraine. But I do think this is a very protracted conflict,” the general stated, “and I think it’s at least measured in years. I don’t know about a decade, but at least years for sure.”
“This is a very extended conflict that Russia has initiated and I think that NATO, the United States, Ukraine and all of the allies and partners that are supporting Ukraine are going to be involved in this for quite some time,” he added.
However, this is a far cry from what he had informed Congress during closed-door briefings on Feb. 2 and 3. At the time, Milley was reported as saying that Ukraine “could fall within 72 hours if a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine takes place.”
Those comments started the war drums by lawmakers who “expressed concern that the Biden administration did not respond quickly to provide Ukraine with significant military aid, such as anti-aircraft and rocket launcher systems that would defend against an invasion from Russia.”
Worth noting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in that meeting and he repeatedly pushed the administrations talking point that sanctions would deter Putin from taking military action against Ukraine. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) asked Milley Tuesday about the effectiveness of deterrence.
“What lessons have we learned in being perhaps more concerned about provocation of Vladimir Putin rather than deterring him,” DesJarlais framed, “and how can we apply that when looking forward to the Chinese threat to Taiwan?”
General Mark Milley says Putin was not "deterrable" from invading Ukraine.
Joe Biden said his threat of sanctions WOULD deter Putin. pic.twitter.com/IcTVrQRQAE
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) April 5, 2022
“With respect to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s been a longstanding objective of Putin and candidly, short of the commitment of U.S. military forces into Ukraine proper, I am not sure he was deterrable,” Milley responded flatly.
“This has been a long-term objective of his that goes back years,” he went on. “So, I think the idea of deterring Putin from invading Ukraine – deterring him by the United States – would have required the commitment of U.S. military forces and I think that would have risked armed conflict with Russia, which I certainly wouldn’t have advised.”
When these statements are aligned, one has to wonder about the leadership of the military. While Milley’s February remarks were speculative pertaining to a “full-scale” invasion, why use such hyperbolic language if not to draw a response from Congress?
Otherwise, if Milley genuinely believed Russia would go all-out in their invasion of Ukraine, how can his current assessment be trusted when his earlier intelligence has proved so off the mark?
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