Ukraine’s victory at Lyman undermines Putin’s foothold in the eastern Donetsk region and “could turn into a cascading series of defeats for the Russians,” retired Army Lt. Gen. HR McMaster, a former security adviser, said Sunday. nationally, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” ”
“What we could be here is really on the brink of collapse of the Russian military in the Ukraine,” McMaster said. “They really must be at a breaking point.”
Meanwhile, the gains in Kherson on Monday represent a major breakthrough after the incremental gains experienced by Ukrainian forces since they began their southern counteroffensive in September. Ukrainian troops broke through Russia’s defensive lines and advanced rapidly along the western bank of the Dnipro River on Monday, retaking several villages and threatening resupply lines for thousands of Russian troops.
“This shows that the Ukrainians are capable of multiple operations,” said Mick Mulroy, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and retired CIA official. “It will also be key to follow-up operations that include the possibility of taking control of the water supply for the Crimean peninsula.”
But current officials cautioned that Kyiv’s latest achievements should not be exaggerated and that Russian forces remain stable in other areas, such as nearby Bakhmut in Donetsk. The fighting in the Donbas will be particularly harsh, as Russian forces fight from the trenches and bunkers they have occupied for years.
“There is a lot of intense fighting ahead,” a Defense Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal assessments.
“It is strategically important, but they still have a long way to go,” said a second US official, who also requested anonymity.
Looming over the gains from the battlefield is the latent threat that the conflict could go nuclear. Western officials worry that Putin could use the annexations as an excuse to claim that Ukrainian forces are attacking Russian territory and escalating the conflict, potentially even using a tactical nuclear weapon.
However, the US has not received any indication that it would change its strategic posture, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Monday, adding that “we are watching this as closely as we can.” .