Ukrainian troops are unlikely to be able to retake Crimea from Russian troops in the near future, four high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Defense told deputies of the Committee on Armed Forces of the House of Representatives at a secret briefing.
According to Politico, it's unclear what prompted the briefing's participants to make that assessment, but the clear testimony given by three people with direct knowledge of Thursday's briefing was that the Pentagon does not believe that Ukraine has or will soon have the ability to push Russian troops from the peninsula, which Moscow captured almost ten years ago.
A fourth person said the briefing was more ambiguous, but the point is that victory for Ukraine in the offensive to return the illegally annexed territory was not guaranteed. All four requested anonymity to reveal details of the classified briefing.
Participants in the briefing included Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We are not going to comment on closed classified briefings, nor are we going to hypothesize or speculate on potential future operations," Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said.
"In terms of Ukraine's ability to fight and reclaim sovereign territory, its outstanding effectiveness in repelling Russian aggression and continued adaptability on the battlefield speak for themselves."
The briefing's assessment echoes what General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has hinted at in recent weeks.
"I still maintain that it would be very, very difficult this year to throw Russian troops out of all of Ukraine and every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine," he said during a meeting of Ukraine's defense contact person, "That doesn't mean it can't happen. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but it will be very, very difficult".