As Congress wavers on further Ukraine aid, top general concedes war is now in a WW1-style stalemate

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As Congress wavers on further Ukraine aid, top general concedes war is now in a WW1-style stalemate

ZALUZHNY: ‘NO DEEP AND BEAUTIFUL BREAKTHROUGH’: In a remarkably candid interview with the Economist, Ukrainian Commander in Chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny ruefully admits he over-relied on NATO wargame projections and underestimated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to sacrifice tens of thousands of his troops, which has resulted in the high hopes for the summer counteroffensive devolving into what he calls a “positional form,” in other words, a stalemate.

“Just like in the first world war we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate,” Zaluzhny told the magazine.”The simple fact is that we see everything the enemy is doing and they see everything we are doing. In order for us to break this deadlock we need something new, like the gunpowder which the Chinese invented.”

At the outset of the counteroffensive, Zaluzhny believed his better-trained, Western-equipped troops could prevail, inflicting heavy casualties on the demoralized, poorly-led Russian troops. “That was my mistake. Russia has lost at least 150,000 dead. In any other country, such casualties would have stopped the war,” but not Russia, where Putin has little regard for the loss of life on either side. “There will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough,” Zaluzhny admitted.

NATO’S FLAWED ADVICE: NATO war planners helped Ukraine devise a strategy that was expected to break through Russia’s multi-layered defenses and ran war game simulations that predicted some measure of success after a few months.

“If you look at NATO’s textbooks and at the maths which we did, four months should have been enough time for us to have reached Crimea, to have fought in Crimea, to return from Crimea and to have gone back in and out again,” Zaluzhny said, seeming to mock the folly of the plan.

Instead, after five months of fierce fighting with heavy losses on both sides, Ukraine advanced only 10 miles, while Russia fought for ten months to take Bakhmut, a town of about four square miles.

“First I thought there was something wrong with our commanders, so I changed some of them. Then I thought maybe our soldiers are not fit for purpose, so I moved soldiers in some brigades,” Zaluzhny said before he turned to a 1941 book written by a Russian commander, Breaching Fortified Defence Lines. “Before I got even halfway through it, I realized that is exactly where we are because just like then, the level of our technological development today has put both us and our enemies in a stupor.”

ON HOW TO WIN: Despite the disappointing summer, Zaluzhny is not discouraged, in fact, he’s resolute that Ukraine can prevail next year when new capabilities arrive, including F-16s that will give Ukraine a better chance of controlling its own airspace.

Zaluzhny also provided the Economist with a lengthy treatise on how to break out of the stalemate, titled Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win In It, in which he argues Ukraine needs more drones, electronic warfare, anti-artillery capabilities, and de-mining equipment to maintain the initiative and avoid falling in a long war, which would play to Russa’s advantage.

So far, Zaluzhny said the U.S. and its allies have given Ukraine enough to fight but not enough to win. “They are not obliged to give us anything, and we are grateful for what we have got, but I am simply stating the facts,” he told the newspaper.


Good Thursday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Conrad Hoyt. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre


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HAPPENING TODAY: President Joe Biden meets with two foreign leaders in the White House today. At 12 p.m., he will sit down in the Oval Office with Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader. Then, at 2:45 p.m., Biden meets with Chilean President Gabriel Boric.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs today for Israel and Jordan, as Israeli troops are advancing on Gaza City and international pressure is building for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to bring in food, water, and medicine to Palestinians trapped by the war against Hamas.

During a campaign speech in Minneapolis last night, Biden responded to a protester who was calling for a ceasefire, saying, “I think we need a pause.”

For the first time yesterday, hundreds of foreign passport holders, including some Americans, as well as wounded Palestinians, were able to escape Gaza by way of the southern Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

After his stop in Jordan, Blinken will continue to the Indo-Pacific region with stops in Japan, South Korea, and India.


THE HORROR OF HAMAS: As some critics of Israel refuse to label Hamas terrorists, in congressional testimony this week, Blinken used just one example to illustrate what Israel is fighting against.

“Children executed in front of their parents, parents executed in front of their children; families in a final embrace burned alive, people beheaded,” Blinken said before telling the story of one family who was sitting at the breakfast table at one of the kibbutzes when Hamas arrived.

“A family of four, a young boy and girl, six and eight years old, and their parents around the breakfast table,” Blinken told the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday. “The father, his eye gouged out in front of his kids, the mother’s breasts cut off, the girl’s foot amputated, the boy’s fingers cut off before they were executed, and then their executioner sat down and had a meal. That’s what this society is dealing with. And no nation could tolerate that.”


JOHNSON WILL ‘MARRY’ ISRAEL AND UKRAINE: House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) appears to be backing down in the face of Senate opposition and will allow a vote on aid to Israel and Ukraine to be linked in a single bill.

“Well, with our appropriations bills for Ukraine funding, for example, we’re gonna marry that with border security,” Johnson told Fox News host Sean Hannity last night, according to the Hill. “The two things are gonna be handled together because we believe it’s a top priority.”

“I think it’s plain and simple. If we don’t continue to support Ukraine, Russia will win, and that will have an extremely deleterious effect on us on our strategic interest,” Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said on MSNBC. “It will cost us more over time. It will mean that Russia will most likely take over, annihilate Ukraine, and be on the border with NATO, costing us more in repositioning troops to be even more on NATO’s eastern front, costing us more in terms of what we have to take away from other parts of the world, and potentially posing a direct threat of World War III.”

“So, the consequences couldn’t be higher,” Brink said on Morning Joe. “The stakes couldn’t be higher. It’s existential to Ukraine, this fight. But it is in our overwhelming strategic interests of the United States that we help Ukraine to prevail and to push Russia out of Ukraine.”


TUBERVILLE STRIKES AGAIN: While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is working to get floor votes for the nominations of Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be chief of naval operations, Gen. David Allvin to be Air Force chief of staff and Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney to be assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, a group of Republicans took to the floor last night in an effort to secure their confirmations — along with almost 60 others — by unanimous consent.

Once again, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) blocked the votes with an objection.

“Senator Tuberville’s obstinacy was once again exposed,” fumed Jack Reed (D-RI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Senate Republicans took the honorable step of holding the Senate floor for hours, attempting to promote dozens of individual officers by unanimous consent requests. Despite claiming for months that he would allow individual votes on military promotions, Senator Tuberville blocked every single promotion that was requested.”

“Over the last ten months, Senator Tuberville has undermined our military readiness and callously mistreated military families,” Reed said. “After tonight, one has to wonder why Senator Tuberville persists in his obstruction, which only benefits America’s enemies.”

“I admire the patriotism of the Senators who spoke up tonight. They demonstrated their commitment to faithfully serve those who volunteer and sacrifice so much to defend our nation,” Reed continued. “Only willful ignorance or stubborn hubris could lead Senator Tuberville to continue to stick with this tactic. My colleagues on both sides of the aisle must work together to bypass him.”


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Israeli minister says ‘thousands of terrorists’ killed so far

Washington Examiner: Israel defends airstrike that hit Gaza and killed senior Hamas leader

Washington Examiner: Israeli ambassador says Tel Aviv passengers hid in Russian airport during riot

Washington Examiner: Hamas official warns of repeats of Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel

Washington Examiner: Hamas terrorists revel in carnage: ‘I killed 10 with my bare hands, Mom’

Washington Examiner: Jordan withdraws ambassador from Israel as Arab world increases pressure

Washington Examiner: Iran’s Khamenei calls for oil embargo on Israel — in Spanish

Washington Examiner: ‘Suicide mission’: Senate Republicans break with Tuberville military blockade

Washington Examiner: Speaker Johnson meets with Senate GOP ahead of Ukraine funding clash

Washington Examiner: Mayors of five blue cities request meeting with Biden over influx of immigrants

Washington Examiner: Rep. Ken Buck won’t seek reelection, citing GOP ‘narrative’ on Jan. 6

The Hill: Johnson says House GOP will consider Ukraine funding, border security together

Defense News: Senate to Vote on Top Air Force, Navy, USMC Leaders in Coming Days

New York Times: Limited Flight From Gaza Strip Begins, as Israelis Close In on Main City

AP: China Keeps Up Military Pressure on Taiwan, Sending 43 Planes and 7 Ships Near Self-Governing Island

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Space Force Terminates ICBM During Test Launch Due To Anomaly What the Pentagon Has, Hasn’t, and Could Do to Stop Veterans and Troops from Joining Extremist Groups

DefenseScoop: Senior Pentagon Official Calls on DOD Components to More Fully Embrace Irregular, Asymmetric Warfare

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Air Force Plans RFP for New Tanker in Fiscal 2025, But Is Still Building Its Acquisition Strategy

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Small Base, Big Impact

Stars and Stripes: 8th Fighter Wing Commander Is Stepping Down after 5 Months in South Korea

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Meet the Air Force Squadron Preparing PJs for Near-Peer Conflict

The War Zone: A-10 vs. F-35 Close Air Support Flyoff Report Finally Emerges

Inside Defense: Lockheed Touts Successful 5G Demo with Commercial Tech Companies

Breaking Defense: Getting to MARS: Defense Intelligence Agency AI-Assisted Database to Begin Ops in Spring

National Interest: The Case For A Full Israeli Victory over Hamas in Gaza

National Interest: The Hamas War Is Far More Dangerous to Israel Than the Yom Kippur War

The Cipher Brief: Peace in the Middle East is Dependent on Ideas, Not Fighting

The Cipher Brief: The ‘Axis of Resistance’ Media Machine is Far-Reaching in the Middle East



12 p.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: “The Israeli-Hamas War,” with Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research; and Aaron David Miller, CEIP senior fellow

4:30 p.m. — Center for a New American Security discussion: “Artificial Intelligence Governance and National Security,” with Lauren Khan, senior analyst at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Landon Heid, professional staff member of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Community Party; Ainikki Riikonen, independent analyst; and Noah Greene, research assistant at the CNAS AI Safety and Stability Project


11 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies International Security Program virtual discussion: “Canada’s Role in Global Maritime Security,” with Vice Adm. Angus Topshee, commander of the Royal Canadian Navy and chief of the Naval Staff; and Seth Jones, senior vice president and director, CSIS International Security Program

12 p.m. — American Security Project virtual discussion: “Combating the Military Obesity Crisis,” with Courtney Manning, ASP national security research fellow

6 p.m. 14th and F Sts. NW — National Press Club film screening and discussion of “20 Days in Mariupol,” focusing on the Russia-Ukraine war, with director Mstyslav Chernov and producer Raney Aronson-Rath. RSVP: [email protected]


2 p.m. HVC-210 — House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing: “Friend and Ally: U.S. support for Israel after Hamas’ Barbaric Attack,” with testimony from Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Dana Stroul, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East

3 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW — Association of the U.S. Army and Center for Strategic and International Studies “Strategic Landpower Dialogue,” with Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of U.S. Space Command


7 p.m. — Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies virtual discussion: “Mikhail Zygar’s War and Punishment: The Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine”


3 p.m. — Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center virtual forum: “Understanding the Modernization of the Land-based Leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, LGM-35A Sentinel,” with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense; and Air Force Brig. Gen. Colin Connor, director, ICBM Modernization

QUOTE OF THE DAY “Xi Jinping is watching this right now, ‘going I can’t believe they’re not letting these guys command’ … He’s loving this. So is Putin. They’re loving it. How dumb can we be?” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), in floor comments excoriating Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) for his holds on hundreds of military promotions.

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