The war in Ukraine begins its second year at a standstill
Armed with billions of dollars' worth of American weapons, Ukraine has fought the Russians to a standstill. But U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says that's not good enough. "The Ukrainians feel – and I agree with this – that they need to conduct an offensive to change the dynamics on the battlefield," he said. "I think we can expect an offensive in the spring."
The first year of war has been a debacle for Vladimir Putin. But unless Ukraine can drive Russian troops back from their entrenched positions, he will keep fighting. "The only thing that will stop the war is if he becomes convinced that he can't win," said CBS News consultant John Sullivan, who was the U.S. ambassador in Moscow at the start of the war. He watched as sanctions imposed by the Biden administration hit the Russian economy.
Martin asked, "Are sanctions causing a level of pain that he can't live with?"
"Absolutely not," Sullivan replied. "Their view is they can endure anything. They have; the Russian people have endured anything. It's a point of pride for Putin."
"Is the war at all becoming unpopular?"
"In Russia, among Russians? No," Sullivan said. "What I saw when I was there was a people that had been prepared, over decades, to believe the worst of the United States."
American defense plants are doing their best to forge weapons being used to kill Russians in Ukraine. One ammunition plant in Scranton, Pa., is turning out artillery shells as fast as it can. Douglas Bush, the U.S. Army's chief weapons buyer, said, "Artillery, ammunition and everything that goes with it is probably our number one effort."
"Why is artillery your number one priority?" asked Martin.
"It's the most in demand. Because they're fighting a conflict without an air force, essentially all of their fire support is from artillery. So, they are using it at rates that exceed, for example, how we would fight."
Depending upon the day, said Bush, Ukrainian forces are firing between 3,000 and 5,000 a day. "That exceeds what we make on a given day, which is why we're dramatically increasing our production rates."
The U.S. has already rushed more than a million artillery shells and nearly 40 long-range rocket systems into a war that has become an artillery duel between two dug-in armies, each side trying to exhaust the other.
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Austin said, "The Russians have had, you know, enormous stockpiles of artillery munitions over the years, and they've depleted those stockpiles in a major way. We see them reaching out to countries like North Korea and Iran for additional munitions. That tells us that they are hurting in a major way."
But even with the backing of the American defense industry, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cannot count on outlasting Russia, which has three times the population. So, the U.S. is now shipping Bradley infantry fighting vehicles to the battle. Bush said, "What you're seeing are current efforts to support them with more offensive capability on the ground, an ability to maneuver under fire."
One hundred Bradleys, armed with a rapid-fire cannon and anti-tank missiles, are on their way to Ukraine, along with tanks promised by 10 other countries. Still, if Russian soldiers stand and fight, Ukraine will be hard-pressed to break through their elaborate network of trenches and tank traps.
Russian forces, said Austin, "are dug in across a wide area. They can't perfectly defend every inch of that, and the way that this fight goes will depend on the Ukrainians."
"Is this war only going to get bloodier?" asked Martin.
"It's pretty bloody right now," said Austin. "I think we have to remember, David, that every day there are Ukrainians that are dying."
And every day Putin throws more untrained and poorly-equipped soldiers into places like Bakhmut, where 4,500 Russians have been killed for little gain.
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And that's just a fraction of their overall losses.
Sullivan said that, according to Western military estimates, there have been 200,000 Russians killed or wounded to date. "That's an extraordinary number. Compared to what Putin's prepared to sacrifice? A fraction of that."
Martin asked, "Bottom line: can Russia keep up this meat grinder style of war?"
"I'm sorry to say, but the answer is yes," Sullivan replied. "[Putin] is all-in, and he's not quitting."
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Story produced by Mary Walsh. Editor: George Pozderec.
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