(MENAFN- UkrinForm) British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said that it is likely that Ukraine will regain control over occupied Crimea in 2023.
According to Ukrinform, he said this in an interview with the washington post .
"Contrary to the private ruminations of some other NATO officials, Wallace said there was a real possibility Ukraine could successfully retake Crimea, the peninsula Putin illegally annexed in 2014, this year as Russian forces run out of needed equipment," the article reads.
According to the paper, Wallace "voiced a more optimistic view about Ukraine's current battlefield effort than that described by U.S. intelligence officials, who in leaked intelligence documents earlier this year said that personnel and equipment challenges probably would result in Kyiv notching only modest gains once it begins a highly anticipated offensive to retake Russian-held territory." Read also: reznikov, wallace discuss prospects of ukraine's accession to nato
"What we've seen on the battlefield is that, if you punch Russian forces in the wrong place, they'll actually collapse. You can send young men to die in their tens of thousands, which is what they do, but you can't magic up tanks and weapons systems that they need," Wallace said.
Asked about the prospects for Ukraine joining NATO, Wallace cited persisting differences about Kyiv's path toward accession. He said that NATO - like the EU - should not repeat the mistakes of the past in overpromising to aspirants such as Ukraine.
"We have to be realistic and say, 'It's not going to happen at Vilnius; It's not going to happen anytime soon,'" he said, referring to a NATO leaders summit scheduled for this summer in Lithuania's capital.
At the same time, he pointed out that a number of nations were ready to forge bilateral or multilateral "mutual defense pacts" with Ukraine and commit to longer-term plans to build the country's military capability "to make sure it's a very expensive opportunity for Russia or anyone else to invade Ukraine in the future."
Wallace said Western countries remain supportive of providing weapons and funding to Ukraine without pressuring leaders in Kyiv to negotiate with Russia or make concessions.
"But we have seen reality, which is that we are all running out" of defense equipment that can be donated, Wallace said, meaning that Britain and other countries are being forced to buy more weapons than donate them from national stockpiles.
Wallace said the scale of Russian losses suggests Putin still believes he can prevail if he pours more troops into the war. He suggested Putin may not be getting accurate information about the military effort and "might not realize the extent of his country's military challenges until a moment of collapse or internal challenge."
If that happens, he said, "NATO and the West have to be ready for whatever happens."