US generals and Ukrainian officers meet in Germany for tabletop war exercise
Stars and Stripes March 3, 2023
STUTTGART, Germany — Top U.S. generals met with Ukrainian military officials in Germany this week, where they evaluated battlefield options in tabletop drills ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian spring offensive meant to free their territory from Russia’s grasp.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. European Command’s Gen. Christopher Cavoli met with dozens of members of the Ukrainian military for the weeklong drills in Wiesbaden, a U.S. military official told Stars and Stripes on Friday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
The meeting between two of the U.S.’s top military leaders and Ukrainian officers comes at a critical time in the war, which has entered its second year. For months, Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a virtual stalemate, with much of the most intense fighting now happening around the eastern city of Bakhmut.
“What we’re doing is providing them an opportunity and the mechanisms to conduct a decision-making exercise,” Milley told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. “These are exercises on options, courses of action, that they are considering.”
Milley said the U.S.’s role isn’t to direct Ukrainian forces or tell them to “go left and go right.” Instead, the aim of the tabletop exercises was to help Ukrainian commanders “self-learn,” Milley told the Journal.
Russia and Ukraine are expected to launch offensives as the weather warms in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies in Europe are trying to get more military hardware into Ukraine in time for the heavier fighting to come.
Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's top military intelligence official, told USA Today on Thursday that Russia and Ukraine will fight "a decisive battle this spring, and this battle will be the final one before this war ends." Budanov did not elaborate on where such a battle could take place.
During the discussions in Wiesbaden, home to U.S. Army Europe and Africa headquarters, military officials gamed out scenarios on a huge table with maps and military icons meant to represent potential battles, Milley told The New York Times.
“The Ukrainians are moving things around on these maps to determine what is their best course of action, and they determine the advantages and disadvantages of the risks associated. It’s a common thing that all militaries do,” Milley told the Times, which along with The Wall Street Journal had exclusive access to the event.