Ukraine Military Holds Simulated War Exercises on U.S. Base

The weeklong wargames are being held in Germany

March 2, 2023

WIESBADEN, Germany—The U.S. is hosting members of the Ukrainian military here for a weeklong war-planning exercise, designed to help Kyiv game out its strategy against Russia in the next phase of their war.

Dozens of members of the Ukrainian military are participating in what is often referred to as a wargame or a tabletop exercise, held at a U.S. military base to give the Ukrainian forces an opportunity to assess their next courses of action in the war, now in its 13th month.

U.S. and other officials have said for months they expect Russia to launch a fresh offensive this spring while Ukraine is planning its own offensive or counteroffensive. It remains unclear when operations could intensify on either side. 

The wargames are in effect scrimmages, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said, to test assumptions and possible outcomes in the war and help Kyiv decide how best to proceed. Multiple iterations of the exercises have been conducted this week using maps and different sets of scenarios, he said. 

“What we’re doing is providing them an opportunity and the mechanisms to conduct a decision-making exercise,” Gen. Milley told reporters, referring to Ukrainian officers and other members of the Ukrainian military who are participating in the exercise.
“These are exercises on options, courses of action, that they are considering.” 

The U.S. and its allies aren’t trying to tell the Ukrainians how to approach the next phase of the war, Gen. Milley said. 

“No one is sitting there telling the Ukrainians, go left and go right, or do this or do that,” Gen. Milley said. “That is not the job of the international community; all we are doing is setting up the framework and the dynamics to allow the Ukrainians to self-learn.” 

Gen. Milley noted that the Ukrainians still need air-defense systems at this juncture to defend against the barrage of missile and drone attacks from Russian forces. He declined to discuss future Ukrainian operations. 

Gen. Milley is on a brief tour of Europe and other, undisclosed locations after having met with African chiefs of defense during a conference the U.S. military hosted in Rome earlier this week. 

In Germany, he met with other top U.S. military leaders. 

“We’re just awfully happy and proud to have the opportunity to support Ukraine in its fight and we’ve been doing that for quite awhile and we’ll do it as long as it takes,” said Army Gen. Chris Cavoli, the head of U.S. European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He is overseeing the U.S. support of Ukraine’s war effort but rarely speaks to the media.

The war is entering a critical period. Spring thaws will allow more vigorous battlefield operations than could occur during the winter. Some officials in the U.S. and elsewhere have begun to talk about the need for a truce and, potentially, a negotiated settlement in the future. 

For now the war is seen by some U.S. officials as being in a stalemate, even as Russia’s battlefield tally, by some estimates, is more than 200,000 killed or wounded and is viewed as having failed to achieve any of its strategic objectives. But Ukrainian forces are also scrambling to keep up as the U.S. and allies pump more weaponry into the country to help Kyiv defend itself and wrest back more territory from Russian forces.

“Ukraine is in a very, very difficult fight and they know it,” Gen. Milley said. 


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