Army Gen. Mark Milley said a quick outcome to the war in Ukraine is unlikely, noting that a Ukrainian victory in the conflict is a “very high bar” and would take a “very long time.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has resisted negotiating a peace with Russia since the country’s invasion began more than a year and a half ago, citing unserious terms from Moscow. He said the best outcome would be to remove Russia from all Ukrainian territory.

Milley, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is retiring from his post at the end of this month, said that objective won’t be possible, however, in the country’s current counteroffensive.

“There’s well over 200,000 Russian troops in Russian-occupied Ukraine. This offensive, although significant, has operational and tactical objectives that are limited, in the sense that they do not — even if they are fully achieved — they don’t completely kick out all the Russians, which is the broader strategic objective that President Zelensky had,” Milley said in a CNN interview Sunday. 

“That’s going to take a long time to do that. That’s going to be very significant effort over a considerable amount of time,” he continued.

He refused to say exactly how long he believes it will take, citing the changing aspects of war, but he doubted that the conflict will end any time soon.

“I can tell you that it’ll take a considerable length of time to militarily eject all 200,000 or plus Russian troops out of Russian-occupied Ukraine,” he said. “That’s a very high bar. It’s going to take a long time to do it.”

Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive has made slow progress against Russian lines in the country’s east. 

That slow pace has worried Western allies, and Milley has previously both defended the Ukrainian effort and said its success will require patience.

“This is going to be long; it’s going to be hard; it’s going to be bloody,” Milley said in July, adding that the effort “is far from a failure, in my view.” 

“That’s a different war on paper and real war,” Milley said. “These are real people in real machines that are out there really clearing real minefields and they’re really dying. So when that happens, units tend to slow down … in order to survive, in order to get through.”

Milley previously stated that there may only be about a month left of fighting before the winter arrives in Ukraine.

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