Top Nato generals meet with Ukrainian military in secret meeting to co-ordinate strategy

By Ben Aris in Berlin August 28, 2023

Top Nato military officials held a secret meeting with Ukrainians military leaders on the Ukraine-Poland border on August 15 to co-ordinate military strategy, The Guardian reports.

The meeting highlights the closeness of Nato and Ukrainian battle planning for the first time.

The objective of the secret meeting was to collaborate with Ukraine's chief military commander, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and his entire command team who were present at the meeting.

A five-hour discussion was held to recalibrate Ukraine's military strategy, with a focus on addressing the slow advancement of Ukraine's counter-offensive, devising battle plans for the upcoming harsh winter, and outlining a comprehensive strategy for the ongoing conflict that is projected to continue into 2024.

And it may be that the meeting has already delivered concrete changes on the battlefield. On August 26, Ukrainian forces reported that they believe they have broken through the most difficult Russian defences in the southern theatre,  and will now be able to advance more quickly, a commander fighting in the south told Reuters.

Ukraine launched a counter-offensive in June, but well-prepared Russian defence lines reinforced by minefields have slowed their southward advance towards the Sea of Azov.

However, Ukrainian forces said on August 23 they had broken through the first and most formidable Russian line of defence and raised the national flag in the settlement of Robotyne in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, about 10 km south of the frontline town of Orikhiv.

"We don't stop here," said a commander who led some of the troops into Robotyne and who uses the callsign "Skala", synonymous with the battalion which he leads.

"Next we have (the town of) Berdiansk, and then more. I made it clear to my fighters at once: our goal is not Robotyne, our goal is (the Sea of) Azov."

Robotyne is about 100 km from Berdiansk, a port on the shores of the Sea of Azov, and 85 km from the strategic city of Melitopol.

However, even if the first line of defence is breached there are several more lines to cross, which, although not as heavily fortified, still offer an imposing challenge.

Kyiv has been criticised by its Western partners for failing to concentrate enough troops in the assault on Russian defences and splitting their efforts between the southern battle to break through to the Black Sea and attempting to retake Bakhmut.

Amongst the westerners was Nato's military chief, General Christopher Cavoli of the United States, together with Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the highest-ranking military officer in the United Kingdom. Radakin's growing influence in Washington and Kyiv has positioned him as a crucial figure aiding Ukraine in its efforts to counter Russian forces.

The US has repeatedly said that Kyiv is responsible for tactics in the war with Russia, but the meeting highlighted the depth of co-operation between Nato and Kyiv.

This summit was not the first instance of such high-level discussions. Radakin's recent visit to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy without British ministers, laid the groundwork for the border meeting. This prior meeting was designed to enhance the understanding of Ukraine's strategy and identify avenues through which Western assistance could be extended.

The White House's concerns regarding close US involvement in the Ukrainian conflict have led to restrictions on General Mark Milley, the counterpart to Radakin, from travelling to Ukraine. In contrast, the UK, possessing a smaller military compared to the US, is not burdened by such limitations.

Earlier in August, Milley, together with Radakin, participated in a teleconference with Zaluzhnyi on August 10. During this exchange, Milley encouraged Zaluzhnyi to concentrate the counter-offensive efforts on a single main front. However, in an era marked by secure military communication methods, certain vital discussions still necessitate face-to-face interactions.

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