WASHINGTON — The head of Britain’s armed forces described the Russian-instigated war in Ukraine as a “grinding” duel between largely fixed artillery positions along the front line, interrupted by “skirmishes” for battlefield advantage, with neither side on top.

U.K. Chief of the Defence Staff Adm. Antony Radakin said Russia’s reinforcing of its troops in Kherson, which Moscow’s forces captured early in the war, is representative of a rather static picture of the conflict’s trajectory that’s not conducive to quick wins.

He spoke to reporters during a visit to U.S. military leaders in Washington following a trip to the U.K.-sponsored “Atlantic Future Forum” aboard the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier docked in New York.

The battle for Kherson “speaks to what I think has been a feature of the whole war, which is, quite often, it’s that there is a competition,” Radakin said. “And you get these grinding effects. And it’s not that one side has enormous advantage over the other.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday declared eastern Ukraine regions Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia as part of Russia, following sham referendums there this week. He threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend them. Western governments have called the annexation illegitimate.

Radakin said he’s cautious about pinning Ukraine’s military fortunes on a singular class of arms, like battle tanks.

Ukrainian officials have said they want modern tanks from the West to beat back Russian troops. In Germany, the question of whether or not to send Leopard tanks has completely crowded out the public perception of Berlin’s level of assistance to Kyiv.

According to Radakin, Ukrainian forces excel at using a diverse set of weapons that play to their defensive strengths and finding new avenues for employing them on the battlefield, like drones deployed to find targets. He added that he is wary of the argument that “an X number of battle tanks” would lead to a “massive shift” in outcomes.

By the same token, the dynamics of upcoming bad weather on the battlefield should not be overstated, Radakin argued.

“The fight that’s going on at the moment is not massive formations maneuvering around at speed,” he said. “It’s a grinding conflict, much of it skirmishes. And then from the skirmishes you then see opportunities.”

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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