Watch CNN’s full interview with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley on “The Lead with Jake Tapper” today at 4 p.m. ET.


The top US general told CNN on Monday that while Ukraine is “very well prepared” for a counteroffensive against Russia, it is “too early to tell what outcomes are going to happen.”

“They’re in a war that’s an existential threat for the very survival of Ukraine and has greater meaning for the rest of the world — for Europe, really for the United States, but also for the globe,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said in an exclusive interview with Oren Liebermann from Normandy, France.

Milley, who is retiring this year, is in Normandy to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day invasion – a massive World War II operation that he called the “greatest amphibious invasion in human history” – as the war continues to rage in Ukraine.

For months now, the US and its allies have been helping arm Ukraine for the counteroffensive, which was expected to start in the spring. Most recently, the US said it would support a joint effort by other nations to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets. Milley said that Ukraine is prepared for the counteroffensive because the US and partner nations have provided “training and ammunition and advice, intelligence.”

Russia has already begun to claim that it has repelled a “large scale offensive,” in southern Donetsk, though they have not provided evidence to support the claim.

The war has also begun creeping into Russia, as suspected Ukrainian drone strikes hit inside Moscow and a shelling attack was carried out in Belgorod. Asked Monday if such attacks would risk escalating the conflict, Milley said there is “always risk” of escalation, and it’s something the US is watching “very, very carefully.”

Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last week, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the US believes Ukraine’s counteroffensive “will allow Ukraine to take strategically significant territory back from Russia.”

CNN reported Monday that Ukraine has begun providing drones to a network of agents and sympathizers inside Russia who are working to sabotage Russian efforts. There is no evidence that the recent drone strikes have been carried out by those pro-Ukraine agents, but officials told CNN they had noticed an uptick of attacks inside Russia’s borders.

“There has been for months now a pretty consistent push by some in Ukraine to be more aggressive,” one source familiar with US intelligence said. “And there has certainly been some willingness at senior levels. The challenge has always been their ability to do it.”

A spokesperson for the head of the Ukrainian Security Service told CNN that they would comment on “instances of ‘cotton’ only after our victory,” using Ukrainian slang term for explosions.

Quoting Vasyl Malyuk, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, the spokesperson suggested that the attacks inside Russia would continue, telling CNN that “‘cotton’ has been burning, is burning, and will continue to burn.”

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