While the recent Ukrainian counterattack against Russian forces was highly impressive, Russian forces engaged in the conflict are not yet entirely collapsing on all fronts, a former United States General says.
At the same time, the complete collapse of the Russian Federation could be expected in the next five years, he added.
Talking to ERR's Tarmo Maiberg Monday, Ben Hodges, a former Three-Star General in the US Army and now analyst at think-tank the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), said: " think it is entirely feasible that Ukraine pushes Russian forces all the way back to the February 23 line by the end of this year, in December."
This was also contingent on continuing western aid, he said.
"I mean they're already there, in some places, so we're talking about in the next two-and-a-half months, if we continue to deliver everything we said we would," Hodges went on.
Longer-term, the Russian Federation in its current form will likely collapse in the next five years, Hodges added.
"Within the next five years is what I'm talking about – so not 10 years."
This means that preparedness is still key, he added, bearing in mind the lessons of 30 years ago.
"We were totally unprepared for the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War; obviously, it turned out extremely well for many countries, but we ended up with some situations inside Russia and in the region where because we were not prepared, I think we didn't make the best decisions," Hodges went on.
"I personally was naive about the building of democracy and capitalism, as if everything would be alright, and obviously that was not the case everywhere."
Back to the current conflict and the situation with Russian forces' resolve, Hodges said we were seeing: "A combination of collapse of Russian will; their logistics are exhausted, their leaders have been getting killed, soldiers have lost the will to fight in many of these places."
"After preparation, you hit them hard in a certain place, and it often happens in warfare; they collapse."
"And then, it picks up a momentum, and of course the key for Ukraine is keep the pressure on them, don't allow them the chance to turnaround, get set, keep the pressure on them, which is tough," he added.
More specifically: "What I can see are the two offensives – the one from just south of Kharkiv which has already captured Kupiansk and Izium, and is already reaching further south, there's reports even as far south as Donetsk – it that's true, then wow!"
"And in the south, from Kherson, which was not the main effort, there is still a lot of really difficult fighting going on."
"What I see is the potential for them moving towards Crimea, isolating Crimea from land reinforcement," Hodges saw as a likely next development.
"If [the Ukrainians] get HIMARS and other long-range rocket launchers, precision weapons – when they start getting in range of Crimea, and hitting Crimea every day, then those airfields, and Sevastopol, the bases there that the Russians depend on – they become untenable. And then I think it's just a matter of time."
None of this means that the war is won for Ukraine yet, however, he added.
"We can't start planning a victory parade yet because I don't know how widespread this sort of collapse is. This kind of thing can be infectious of course, especially when you're talking about an army of soldiers, many of whom don't want to be there; they don't have the will, and the Russian minister of defense, and their leaders have not done a very good job of taking care of them with proper food, water, clothing, medical care."
With winter approaching, supplies of winter clothing were needed by the Ukrainians, Hodges said, adding he had been personally told that by representatives of Ukraine's forces.
Should a collapse of the Russian Federation happen, he added, this brings the complications related to its extant nuclear weapons stock, its energy infrastructure and potential floods of refugees, as well as the potential for someone even worse than Vladimir Putin to take the reins.
Ultimately, Hodges said, positivity was needed, including in his own country.
"For some reason [some people] can't say the 'W' word – we're gonna win."
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had earlier stressed the fact that the US' goal was to support Ukraine and aid in its defense, but ultimately, final outcomes and situations would see Ukraine having the most significant voice.
Editor: Andrew Whyte