Former US General: Ukrainian soldiers need weapons training before supply

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges (retd) talking to AK in an interview earlier this year.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges (retd) talking to AK in an interview earlier this year. Source: ERR

In an interview with ERR, former U.S. Army General Ben Hodges said, that Western countries should start training Ukrainian soldiers on weapons systems before supplying them, in anticipation of potential policy changes.

Discussing the next stages of Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, Hodges questioned whether a new round of mobilization would lead to a change of momentum or affect the outcome of the war.

"I do believe that [Russia] will try another mobilization of some sort. I don't know how much success they'll have. They can get the bodies from different places, but do they have the logistics, do they have the barracks, do they have the people to train, do they have the equipment? All the things that would be necessary, I doubt they'll have all that. I don't see a mobilization like that changing the momentum of the war or changing the outcome of the war," Hodges said.

The former U.S. Army General then said, that he would like to see a more proactive approach from the allies in order to ensure Ukrainian troops were trained to use modern weapon systems prior to receiving them.

"I would like to see us, the West, particularly the U.S., Germany, the U.K. and France, who are providing systems like Patriot, Bradley, Marder, HIMARS, but also potentially F-16, Leo, Abrams and so on, to start training before the policy decision is made. I'm glad that the administration decided to start providing Patriot, but it's going to be ten or twelve weeks before we see the first Patriot launch. So, start training now in anticipation that the policy may change and the U.S. decides to provide Abrams. There's nothing provocative about training. So, get 100 Ukrainian soldiers that are tankers, bring them back to Germany or Poland or wherever, or back to Fort Benning, Georgia and let them start learning how to do this stuff now. So, when the policy decision is made, you get instant implementation and impact of a policy decision that was obviously a very difficult one to reach," he added.

Hodges then discussed the situation in the Baltic countries, outlining the positive developments in terms of national defense.

"Two or three things come to mind right away. First of all, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania are of course already doing their part in terms of defensive investment, quality and women and men who are in the armed forces. In each case, (they are) properly integrating the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) units. So, we should assume, that civilian targets or civilian infrastructure in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could or would also be hit by Russian forces. That means, that our air and missile defense requirement is much greater in just protecting airfields, seaports and critical infrastructure," he said.

Hodges advised the Estonian Ministry of Defense to push for more comprehensive NATO air and missile defense training exercises, and to increases stocks of ammunition.

"My advice to the ministry there in Tallinn, is to demand that NATO conduct integrated air and missile defense exercises. They have not had them for years, not on a scale, where you practice everything, so that would be number one. Number two, of course, the amount of ammunition we are seeing expended is way beyond anything I have ever seen. So, because of that, I would start looking for ways to have as much ammunition already forward in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as possible. Any time you store things like that, of course it's vulnerable, and, by the way, that's expensive," he explained.

The former U.S. Army General's final piece of advice, was for Estonia to ensure the entire society was as prepared as possible to be "indigestible."

"The final recommendation I think I would make is a broader societal preparation. Has Estonia done everything it can do to make itself indigestible? Is the entire society prepared to deal with that? I think that would be just as important as having modern weapons," he said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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