Retired US general: Ukraine counter-offensive could be days away

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

Ukraine is probing for weak spots in the Russian lines, ahead of its long anticipated counter-offensive, retired United States general Ben Hodges says. Last week's Kakhovka dam breach was an example of how jittery the Russian side is about the impending assault, he adds.

Attacks have already begun and, unfortunately, this can spell casualties, Lt. Gen. Hodges told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) in an interview Tuesday.

"The whole world was going crazy yesterday because one or two Leopards were hit," Hodges said.

"But I mean what do you think is going to happen in an armored attack against defenses. Of course there is going to be losses and casualties, this is the nature of it. Two Leopards or six Leopards or whatever out of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Ukrainian armored vehicles of all different types, so I think that people should understand that it's going to take some days for the Ukrainians to find those cracks, and really be able to exploit them," he went on.

Hodges has pushed for his own country to back Ukrainian membership of the NATO alliance more unequivocally, and also for providing U.S. weaponry such as MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to the Ukrainians.

"If – and this is a big if – if the U.S. were to provide ATACMS and other long-range precision weapons on top of what the U.K. has already provided, I think that Ukrainians could liberate Crimea by the end of August. If the U.S. doesn't do that, then it's going to take longer; it will be more costly," Hodges told AK.

As for Ukraine's potential NATO membership, Hodges said that a repeat of the 2008 Bucharest Summit would be undesirable.

He said: "If it sounds like the Bucharest summit where Georgia and Ukraine were promised membership but there was no plan, if we get that again, then I think that that will also be seen as a failure. I think that the alliance is also working very hard to come up with credible, concrete steps that will look and feel a map, they just won't be able to call it that."

The fact that Russian forces hit some Ukrainian tanks therefore is not decisive, Hodges argued, since once the Ukrainians have established their direction, large armored forces, consisting of hundreds of units, will move forward.

Hodges said that the Russian side was in panic mode last week, hence the blasting of the Kahkhova dam, which was done in an effort to delay the launching of the counter-offensive and/or its progress – Ukraine did the same thing with the Irpin dam at the start of the invasion.

The Kakhovka dam rupture has not put the Ukrainians off-schedule, however, Hodges added.

Hodges remains optimistic about one of the counter-offensive's putative main objectives – the retaking of Crimea - adding that the first step will be to isolate the peninsula, almost an island and connected to the rest of Ukraine via an isthmus, and render the Russian forces there neutralized, via the use of long-range weapons.

The counter-offensive is also timely in that it comes almost exactly a month before the Vilnius Summit, where a road-map for Ukrainian membership, even if not referred to in such terms, is likely to be a dominant subject, along with Swedish accession to the alliance.

The U.S. could make more of an effort to facilitate the movement of Ukraine towards NATO membership, Hodges added.

Lt. Gen. Hodges recently penned this overview of the preconditions needed ahead of the Ukrainian counter-offensive.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', interviewer Tarmo Maiberg

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