Ukraine will push Russia back to its pre-invasion border by the end of the year and retake Crimea next summer, a retired US general has predicted.
Ben Hodges, former commander of US forces in Europe, believes Ukraine may be able to recapture thousands of square miles of territory to the south and east within the next two months before invading Crimea — the crown jewel of Putin’s 2014 war.
Speaking in Westminster on Monday at an event organized by the Council on Geostrategy, General Hodges admitted his view is “optimistic”, but he confidently predicted that “Ukraine will win”.
Meanwhile, he expects Putin to continue shelling Ukrainian power plants and cities with the aim of driving ‘hundreds of thousands of refugees’ into Europe with the aim of breaking Western support.
Ukraine will push Russia back to the pre-war borderline (hash-marked areas of the map) by the end of the year and recapture Crimea next summer, a retired US general has predicted
He said: “It is too early to plan victory parades, there are still months and months of hard fighting ahead, Russia will continue to kill innocent Ukrainian civilians, but I have no doubt that Ukraine has reached an irreversible momentum.” .
“Thousands of years of war have taught us that war is a test of will, and it is a test of logistics…
“There is no question that Ukrainian soldiers have superior will to Russian soldiers… [and] it is clear that after eight or nine months of war, Russia’s logistics system is on the brink of collapse.’
Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, when Putin marched troops and occupied Crimea after a revolution that toppled the government.
Meanwhile, Russian-backed groups invaded and occupied part of the eastern Donbas region, sparking a simmering conflict that lasted until Putin invaded the country again in February this year.
Since February, Russia has taken over parts of additional territory, including the cities of Mariupol, Melitopol, Berdyansk and Kherson in the south, and most of the northern part of the Luhansk region.
Pushing Putin’s forces back to the 2014 borders within the next two months would mean retaking all those places, along with thousands of square miles of surrounding land.
A Ukrainian mobile artillery gun opens fire on Russian troops on the frontline near Bakhmut, in the eastern region of Donbas
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire artillery from a self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions near Bakhmut
Taking back Crimea next summer will require an extremely complex attack across swamps and islands separating the peninsula from mainland Ukraine against Russian occupiers who have spent years building defenses.
Russia also has two major air bases in Crimea, home to its Black Sea fleet, and several smaller troop bases.
The area – of enormous propaganda importance to Putin – is often compared to one giant military base, and the despot is not expected to spare any resources to ensure it is not taken from him.
But until then, General Hodges believes Putin will continue his tactics of shelling Ukrainian cities and power plants — even though he’s running out of guided missiles and can’t replace them due to sanctions.
He added: ‘[This] is not just out of spite, it aims to make Ukrainian cities uninhabitable as winter approaches.
“What this will potentially do is put hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees back on the road to Europe.
If they can’t find heat and power, and if we can’t fix that, it will cause problems in the rest of Europe. This is not lost on the Kremlin.
“This will be one of the intended results and continue to destroy Ukraine as a state and even the very idea of Ukraine as a state.”
To counter Putin’s tactics, General Hodges called on Ukraine’s western allies to provide anti-aircraft missiles to protect the cities and energy networks.
Soldier of the National Guard of Ukraine inspects a destroyed Ukrainian armored personnel carrier in the recaptured area of northern Kharkov
He also called on the US government to provide long-range ATACAMS missiles that could be fired from HIMARS launchers and would bring the entire Crimea into range.
Finally, he says tracked vehicles — tanks and armored vehicles with tracks instead of tires — will be essential to keep Ukraine’s armies moving through the fall and winter as the weather gets wetter and the ground softens.
Russia is now in its ninth month of fighting in Ukraine and has failed to achieve any of the military goals set by Putin at the start of the war.
That has led to growing dissension within both the Russian population and the elite close to Putin, who are increasingly willing to publicly express their discontent.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner boss dubbed “Putin’s chief,” has publicly criticized the way the war is being conducted, even though he did not kill Putin himself.
It remains unlikely that Putin will be able to achieve his initial goal of overthrowing the government – and even the narrow goal of ‘liberating’ the Donbas region seems beyond his reach.