Lt. Gen. (ret) Ben Hodges, the former commander of the United States Army Europe, said that by the end of the year, Ukraine will have pushed back the Russian forces behind their pre-invasion lines and that by next summer Ukraine will also regain control of the Crimean Peninsula.
“One of the reasons I overestimated Russia’s military capability before the Feb. 24 moment is that I failed to understand the extent of corruption within the Russian Ministry of Defense,” Hodges said.
“I remain confident that Ukrainian forces will push the Russian military over the Feb. 23 line by the end of this year. By mid-summer next year, the Ukrainian army will control the Crimean Peninsula,” says Hodges. He went on to explain why he does not believe Russia will ever use nuclear weapons.
“First of all, it gives them no military advantage on the battlefield. A tactical [nuclear] bomb would present an exploitable opportunity for Russian forces to penetrate through a possible breach created. There is no tactical follow-on possible. There is no secondary division to come from behind, to gain ground.” The expert says that, on the contrary, there are only disadvantages for those who choose to go nuclear.
“The Kremlin is aware that if it uses a tactical weapon, the United States will have to respond. I don’t know what the response will be, but I’m sure the Pentagon has already drawn up a list of options. I expect it will be a direct response commensurate with the scale of the initial attack,” Hodges adds.
For example, the general says, the U.S. could choose to obliterate what’s left of Moscow’s fleet in the Black Sea or destroy Russia’s naval base in Tartus, Syria, or other important Russian facilities on Ukrainian territory.
“While President Putin is bad, I don’t think he’s suicidal,” adds Hodges, who believes an important strategy during this period could be to pressure people in the Russian president’s entourage: “if you want to have a small chance at normality after the conflict is over, make sure Putin doesn’t use nuclear weapons.”