Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said Russian President Vladimir Putin had expanded his army into Ukraine and the invasion could end next year if Western powers continued to support Kyiv.
Hodges, who served as commanding general of the US Army in Europe, made the remarks in an interview with Insider published Thursday. His relatively optimistic assessment comes amid wavering signs of US support for Ukraine, just as the embattled country has signaled that Western-supplied weapons are making a difference.
“The Russians are exhausted,” Hodges told the outlet. “They don’t have much else to do at the moment. »
Since launching its invasion of Ukraine in February, Russia has suffered early setbacks, failing to take the capital Kyiv and deliver the swift war promised by the Kremlin. Russian forces have made gains in southern Ukraine and the eastern Donbass region, taking control of around 20% of the country.
But Hodges told Insider that Ukrainian troops held a moral advantage over their Russian counterparts, whom he described as bogged down and exhausted. He also said that the “full weight” of Western military support has only recently taken hold in Ukraine, particularly long-range rocket systems.
The Ukrainian government earlier this week released footage showing its successful missile strike against a Russian ammunition depot in the occupied Kherson region. A second ammunition depot was reportedly destroyed on Thursday by Ukrainian forces, which used American-made HIMARS long-range missile systems in both strikes.
“As the whole world has seen over the past week, we were able to inflict massive damage to their missile defense systems and ammunition storage facilities deep behind enemy lines,” Luhansk governor said , Serhiy Haidai. Newsweek recently.
Haidai, who oversees an area that has seen heavy fighting, boasted that long-range guided heavy artillery put the Russian invaders into “panic mode”. He added that “when we have enough such weapons, we will be able to carry out new counterattacks”.
Hodges told Insider that whenever the Russians don’t have “an overwhelming firepower advantage,” their Ukrainian counterparts win every time. Arming Ukrainian forces with weapons that allow them to hit Russian artillery, ammunition depots and command posts “disrupts the only thing the Russians have that is to their advantage.”
Ukraine has relied heavily on Western military aid against the larger and better armed Russian army. The United States alone has provided Ukraine about $8 billion in security aid since President Joe Biden took office, according to the Pentagon.
While the American public initially rallied around the underprivileged Eastern European nation, there are signs that support is starting to wane. Morning Consult polling data shows the percentage of American voters concerned about Russia’s invasion stands at 81%, down 9 percentage points from March.
Hodges told Insider that Putin may continue to prolong the “war of attrition,” waiting for the American public to turn its attention to economic issues. But Hodges said Russia was “a bit timed”.
“If the West sticks together this year, then I think it will be over,” he said.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian government for comment.