About whether the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be able to de-occupy the south of the country, whether to wait for the continuation of hostilities in the winter and a possible ground offensive from Belarus – in a blitz interview with RBC-Ukraine, the former commander of US troops in Europe, an expert at the Washington Center for European Policy Analysis, a retired general Ben Hodges.
According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, the active phase of the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories should end before winter, so Western countries should even more actively supply Ukraine with the necessary weapons in the coming weeks. However, according to many other estimates, such a scenario is still too optimistic.
And although the start of the Ukrainian counter-offensive before frost is absolutely possible, it will be extremely difficult to dislodge the invaders from at least the territories seized after February 23. In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, retired American General Ben Hodges predicted that by the end of the year such a task looks realistic. But at the same time, the war will continue into the winter.
– How likely is it that the active phase of hostilities will continue even in winter?
“I believe that if the West/US continues to deliver everything promised, at a faster pace, then Ukrainian forces will be able to push Russian troops back to the Feb 23 line before the end of this year. The situation is already changing significantly in favor of Ukraine. I expect active hostilities to continue through the winter. Ukraine will probably want to keep putting pressure on Russian forces, which I believe are depleted… And the Russian logistics system is especially depleted.
– Given the current dynamics of hostilities, will the Armed Forces of Ukraine be able to recapture the south of the country and limit the theater of operations to the Donbass?
“I’m sure they can do it, provided that we, the West, continue to deliver everything we promised. The key to this is more long-range weapons, as well as helping to improve the logistics networks inside Ukraine… Maybe bring in a commercial logistics company from the US or the UK?
– If the Russian army still manages to capture the entire Donbass, can the war move into a “colder” phase?
– I assume by “cold phase” you mean a stalemate with less active hostilities? I don’t think that Ukraine will or should allow this to happen… It is only beneficial for Russia.
– How problematic will an offensive in winter conditions be for both Ukrainian and Russian troops?
– It will depend on who has better logistics. I think Ukraine.
– Is there a risk that political instability, coupled with the energy and economic crisis in the West, will weaken the positions of the “hawks” who are pushing for more assistance to Ukraine closer to winter?
– That’s what the Kremlin is counting on, that Western governments will succumb to the pressure of higher gas prices, etc. But I don’t think it’s a given. And I expect the damage to Russia’s economy and its own population to be worse than what they report or what we see. I don’t think Putin has monolithic, endless support from the people.
– How big are the risks that Russian troops will again attempt a ground offensive (in winter or closer to winter) through the territory of Belarus?
– I think it’s very unlikely. I don’t think they have the logistics or manpower to do it. And I’m not sure that even Lukashenka supports such an idea. And I do not believe that the Belarusian population and infrastructure will greatly contribute to this. Regardless, Western and Ukrainian intelligence will detect such a buildup long before it can be used for a new offensive.
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