Former commander of U.S. forces in Europe predicts Russia will fail to take Kyiv


Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of U.S. Army forces in Europe, said he believes Russian forces will be unable to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, due to the city’s sheer size and the resistance being mounted not only by Ukraine’s military, but by its citizens.

Hodges said he foresaw “lots more destruction and fighting” in and around Kyiv, but he predicted the capital “will not fall” and the “Russians will not be able to take it.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “initial strategy” when he invaded Ukraine — to quickly storm major cities, oust pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelensky and replace him with a Russian-friendly alternative — “has failed,” said Hodges.

He noted that Russia’s military had resorted to “an attrition strategy to bring about the same aim,” and acknowledged that the steady barrage of rocket fire on Ukraine’s cities had “helped make up for their poor planning, terrible logistics, inability to conduct effective joint operations at the operational level, and their poor estimation of Ukrainian fighting power.”

“But I don’t think they can sustain this ‘overwhelming’ firepower as their logistical challenge worsens and the logistics for Ukraine get better,” said Hodges. “I don’t think they have the manpower, logistics, or time to conduct this approach effectively.”

A senior U.S. defense official told reporters on Monday that nearly 100% of the Russian combat power that had amassed at the Ukrainian border in the weeks leading up to the invasion has now been committed inside the country. The Russians have launched more than 625 missiles in the 11 days of fighting, the official said, and appear to be increasing their use of long-range strikes to supplement or make up for the lack of ground movement and lack of air superiority.

Some allied military leaders are likewise indicating that Ukrainian forces and civilians might be able to withstand the Russians’ advances.

“I think we’ve seen a Russian invasion that is not going well. I think we’re also seeing a remarkable resistance by Ukraine, both its armed forces and its people,” Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defense staff in the U.K., told BBC News on Sunday. “We do know that some of the lead elements of Russian forces have been decimated by the Ukrainian response.”

Hodges, the retired U.S. commander, said that Putin’s adopted tactics could start to increase pressure on the Russian leader not only from other countries, but from within his own.

“The great unknown for me is if the Russian population will continue to support this once they understand what’s really going on,” Hodges said. “And I’m sure they’ll begin to understand it soon, despite Putin’s blackout on news/social media.” 

David Reiter and Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.

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