A retired US general says Ukraine could recapture Crimea before the summer's out, but only if the US gives it the ammunition it needs

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  • Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told Newsweek that Ukraine could retake Crimea before the summer ends.

  • But Hodges says this is contingent on the US giving the Ukrainians long-range precision weapons.

  • Hodges believes recapturing Crimea would be essential for Ukraine to rebuild its economy.

A former US Army general says he thinks Ukraine can recapture Crimea before the summer is over, but only if the US contributes more long-range weapons.

"My principal caveat still remains that if the United States were to provide what Ukraine needs, then Ukraine could actually still liberate Crimea by the end of this summer," retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told Newsweek on Wednesday.

Hodges' remarks come amid a rapidly evolving situation in Ukraine. The Ukrainians kicked off their counteroffensive in June, and the effort has seen both sides weathering equipment and personnel losses.

But Hodges fears that there will be no breakthrough in Crimea if the US does not give Ukraine "long-range precision weapons or other weapon systems that can reach further than they can reach right now."

The US has been Ukraine's largest backer since the Russian invasion began. According to the State Department, the US has sent approximately $40 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded them in February 2022.

The US in February sent Ukraine Boeing's Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), which has a range of 94 miles.

The GLSDB was meant to give the Ukrainians "longer-range capability" to "take back their sovereign territory in Russian-occupied areas," Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in February.

Notably, the US military aid packages thus far have not included the US-made Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMS), which has a far longer range of 190 miles.

"At this point, it seems the administration will continue its incremental decision-making and withhold the contributions of ATACMS, Gray Eagle drones, GLSDB, and F-16s," Hodges told Insider.

Hodges added that the lack of such weapons would make "Ukraine's counteroffensive more costly than it would otherwise be."

"This means of course that the Ukrainians will have great difficulty striking targets inside Crimea and making it untenable for Russian forces there, especially the Black Sea fleet," he added.

The Biden administration has held back from sending long-range weapons to Ukraine that have the capacity to strike targets in Russia. US officials told Ukraine in February that they weren't able to send over the ATACMS due to insufficient supply, per Politico.

For his part, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has repeatedly threatened to use Russia's tactical nuclear weapons since the war in Ukraine began. He made the threat again on Friday, when he told the audience at an economic forum in St. Petersburg that Russia would use warheads stationed in neighboring Belarus to stave off a "strategic defeat" in Ukraine.

"I think that the administration is self-deterring because their top priority seems to be to do anything in order to avoid that use of a nuclear device," Hodges told Insider.

However, Hodges believes that the Russians know that "their nukes are actually most effective when they don't use them".

"And so they are able to conduct nuclear blackmail. A terrible precedent which other nations like Iran and North Korea are noticing," he added.

The State Department referred Insider to comments given by Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference in the UK on June 20.  During that press conference, Blinken encouraged people to "not get focused on any particular weapons system" as it is the "training" and "ability to use them in a coherent way" that is critical.

Blinken added during that June 20 press conference that the US has been in "constant dialogue" with Ukraine and that they have "been very successful collectively in making sure that Ukraine has what it needs to maximize its chances."

Russia invaded and annexed Crimea illegally back in 2014. It has since been turned into a forward operating base by the Russians.

Crimea was also used as a launchpad for Russian forces when they invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The peninsula continues to serve as a base of attack for the Russian military.

Hodges previously told Insider in January that Ukraine will "never be safe or secure or able to rebuild their economy so long as Russia retains Crimea."

"They'll be able to launch attacks from Crimea, Ukraine will never be able to rebuild its economy because the Russian navy will be blocking the Azov Sea as well as Odesa and Mykolaiv," Hodges told Newsweek.

"How's Ukraine going to have an economy? It's not good for anybody in Europe," he added.

Author's note: June 23, 2023 — This story has been updated with responses from Hodges and the State Department.

Read the original article on Business Insider