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A former U.S. Army general predicts 'successful' Ukrainian offensive

People standing near a Ukrainian national flag watch as dark smoke billows following an air strike in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on March 26, 2022.
Aleksey Filippov
/
AFP via Getty Images
People standing near a Ukrainian national flag watch as dark smoke billows following an air strike in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on March 26, 2022.

Ukraine's long-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia will ultimately succeed, a former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe told NPR's Morning Edition on Friday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges spoke with NPR's Leila Fadel a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the offensive was temporarily on hold as the country waits for additional Western weapons and other military supplies to arrive.

"We can advance with what we've got, and I think we can be successful. But we will lose a lot of people," Zelenskyy told public broadcastersthrough an interpreter. "I think that is unacceptable. We need to wait."

Hodges spoke of the conditions necessary for the counterattack to move forward, his own expectations for the offensive and the future of foreign aid to Ukraine.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

On whether this delay hurts the Ukrainian war effort

I would not characterize it as a delay. I think the idea that this was a spring offensive is something that was created by us. ... I don't believe they ever put a specific date or season on it. There's three conditions that they'll have to meet before they tell President Zelenskyy they're ready to go. Number one: Are their own forces strong enough, ready enough, trained enough to be successful? The second condition is: Are Russian forces degraded enough, disrupted enough for the Ukrainian attack to be successful? And then the third condition, I think, is tied to the ground. Is it dry enough to enable or support the movement of hundreds of armored vehicles? Those are the three conditions that I think they'll want to meet before they tell the president that they're ready to go.

On his own expectations for the offensive

Well, first of all, the Ukrainian general staff has impressed me with how skilled and disciplined they are. They do a great job of protecting information. We know more about the Russians than we do about the Ukrainian forces, as it should be. I should not know, as an old retired guy, what their plans are. I actually expect, however, that they will be quite successful. They've been training hard. The West has provided a lot of very good equipment, but also the Ukrainians have worked hard to build up several armored brigades that will be used to penetrate these long, linear Russian defenses.

On the risk of Ukrainians losing U.S. aid

Well, this is an important point, and I think there will be some concern about that. And I was happy to hear that the president said American support is not tied to whether or not this offensive is going to achieve some sort of great success. ... This is about helping stop Russia from its aggression, holding them accountable for the terrible war crimes, the violations of sovereignty, violations of international law. So if we're serious about those reasons for doing this — and also, of course, the Chinese are watching to see if we're really serious about this — then I don't think our support is tied directly to whether or not the attack is a smashing success.

Olivia Hampton edited the digital version of this story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Julie Depenbrock
Julie Depenbrock (she/her) is an assistant producer on Morning Edition. Previously, she worked at The Washington Post and on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show. Depenbrock holds a master's in journalism with a focus in investigative reporting from the University of Maryland. Before she became a journalist, she was a first grade teacher in Rosebud, South Dakota. Depenbrock double-majored in French and English at Lafayette College. She has a particular interest in covering education, LGBTQ issues and the environment. She loves dogs, hiking, yoga and reading books for work (and pleasure).
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