Wednesday 9 March 2022

Retired US General Ben Hodges in the Daily Telegraph this morning


I very much hope this is true. 

He goes on to say that he originally supported a no fly zone. He changed his mind but the fact that he advocated it at all makes me think him unreliable and very gung-ho.

If he is not right, or even if he is, this might make Zelensky slower to end the war by agreeing to Ukraine being neutral, something he should have agreed to all along or at least as soon as Biden won and the world became dangerous.

What I am worried about is a tendency of some American decision-makers to want to fight Russia down to the last Romanian. A long war will be disastrous for Ukraine, even if the Ukrainians win, but an unfair peace would be hard to justify after many Ukrainians have died.

'Two weeks into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that the Russian military forces are underperforming, while Ukrainian forces are far exceeding expectations. To be clear, Russia is not likely to win this war. It probably won’t be able to capture Kyiv, and any city it does gain will not be held onto for long. This is not political hope-talk but my professional assessment as the former commanding general of US Army Europe.

'Russia’s key problem is logistics. Look, for instance, at the infamous convoy that has now stalled north of Kyiv. It is a commander’s nightmare, forcing troops to consume the supplies they were meant to carry forward. No military planner would purposely allow such a large group of personnel to sit road-bound on a single highway, surrounded by agricultural land too soft to allow vehicles to divert.
'While Ukraine may not have the air capabilities to destroy all of these vehicles, it can take bites out of the convoy. Indeed this is already happening.

'Russia’s logistics capability may only have been readied for a lightning campaign, in anticipation that Kyiv would be captured in a matter of days rather than weeks or months. That, of course, has not happened – and the more that flawed assumption is disproven, the more sluggish the entire operation will become. The further into Ukraine Russian oil tanks move, the more exposed they are to attack.
'Russia will soon struggle to deliver basic food and petrol supplies to the front, leaving soldiers hungry and immobile.

'Such failures have given President Zelensky the opportunity to galvanise his population and the Ukrainian armed forces. They are now capable not just of holding ground but pushing back too, as they did in Kharkiv last week. Russia will have to fight a war of attrition to avoid outright defeat, bombing roads and flats as well as military infrastructure. Even then, Moscow could quickly run out of the kinds of ammunition required to sustain it at an intense level.

'President Putin might well be asking how, after all the rhetoric about modernising his forces, it has come to this. The truth is that there appears to be a lack of high-intensity experience. Apart from Syria – which is an air operation, with air bases serving as simple logistics hubs – Russia has not been able to test its new systems over terrain as large as Ukraine. Interventions in Chechnya and Georgia did not pose the same challenge of sheer land mass.'

Yes, he is right that public opinion is far more powerful than twenty years ago, because of the internet and social media. This war Mr Zelensky has won very easily.


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