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A retired US general was scathing about Russia's performance in Ukraine: 'Their navy sucks, their air force sucks'

A head-and-shoulders view of former top general Ben Hodges speaking to the Kyiv Independent in a video published on February 18, 2024.
Former top general Ben Hodges speaking to the Kyiv Independent in a video published on February 18, 2024.Kyiv Independent/X
  • Ben Hodges, a retired US general, slammed the Russian military over its lack of progress in Ukraine.

  • At a time when Ukraine is struggling badly to defend itself, he said there's "too much negativism."

  • Hodges said the West should "body slam" Russia in order to defend a young democracy.

A retired US general slammed Russia's performance in Ukraine, even as President Vladimir Putin's forces seized hold of a key town in the east of the country.

Ben Hodges, who previously commanded United States Army Europe, gave a brutal assessment of Russia's achievements so far, telling the Kyiv Independent: "their navy sucks, their air force sucks, and they've lost half a million soldiers."

It's unclear where Hodges got this casualty figure from. Current estimates of Russians killed or wounded since 2022 vary between 315,000, per a senior US defense official, and just over 400,000, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Defence.

However, the UK's Ministry of Defence said in January that Russia was on track to have lost half a million by the end of the year.

Hodges' remarks came as Ukraine ceded the eastern town of Avdiivka after a grinding fight that is estimated to have cost Russia more than 400 tanks, as well as many thousands of soldiers.

Despite Ukraine's high-profile struggles, Hodges said he believes there's "too much negativism" around its fight with Russia.

He also said that the West needs to "body slam" Russia in defense of the young democracy it invaded.

"After 10 years, Russia had every advantage, and they still only occupy 18% of Ukraine," he said, referring not only to the full-scale invasion that began in 2022 but also Russia's annexation of Crimea and the proxy fighting that began in Donbas in 2014.

Hodges' statements come at an extremely perilous moment for Ukraine's defense. The country has seen international support waver, a change in military leadership, and is faced with a vastly more numerous and better-supplied enemy.

Russia has put its economy on a war footing, risking long-term economic decline but causing a temporary boom.

Hodges has argued that US spending on Ukraine's defense is extremely cost-effective for American interests.

"The monetary cost is trivial, a few per cent of our normal defence spending, and it is delivering enormous value for money," he wrote in The Telegraph late last year.

He added: "Russian land combat power and large parts of its air and naval capability have been nullified for a period of years at the very least: deterring that combat power by our normal methods costs us many times as much."

Despite not being able to make any significant territorial gains in 2023, Ukraine has kept up steady pressure, notably on Russia's air force and navy. It claims to have reduced Russia's Black Sea Fleet by a third and, as of Monday, to have shot down six Russian fighter jets in the space of just three days.

Hodges argued that Russia is the country that is "weak on the inside" and that the US and the wider West should support Ukraine "not out of fear, but out of opportunity."

"Here's a young, democratic country fighting for its survival, but if Ukraine is successful, it will fix European security problems for decades," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider