The following is a transcript of an interview with retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe, that aired Sunday, April 17, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, and he joins us from Frankfurt, Germany. Good morning to you.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL (RETIRED) BEN HODGES: Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard the foreign minister describe what was happening, particularly in the southeast port city of Mariupol. Many expect President Putin will intensify this assault leading up to May 9th, which is a key holiday. What do you expect to see?
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: Well, first of all, of course, I agree with all that I just heard Minister Kuleba say and what’s been going on in Mariupol, the incredible courage and resilience of the civilians there, as well as the soldiers who have been fighting. But I do think that the pressure on the general staff to deliver Mariupol finally ahead of 9 May is immense. 9 May, of course, is the annual celebration in Russia of the end of World War Two or what they call the Great Patriotic War. It’s a huge parade in Red Square every year. So obviously they need to have something to parade to show as a victory on 9 May. So I think this date does- does have importance there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm hmm. Well, you’ve described a new offensive as a whole new war now. What do you mean by that?
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: Well, what we saw in the last seven weeks, of course, was- was a- a mishandled effort by Russia. They totally overestimated their ability. They were not prepared for the fight they entered. Ukrainians defeated them at every turn. So, of course, Russia now has withdrawn from most places and they’re focusing on the Donbas region. And interestingly, the general staff has decided not to mobilize all of their reservists, which tells me that there’s not going to be a phase three, that what we’re going to do now for the next few weeks is phase two. And they’re going to focus on trying to gain control of all of Donbas. And I think that’s going to be it for the rest of the year, because they don’t- they don’t have the capability, I don’t believe, especially if they don’t mobilize reserves to continue the fight after this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean the fight could be wrapped by the 9th of May?
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: No. It means that they will not have the ability to conduct any further offensive operations–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: –after this. And for sure, the fighting is going to continue. They’re going to continue as long as they have missiles murdering innocent Ukrainian civilians
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm hmm.
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: –in the pressure on Ukraine. But my sense is that they have made a decision because of the pounding that they have taken and the lack of resources. I mean, frankly, they can’t even build new tanks because the sanctions are restricting the types of parts that they have to bring in for new- new equipment that they really are culminating in their ability to launch further offensive operations, particularly towards Odesa, for example, or Kyiv. I don’t see it- them having the potential for that this year.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden authorized new weapons transfers. We know now that some of them have been arriving just over this past weekend. In this new package, artillery, 18 medium range howitzers, 40,000 artillery rounds. There’s other kinds of munitions, armored personnel carriers. How long does this kind of weaponry last? How significant is it to the fight?
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: Hmm. The Howitzers are particularly important and- and especially the 40,000 rounds of ammunition that are coming with those howitzers. That’s the equivalent to a U.S. artillery battalion, 18 Howitzers. This is- this is substantial, a high quality weapon system. But I have to say, we- it’s still not enough. What the Ukrainians need desperately are long range fires, rockets, artillery, drones that can- they can disrupt or destroy the systems that are causing so much damage in Ukrainian cities and which will also play a critical role in this next phase if and when it begins. The hundreds of switchblade drones, for example. These are very good, but we need about a thousand more. If you assume one drone per tank, per artillery system, per infantry fighting vehicle, you can see why the numbers that- this is about us being the arsenal of democracy. This is about us supporting democracy versus autocracy. And I would really like to hear the administration talk about winning and having a sense of urgency on getting these things there. Otherwise, this window of opportunity we have the next couple of weeks to really disrupt Russia’s attempt to build up is going to pass.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we hear from the administration that the aim of all this is to strengthen- strengthen Ukraine’s hand at the negotiating table. But we’ve heard from the Ukrainians there’s no table to sit at right now.
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you saying it doesn’t look to you like the administration has decided they want Ukraine to win? They just want a stalemate?
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: I would say that I don’t hear the administration talking about winning. I’m reluctant to say that the administration doesn’t want them to win. But what- what needs to be stated is what is our objective, the United States? You know, we’re not just observers cheering for Ukraine here. This is about democracy across Europe and stopping an autocracy. And so and of course, the Chinese are watching. So there are implications well beyond Mariupol or even- even Kyiv. And so if the United States were to say we- we want to win, that means all Russian forces back to pre 24 February. All Ukrainians who have been deported brought back home immediately, a long term commitment to the full restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty. That means Crimea and Donbas and then finally breaking the back of Russia’s ability to project power outside of Russia to–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm hmm.
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: –threaten Georgia, to threaten Moldova, to threaten our Baltic allies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ben Hodges, thank you for your analysis this morning. Happy Easter.
LT. GEN. (RET.) HODGES: Thank you, Margaret. Happy Easter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.