A Blog by Jonathan Low


Aug 30, 2023

2nd Retired US General Attacks Anonymous Pentagon Leaks Criticizing Ukraine

A second senior retired US general has fiercely criticized leaks from anonymous Pentagon sources criticizing Ukraine's conduct of the counteroffensive, which is now making significant gains. 

Retired Lieut. General Ben Hodges noted that the US had overwhelming air superiority for D-Day in Normandy and still took two months to break out. He also pointed out that the 4 day Desert Storm assault was preceded by six weeks of 100,000 air sorties, whereas the Ukrainians are pushing back the Russians without any air support. Earlier criticism in the Wall Street Journal from Retired General Jack Keane noted that no currently serving US or NATO officer has ever served in a war like the one currently being fought in Ukraine. JL 

David Brennan reports in Newsweek:

Retired Lieut. General Ben Hodges, former commander of U.S. Army Europe, said "I was disgusted by criticism from the Pentagon. Thank goodness these geniuses were not hanging around when [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower was commanding the D-Day invasion. It took two months with overwhelming air superiority. The Ukrainians have no air support. We would never put an American, German, or British soldier into a fight like this without having already achieved air superiority. In Desert Storm, for six weeks, 100,000 sorties of aircraft struck Iraqi defenses before the the four-day ground war. Ukraine made the correct adaptation. We're a few weeks away from achieving a breakthrough."

Ukraine's creeping southern offensive is still seeking the decisive breakthrough that Kyiv hopes will become the next battlefield rout, akin to the stunning offensive successes that so buoyed Ukrainian morale in 2022.

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges—the former commander of U.S. Army Europe—told Newsweek that, despite setbacks, a breakthrough is still possible before the fall mud and winter freeze force a pause to major offensive operations later in the year.

"It does have the feeling that we're a few weeks away from achieving that kind of a breakthrough," Hodges said in an interview. Kyiv's slow approach—which officials have previously told Newsweek is focused on eroding Russian military capabilities while pushing towards defensive minefields and fortifications—may yet prove the correct one, Hodges added.

"I think that the Ukrainians also made the correct adaptation by trying to attrit the Russian artillery and Russian logistics," he said. "By doing so, that will of course take some of the pressure off of them as they try to get through these minefields.


"They don't have to clear the whole 1,500 kilometers [930 miles] of mines, they just have to get through in two, three or four places in order to then exploit that penetration. And then you're in a completely different, much more dynamic, fighting situation again."

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry by email to request comment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has acknowledged the "slower than desired" progress of the long-awaited counteroffensive. Kyiv is under pressure from its Western allies to get results, with officials warning that the major military support amassed in 2023 may not be repeated in 2024.

Hodges—long a prominent advocate for Ukraine in its efforts to win more NATO military support—urged patience.

"The Ukrainians are better than anybody I've ever seen, including us, in protecting information. They're very disciplined on what we call 'OpSec'—operational security," Hodges said. "We don't know, and we're not entitled to know, exactly what's going on, who's doing what, what the status is in different units."

"People are making conclusions based on what they think should be happening or what they think they see," he said. "But they don't actually have current accurate information, by design."

Some Pentagon officials have been critical of Ukraine's battleplan, by which Kyiv has spread its forces to launch local attacks at several points along the front. This has involved a push around the devastated city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, attacks in the Urozhaine-Staromaiorske area on the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk administrative border, and a drive into the Zaporizhzhia settlement of Robotyne.


Though Ukrainian forces have made gains in all directions, a decisive breakthrough remains elusive. The ultimate objective is to sever the so-called "land corridor" of occupied territory in southern Ukraine connecting Crimea to western Russia. The slow pace of the operation has raised concerns that this will not be possible before fall.


The New York Times reported this month that American officials had urged Kyiv to concentrate soldiers and equipment in one spot to increase their chances of success. Hodges said such suggestions were "absolute nonsense." He added: "I was disgusted, actually, by the criticism from the Pentagon."

"Thank goodness these geniuses were not hanging around when [General Dwight D.] Eisenhower was commanding the D-Day invasion," Hodges added, noting the challenges faced by the Allied invasion force in breaking out of the difficult "bocage" landscape of northern France during World War II.


"It took two months with overwhelming air superiority," Hodges said.

"This is not insignificant, that the Ukrainians have no air support," the former general added. "We would never put an American soldier, German soldier, or British soldier into a fight like this without having already achieved air superiority."

"You will remember from Desert Storm, six straight weeks, over 100,000 sorties of aircraft striking Iraqi defenses before the famous 'left hook' and the four-day ground war," Hodges said, referring to the famed operation that won the 1991 Gulf War.

Pentagon officials have been less critical of Ukraine's approach in on-the-record interview.


"It's taken longer than Ukraine had planned," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said earlier in August. "But they are making limited progress."

Jake Sullivan, the White House's national security adviser, meanwhile said the U.S. does "not assess that the conflict is a stalemate." He added: "We continue to support Ukraine in its effort to take territory as part of this counteroffensive, and we are seeing it continue to take territory on a methodical systematic basis."

Speaking with journalists on Tuesday, Sabrina Singh—the deputy Pentagon press secretary—said the Ukrainians "continue to make slow progress and are continuing in this fight as the months continue."


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