Ret. U.S. General Pours Cold Water on Threat Revealed in Ukraine Docs Leak

4/11/23

Russian President Vladimir Putin, surrounded by top military officers and officials, tours a military flight test center in Akhtubinsk on May 14, 2019. A retired U.S. Army lieutenant general said Monday he disagrees with an assessment from the leaked Pentagon documents that Putin’s air force could soon gain an advantage in Ukraine.ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

  • Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges expressed doubt about an assessment of Russia’s air force in the recently leaked Ukraine war documents.
  • He said that the air force lacks the proper training and ability to achieve air superiority in Ukraine.
  • Hodges also stressed that Ukraine still needs more ammunition and weapons from its Western allies to effectively fight Russian forces.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges said Monday that he doesn’t agree with an assessment about the capability of Russia’s air force in the recently leaked Ukraine war documents.

The highly classified documents from the Pentagon spread across social media last week. They contain photos of materials with details about U.S. intelligence updates, including sensitive information about the war in Ukraine.

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh confirmed in a statement to Newsweek that the U.S. Department of Defense is reviewing the matter, and on Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the Biden administration to hold a classified briefing about the leak for senators.

Among the details contained in the leaked documents was an assessment that Ukrainian air defenses could become depleted in May. This could make the country vulnerable to air strikes from Russia’s fighter jets and bombers, the documents said.

During an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), Hodges said an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to take advantage of a reduction in Ukraine’s air defenses is a “concern,” but he doesn’t consider Russia a major threat from the air.

“[T]he Russian Air Force has not impressed me for the last 14 months, even though they had huge numerical superiority,” he said. “It’s clear that they don’t have the training or the ability to really achieve air superiority.”

Hodges, who is also a former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, told DW anchor Sarah Kelly that air forces from other major nations would have established air superiority at the onset of the Ukraine war.

“The Russians were not able to do that. So it’s not just because of the brave and very competent Ukrainian air defense. It’s because I don’t think the Russians really know how to do this,” he said.

Hodges said the leaked documents do reinforce the case that Ukraine needs more ammunition and weapons from its Western allies to effectively resist Putin’s forces.

“Why is it so difficult for us to go ahead and take that next step to provide the capabilities that would help protect thousands of European civilians?” Hodges asked. He added that Western countries should fulfill Ukraine’s requests for fighter jets and longer-range precision weapons.

“I think the United States, Germany [and] others need to do more. It really comes down to do we want Ukraine to win or are we just trying to drag this thing out,” he said.

Hodges also pushed back somewhat when Kelly asked if the leaks provide Putin with “a bit of a playbook now on how to have a window to defeat the Ukrainian military.”

“Well, to be honest, Sarah, I think the Russians already knew all this. This is information that’s come to light for us, but none of this will be new to the Russians or to the Ukrainians,” he said.

On Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov refused to comment to reporters when asked if Russia was behind the release of the documents, which he called “quite interesting leaks.”

“Everyone is analyzing and broadly discussing them,” Peskov added.

The U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment for this story when contacted by Newsweek.

3 comments

  1. “Why is it so difficult for us to go ahead and take that next step to provide the capabilities that would help protect thousands of European civilians?”

    Well, the Biden administration and the rest have done a grand job … dragging this war out like a soft rubber band. It could’ve been over months ago already. With a sound Ukrainian victory.

    “Well, to be honest, Sarah, I think the Russians already knew all this. This is information that’s come to light for us, but none of this will be new to the Russians or to the Ukrainians,”

    I agree. I don’t think that there’s anything extraordinary about the leaks. The extraordinary part is that they were leaked, if they are legit.

    • I agree.
      I also think the Pentagon might have exaggerated the problems with air defense to increase pressure on the Biden administration.

      I don’t think the Russian air force will be playing a significant role: if they could they would have already done so.

      I think they lack the pilots and properly functioning equipment to use their air advantage.

      I don’t think everything the military or intelligence agencies are always the truth: sometimes you have to increase the sense of urgency to get something done.

      Of course my own assessment might be wrong and maybe indeed Russia could gain air superiority, I don’t want to pretend I know more than the Pentagon, far from that, but they are also involved in politics.

      • Your assessment is as good as any other. Bert. After all, the first thing to die in any war is the truth, so whatever comes out of any defense ministry, government or anywhere else, must be taken with a pinch of salt.

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