On June 21, the former commander of the US army in Europe, Ben Hodges, announced that if the US government restrains its "we're with you for as long as it takes," and provides the Armed Forces of Ukraine with ATACMS, we will return Crimea by the end of summer 2023.
All attention is now on the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Today it is categorised as "not as powerful as expected, but optimistic," but Ben Hodges says that it is too early to assess the actions of Ukrainians.
"This is not going to be 'Pac Man'; this is going to be, at some point, a breakthrough. I'm not sure when or where, but at some point, you get through these defences and then the whole momentum and nature of things can change."
However, for this, Ukraine needs to provide MGM-140 Army, known to the general public as ATACMS, and, preferably, Gray Eagle drones. Ben Hodges emphasises that this is not a desirable toy for the Ukrainians but a weapon that will allow our army to enter a strategically important path for the whole of Europe.
"That would enable them to make Crimea untenable. And that's the key: make the Black Sea Fleet have to move out of Sevastopol, which would happen if Ukraine was able to put ATACMS inside that harbour. Those ships couldn't just sit there, all the facilities would be destroyed. Same for the airbase in Saki and other facilities."
"If Ukraine has to settle, because of pressure from us, for some sort of outcome where Russia retains Crimea, in two years now you and I will be having the same conversation.”
So far, the White House has taken a clear position of preventing a direct conflict between NATO and Russia. Fearing an escalation of the war and a possible Russian nuclear attack, the US has so far refused to provide Ukraine with ATACMS. At the same time, Hodges is sure that Putin is bluffing.
"Russia knows that all they have to do is mention nuclear once a week or so, and it causes us to stop. We're being blackmailed. And I think this is a terrible precedent for the future."
"This constant narrative that we don't want to escalate. The Russians are castrating prisoners. Where is our red line?
Ben Hodges state that Ukraine is effectively using all the weapons provided by its allies. Therefore, the US will continue "to help Ukraine meet its immediate battlefield needs and strengthen its long-term defences."