Gen. David Petraeus told CNN he believes Ukrainian troops will be able to push Russian forces further back this summer, contingent on arms supply and strategy.
It will take successful combined arms warfare — a complementary approach where multiple kinds of fighting units support one another — to succeed, Petraeus told CNN’s Nic Robertson at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
“You can get the enemy to crumble and ideally collapse — and that is possible this summer, at least locally — and hopefully sufficient to cut that land bridge that Russia has established that enables them to connect into Crimea along the southeastern coast of Ukraine,” said Petraeus, who was the US and coalition commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later served as director of the CIA.
“If you cut that, you can start the isolation of Crimea, you can reduce it as a logistical support hub, and then you can divide the Russian forces. And then if you can take down the Kerch Strait bridge, you’ve really isolated them,” he added.
Petraeus said if that scenario plays out, combined with long-range weapons for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), there’d be a “very different dynamic” in the conflict.
If Russian losses continue to pile up, “at some point, the Kremlin has to recognize this war is unsustainable on the battlefield. And if you continue to tighten the economic, financial and export controls, you make it unsustainable (on) the homefront as well,” he said.
He also said Ukrainians being trained on Western weapons seem to be doing so at remarkable speed.
“The reports (from Western colleagues) are that the Ukrainians are just blowing right through their training. They’re done within day one at noon, and you’re on day two, and they’re having to accelerate the training very significantly. And even when they go back to the barracks after a very long training day, they’re reading the manuals. They want to get back to the fight, back to protecting their families,” he said.
Ukrainian troops are receiving training on Leopard 2 tanks in Poland, the UK government said earlier this month that it will begin training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard fighter jets, and the first group of Ukrainians completed training at a US base in Germany on Friday.
“I think they will be able to achieve the kind of combined arms effects that the Russians have not achieved,” Petraeus reiterated.
CNN’s Cristiana Moisescu contributed to this report.