By ZOE STROZEWSKI
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Black Sea Fleet has been a “total waste” as his forces struggle on land and in the water amid the war in Ukraine, according to a retired U.S. general.
Speaking in a video released Monday as part of a Renew Democracy Initiative series with New Debate, former Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, Ben Hodges, said that before February 24, when the war began, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet “controlled basically the entire Black Sea.”
“But over the past six months, we’ve watched a realization that the Russian navy is no better than the Russian army,” Hodges said.
When the war began, many expected Russia’s army to achieve a speedy victory. But as the war stretched on for days, weeks and then months, while Ukrainian forces fiercely resisted, Russia’s image as a superior military force began to crumble.
The change in perception is true for Russia’s navy as well, according to Hodges.
He mentioned the sinking of Russia’s Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, which was worth an estimated $750 million. While Ukraine said at the time that it struck the ship and caused it to sink, Russia said that it was an onboard fire that led to the ship’s demise. The U.S. did not immediately confirm how the Moskva was damaged, but it ultimately concluded that two Ukrainian missiles hit the warship, The Washington Post reported, citing a senior U.S. defense official.
Hodges said that several other Russian vessels in the Black Sea have been downed in recent months. Ukrainian drone and missile strikes on Snake Island, which was previously Russian-occupied, damaged or destroyed several smaller ships docked at the Black Sea outpost, Politico reported.
Now, the Russian fleet is “terrified to go anywhere near the Ukrainian coastline” and has been hiding behind Crimea, Hodges said.
“The Great Black Sea Fleet, other than their submarines, I think, is a total waste. It hasn’t been in the fight,” he added. “And as Ukrainian forces get closer and closer to Crimea, soon they’re going to be able to start launching HIMARS [High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems] rockets and other rockets into Sevastopol, making it untenable for the Russian Black Sea Fleet.”
Crimea is a peninsula that has been Russian-occupied since 2014, but Ukraine and the U.S. continue to assert that it is part of Ukraine. Sevastopol is Crimea’s largest city and a major Black Sea port.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed last month that his forces would regain control of Crimea as it also works to free other areas of Ukraine from Russian occupation.
“I know that Crimea is with Ukraine, is waiting for us to return,” he said while speaking at Crimea Platform. “I want all of you to know that we will return. We need to win the fight against Russian aggression. Therefore, we need to free Crimea from occupation.
“It began with Crimea, it will end with Crimea.”