How Crimea Can Be Retaken, According to Former U.S. General

Ukrainian forces could implement key long-range precision strike tactics in the annexed Crimean Peninsula to "make it untenable for Russian forces," according to a former U.S. lieutenant general.

Writing on Twitter, former U.S. Army Europe commander, Lt. Gen. (Ret'd) Ben Hodges argued that Kyiv's forces needed to "isolate" Crimea using long-range precision strikes.

The Crimean peninsula was illegally annexed by Moscow back in 2014, and Russia's Black Sea fleet is based in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol.

"Drive Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol with daily precision strikes. Ditto for Russian Air Force at Saky, etc," Hodges wrote.

Russian paramilitaries in Crimea
Russian paramilitaries stand guard outside a military base in the town of Perevevalne near the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 11, 2014. Ukraine should look to use long-range precision strikes to isolate the Russian-occupirf Crimean peninsula, former U.S. lieutenant general Ben Hodges said on Monday. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Saky air base on Crimea's west coast, to the north of Sevastopol, was the target of attacks that destroyed 10 Russian aircraft in August 2022. In September, Ukraine's top soldier, General Valery Zaluzhnyi, said Ukraine had carried out the attack.

Ukraine should aim to ensure there would be "no sanctuary" for Russian forces to launch attacks, including drone strikes, on Ukrainian territory from the peninsula, Hodges said.

Land forces could be dealt with later, he added.

Russia's control over Crimea in the past nine years has not been recognized by the international community. A senior U.S. administration official confirmed on January 25 that Washington's view was that "Crimea is Ukraine."

"But where the Ukrainians decide to go and how they decide to conduct operations in their country, those are their decisions to make," the official added.

Ukraine has been steadfast in maintaining its claim to Crimea.

"Crimea is our land, our territory," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January.

"It is our sea and our mountains," he continued. "Give us your weapons—we will return what is ours."

The USSR transferred Crimea—which had been an autonomous Soviet republic within Russia—to Ukraine in 1954.

Ukraine's foreign ministry reiterated the government's commitment to Crimea in a joint-statement with various other nations on Sunday.

Hodges previously told Newsweek that Crimea is "the decisive terrain for this war."

"It must be liberated by Ukraine and we must do everything necessary to enable them to do that this year," he said.

An exclusive poll for Newsweek earlier in February revealed that Americans were divided over Ukraine's determination to recover Crimea. Of those polled by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, 46 percent said Ukraine should look to recover all territory lost only since February 2022 before seeking a peace agreement with Moscow. Just 28 percent of respondents said that Kyiv should try to recover all territory lost since 2014 before a peace settlement.

On February 24, American Foreign Policy Council President Herman Pirchner Jr. told Newsweek that there was "a feeling" that the peninsula "could be taken by Ukrainian forces."

However, in mid-January, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, suggested it "would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces" from all Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

He qualified this by saying: "That doesn't mean it can't happen—doesn't mean it won't happen, but it'd be very, very difficult."

On Sunday, Ukraine's General Staff said Russian forces in Crimea were bolstering defenses, including "fortification facilities," on the peninsula.