America will hit Russia’s military with ‘devastating strike’ if Putin nukes Ukraine, says US general

America WILL retaliate against any nuke attack hitting Putin where it hurts with ‘devastating strikes’ against Russia’s military bases, warns US army’s former European commander

  • Putin has threatened the West with nuclear weapons, saying: ‘I’m not bluffing’ 
  • Retired US Army General Ben Hodges says its ‘unlikely’ Russia will nuke Ukraine
  • BUT he warns if it does, America could blast Russian military facilities in Crimea 
  • In the firing line could include the Sevastopol naval base and the Black Sea fleet 

America will retaliate with ‘a devastating strike’ against Russia’s military if Vladimir Putin uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the United States Army’s former European commander has warned. 

The comments come after the Russian premier sent shockwaves around the world, as he announced the ‘partial mobilisation’ of his reserve military forces to continue his murderous invasion of Ukraine

And in a chilling warning directed squarely at Western and Nato leaders, desperate despot Putin insisted he would use ‘all means’ necessary to defend swathes of territory seized or set to be annexed by Kremlin forces before threatening to use nuclear weapons. 

‘If there is a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, and in protecting our people we will certainly use all means to us – and I’m not bluffing,’ he then added during his televised address to the Russian people on Wednesday morning. 

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2018, stressed the ‘possibility’ of Putin ordering a nuclear strike on Ukraine was ‘very unlikely’.

But he said the use of any strategic weapons of mass destruction would be met with a swift and severe reaction from American President Joe Biden. 

The US could launch 'devastating strikes' on Russian military targets in Crimea and the Black Sea, pictured, if Putin nukes Ukraine, a former US Army commander has warned today

The US could launch ‘devastating strikes’ on Russian military targets in Crimea and the Black Sea, pictured, if Putin nukes Ukraine, a former US Army commander has warned today

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2018, said the chance of Putin nuking Ukraine was 'very unlikely'

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe between 2014 and 2018, said the chance of Putin nuking Ukraine was ‘very unlikely’

But if nuclear weapons were fired, Gen Hodges said the US could seek to attack military bases in annexed Ukrainian territory and Russia's prized Black Sea Fleet

But if nuclear weapons were fired, Gen Hodges said the US could seek to attack military bases in annexed Ukrainian territory and Russia’s prized Black Sea Fleet

‘He [Putin] knows the US will have to respond if Russia uses a nuclear weapon,’ Gen Hodges told MailOnline. 

‘The US response may not be nuclear…but could very well be a devastating strike that could, for example, destroy the Black Sea Fleet or destroy Russian bases in Crimea.

‘So, I think President Putin and those around him will be reluctant to draw the US into the conflict directly.’ 

Potential areas of attack for the US, if Russia does launch a nuclear strike, could include the naval port of Sevastopol on Crimea’s western coast, which has been occupied by the Kremlin’s forces since the peninsula was annexed in 2014.

Worried, Moscow has already moved some of its Kilo-class attack submarines from the Crimean peninsula to southern Russia over fears of them being struck by long-range Ukrainian fire, according to British intelligence.

In a daily briefing on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence said those submarines had ‘almost certainly’ been moved to Krasnodar Krai in mainland Russia, instead of a naval base at Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula.

The move comes as Putin faces the possible collapse of his so-called ‘special military operation’ after a stunning Ukrainian counter-attack last week which has seen Russian forces in the north-west driven back over the Ukrainian border.

With reported manpower issues and a critical shortage of military gear, Putin doubled-down on his assault of Ukraine, announcing the ‘partial mobilisation’ of 300,000 military reservists – a first in Russia since the Second World War – and referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine to make them part of Russia.

Vladimir Putin has today threatened to nuke the West over Ukraine, as he announced plans to annex occupied parts of its territory to the Russian mainland

Vladimir Putin has today threatened to nuke the West over Ukraine, as he announced plans to annex occupied parts of its territory to the Russian mainland

Russia has announced plans for referendums to take place in four regions of Ukraine it either fully or partially occupied - Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson

Russia has announced plans for referendums to take place in four regions of Ukraine it either fully or partially occupied – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson 

Accusing the West of trying to ‘divide and destroy’ Russia, Putin declared: ‘Those trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them.’

The move puts him on a collision course with Kyiv and its Western allies who have already said that attacks to liberate areas under Russian control will not stop, and the results of any ‘sham’ referendums will not be recognised.

But the Russian leader’s decision also hints at the struggles his military is having trying to get enough troops to the front-line. 

Estimates of the Russian casualties cannot be confirmed. However, Ukraine’s Defence Ministry this morning claimed more than 55,000 of Moscow’s troops had been ‘eliminated’. While the Institute for the Study of War yesterday suggested up to 80,000 Russian troops had been either killed or wounded.  

Russia has struggled with manpower and equipment, with fleeing soldiers abandoning weapons and tanks like this one pictured near Kharkiv on Thursday

Russia has struggled with manpower and equipment, with fleeing soldiers abandoning weapons and tanks like this one pictured near Kharkiv on Thursday

Gen Hodges said it was clear the invasion was taken its toll on the Putin’s under-equipped military.

Saying Putin’s scrambling of troops lacked any ‘meaningful impact’, the former military chief said it was ‘too early to tell’ the sort of reaction the Russian people will have. 

‘I don’t believe that too many of them will be fooled by the illogic of it nor do I anticipate that many will report as ordered,’ he told MailOnline.

He said it would be ‘months’ before the Russian reserves could be ‘properly equipped’ and deployed to Ukraine  

‘Without massive artillery support, these new soldiers will be pure cannon fodder, sitting in cold, wet trenches this winter as Ukrainian forces continue to press,’ he added.

‘Unfortunately for these soldiers, Russian artillery is becoming less and less effective due to the Ukrainian strikes on the logistical system that brings ammunition to the guns.’

He continued: ‘There is very little enthusiasm for any Russians wanting to join this fight otherwise there would not be such a massive manpower problem in the Russian armed forces today…I don’t see any bright days ahead for Russian armed forces or the current Putin regime.’

Won by conquest, given away as a ‘gift’, now occupied by force: Russia’s history in Crimea and the Black Sea

Prince Grigory Potemkin, who established the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea in 1783

Prince Grigory Potemkin, who established the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea in 1783

The Black Sea – and the Crimean peninsula which juts into it – are a strategic crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Asia which has been contested by Empires and nations for centuries.

The sea itself contains vital trading routes, is bordered by five of Russia’s near-neighbours, and today hosts vital energy pipelines and fibre optic cables.

For Russia to assert power in the waters, control of Crimea – which contains its main Black Sea port at Sevastopol and controls the Kerch Strait leading to the nearby Sea of Azov – is essential. 

Crimea has, at one time or another, come under the control of the Greeks, Persians, Romans, Mongols, Ottomans.

It was not until 1783 that it fell fully under the control of the Russian Empire when Russian generals Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kamensky led a force of 8,000 men to victory against an Ottoman army of 40,000 at the the Battle of Kozludzha.

Russia’s Prince Grigory Potemkin quickly established the Russian Black Sea Fleet at the port of Sevastopol, from where he asserted naval power over the Black Sea, it neighbours including Georgia, Ukraine and Turkey, and projected power further into the Mediterranean.

Crimea also turned into a key trading post. On the eve of World War 1 in 1914 – some 50 per cent of all Russia’s exports and a full 90 per cent of its agricultural exports passed through Bosphorus Strait which leads out of the Black Sea. 

In 1954 Crimea was given as a ‘gift’ by Nikita Khrushchev to Ukraine, ostensibly to mark the 300th anniversary of Ukraine’s merger with Tsarist Russia, but more likely to secure Ukraine’s support for Khrushchev’s leadership and to cement Ukraine as part of the Soviet Union.

Because Ukraine was then part of the Union, Moscow maintained control over Crimea and its vital ports – at least until 1991 when the union collapsed and Ukraine became and independent county.

Following Ukraine’s independence, access to the peninsula became a bargaining chip between the two nations, with Ukraine recognising Russia’s right to the port at Sevastopol in return for concessions such as writing off debts and taking control of part of the Black Sea fleet.

But in 2014, the pro-Moscow government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in a popular uprising that wanted to draw the country closer to Europe.

Fearing the loss of the port at Sevastopol, Putin marched troops into Crimea and seized control of it – later holding a ‘referendum’ which showed majority support for the region to become part of Russia, though the result is viewed as far from credible.

Today, Moscow is in control of the peninsula and refers to it as part of its territory, though most world bodies refer to the region as ‘occupied Crimea’.

The Black Sea Fleet remains one of Russia’s largest, believed to be comprised of close to 50 ships, seven submarines and 25,000 troops, mostly marines.

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