US to hit Russian HQs with devastating strikes if Putin nukes Ukraine

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. 

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges today said any response by America ‘may not be nuclear’ but warned that if Putin were to use nukes in Ukraine that the US could look to ‘destroy the Black Sea Fleet or destroy Russian bases in Crimea’.

His comments come after the Russian premier sent shockwaves around the world, as he announced the ‘partial mobilization’ 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. 

Gen 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. 

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’

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

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 UK’s  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 mobilization’ 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

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 

Referendums will be held in Donetsk and Luhansk – which together make up the Donbas – as well as occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The White House on Tuesday rejected these plans to hold referendums in parts of Ukraine and said Moscow, branding the Kremlin’s plans as ‘shams with no legitimacy.’

Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, called the referendums an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

At the UN General Assembly, Biden is set to say the invasion is an affront to the heart of what the international body stands for as he looks to rally allies to stand firm in backing the Ukrainian resistance.  

Mr Sullivan said: ‘He´ll offer a firm rebuke of Russia´s unjust war in Ukraine and make a call to the world to continue to stand against the naked aggression that we´ve seen these past several months.

 Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine announced the plans to hold the Kremlin-backed referendums in the days ahead on becoming part of Russia as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion. The White House on Tuesday rejected these plans to hold referendums in parts of Ukraine and said Moscow may be making the move to recruit troops in those areas after suffering extensive losses on the battlefield. Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, pictured, called the referendums an affront to principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity

‘He will underscore the importance of strengthening the United Nations and reaffirm core tenets of its charter at a time when a permanent member of the Security Council has struck at the very heart of the charter by challenging the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty.’

Putin accused the West of trying to ‘divide and destroy’ Russia, and warned: ‘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 recognized.

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 Defense 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

Gen Hodges said it was clear the invasion was taken its toll on 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.

West vows never to recognize results of ‘sham’ referendums 

Western leaders last night vowed never to respect the results of ‘sham’ referendums annexing parts of Ukraine to Russia, speaking hours before Putin issued his new nuclear threat.

White House spokesman Jake Sullivan described the votes as a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty which carry ‘no legitimacy’.

Emmanuel Macron, speaking at the UN where heads of state are gathered for a general assembly, said that if Moscow’s plan ‘wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin will only give up his ‘imperial ambitions’ that risk destroying Ukraine and Russia if he recognizes he cannot win the war.

‘This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,’ Scholz said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the assembly the U.N.’s credibility was in danger because of the invasion by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, and reforms of the council were needed.

‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the U.N. charter … It should never be tolerated,’ Kishida said.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba vowed that: ‘The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything.

‘Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.’

If the referendum plan ‘wasn’t so tragic it would be funny,’ French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters ahead of the U.N. assembly in New York.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin will only give up his ‘imperial ambitions’ that risk destroying Ukraine and Russia if he recognises he cannot win the war.

‘This is why we will not accept any peace dictated by Russia and this is why Ukraine must be able to fend off Russia’s attack,’ Scholz said in his first address to the General Assembly.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the assembly the U.N.’s credibility was in danger because of the invasion by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, and reforms of the council were needed.

‘Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a conduct that tramples the philosophy and principles of the U.N. charter … It should never be tolerated,’ Kishida said.

‘The situation on at the front clearly indicates the initiative is with Ukraine,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address released early on Wednesday.

Ukraine’s position did not change because of ‘some noise’ from Russia, Zelensky added in a reference to the referendums.

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.’

Russia is now almost seven months into what was intended to be a days-long war in Ukraine, and the situation for its troops is becoming increasingly desperate.

Having been forced to retreat from Kyiv in the early months of fighting after its advance stalled, the Kremlin’s war machine instead focused its efforts on ‘liberating’ the eastern Donbas region.

Months of grinding warfare saw Russia capture the whole of the Luhansk region, but only around half of neighboring Donetsk – which make up the Donbas.

As Russia’s advances slowed and then stopped, Ukraine went on the counter-attack – launching an offensive on the southern city of Kherson.

Russia moved forces from other areas of the country to help defend the city, at which point Ukraine launched a second counter-attack east out of Kharkiv – in the north.

That move caught the Kremlin’s commanders completely off guard, triggering a rout that handed 3,000 square miles of territory that Russia had spent months capturing back to Ukraine in just a few days.

And Kyiv has continued to press the attack, regaining a foothold in the Luhansk region and threatening to push further across the province.

Faced with war on two fronts and not enough men to hold the territory he has already captured, Putin was left with few options but to begin conscripting men.

However, experts and analysts say it will do little to turn the tide of the war in his favor.

It will take at least weeks, possibly months, to gather, equip, train and transport hundreds of thousands more men to the frontlines – time that Russia does not have.

By the time reinforcements arrive winter will be setting in when combat operations will be considerably harder, compounding the issues that Russia’s military already faces.

And mobilizing more men will do nothing to solve the chronic lack of equipment and supplies among Russia’s ranks, or fix the logistical issues which have hampered its attacks.

Some drew comparisons with the disastrous Winter War that the Soviet Union fought against Finland, which ended with hundreds of thousands of Red Army troops dead or wounded to around 25,000 Finnish.

Western leaders had pre-empted Putin’s remarks at the UN last night, saying they would not recognize the results of any ‘sham’ referendums in Ukraine.

‘The Russians can do whatever they want. It will not change anything,’ Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday as world leaders were arriving for the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

He later doubled down on the issue, tweeting: ‘Sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything. Neither will any hybrid ‘mobilization.’

‘Russia has been and remains an aggressor illegally occupying parts of Ukrainian land. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.’

French President Emmanuel Macron said that if the referendum plan ‘wasn’t so tragic it would be funny.’

He described Russia’s invasion as ‘a return to a new age of imperialism and colonies’ and warned that inaction risked ‘tearing down the global order without which peace is not possible.’

‘It’s not a matter of choosing one side between East and West, or North or South. It’s a matter of responsibility’ to the UN Charter, he said.

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

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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