Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army Europe, said this week in Berlin that supporting Ukraine with weapons could increase the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hodges told an audience Tuesday that supplying Ukraine with American weapons in its war against separatists could eventually turn the tide for Putin at home, The Associated Press reported.
"When mothers start seeing sons come home dead, when that price goes up, then that domestic support begins to shrink," he said.
The American military estimates there to be about 12,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine supporting pro-Moscow separatists, contradicting previous Russian claims, according to Reuters.
Hodges said that even beyond the 12,000 soldiers, the Russian military is casting a large shadow in the Ukrainian conflict in other ways. He said that there were 29,000 more Russian soldiers located in Crimea that Moscow annexed from Ukraine last year.
There are another 50,000 Russian soldiers amassed along the Russia-Ukraine border ready to take action if the separatists are dealt a serious setback by Ukrainian forces, Reuters noted.
Russia has denied over and over again that it is supporting rebel assaults in eastern Ukraine with its own troops and weapons, even though the Kiev government said it has solid evidence that Moscow is involved.
Hodges said he believes one of Putin's ultimate goals is to break up NATO, according to The Telegraph.
"I am sure Putin wants to destroy our alliance, not by attacking it but by splintering it," Hodges said is his speculation of Putin's view of NATO.
Hodges said that Putin could attempt to "destabilize" NATO by using such rebel militias like what is going on in Ukraine to carry on "ambiguous" warfare, thus avoiding an overt attack. That scenario likely wouldn't cause Article 5 of NATO to be invoked, which states an attack on one member is an attack on all.
"Once Article 5 is gone, our alliance is over," Hodges told his audience Tuesday, according to The Telegraph.
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