Russia failed to achieve any of its strategic objectives during the five-month-long invasion of Ukraine. The U.S., along with its NATO allies, may soon be able to meet one of these goals.
This week’s fresh estimates highlight the extent of Russian military damage in Ukraine’s nearly five-month long war. Despite making slow and grinding gains in the eastern Donbas, Russia’s army has been severely damaged by both its staggering losses and the equally shocking loss of equipment and vehicles.
This is not counting the cost back home. Russian banks, universities, and sports clubs are now cut off from international markets. Western suppliers have cut key commodities, while Western retailers have closed their Russian outlets.
Crushing Moscow’s ability to wage war offensively has been an integral part of the West’s strategy since the beginning of the conflict. U.S. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin stated that this strategy was a key component of the West’s game plan in April. He said that NATO wanted to see Russia “weakened enough that it can no longer launch an invasion.”
Russians were furious at Mr. Austin’s comments. Some Western observers thought he may have gone too far. However, this was before the Kremlin had clearly seen the cost of the invasion.
Officials from the West aren’t celebrating but they’re focusing on the long-term destruction being done to Russia’s military machines with every day that the conflict drags on. Admiral Tony Radakin, the head of the British military, said over the weekend that Russia has suffered about 50,000 casualties so far and has lost roughly 1,700 tanks, in addition to other significant vehicle and equipment losses.
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Such widespread destruction and death were certainly not anticipated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, or his military leaders, who most likely expected an easy win with little resistance when they crossed into Ukraine February. 24.
Russia may now be suffering permanent damage, which could threaten its position as an important military actor on the international stage.
According to British media outlets,
“Russia has become a less powerful nation since February 1st.” Adm. Radakin stated.
A weakened Russian army is a major-picture success for President Biden even though the U.S. military and allies are also facing strains during the conflict. It also exposes the U.S. administration to criticism regarding its long-term troop deployment plan in Europe and Pacific. Some Republicans have already said that there is no need to strengthen NATO’s Eastern flank when Russia has been so severely wounded.
” Why is Biden sending more troops to Europe than the Pacific? “Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican asked this question in a tweet earlier in the month, after the White House had announced that it would send additional troops to Europe.
“Russian military is not in a position to invade any other country right now, and it’s China and North Korea that are threatening military aggressiveness,” Rubio stated.
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Mr. Putin denies the idea that Russia’s army is becoming less powerful than it was before. He said that the losses Russia has suffered in Ukraine won’t have any impact on its long-term future or position as a military superpower.
” It is obvious that the country faces a major challenge, but we will not give up. We won’t stay in disarray, or go back to decades, like some well-wishers believe. “No, of course,” said the Russian leader during a conference call with officials from government development.
But the numbers show otherwise. The 50,000 figure cited by Adm. Radakin is difficult to confirm, but if it’s correct, that would mean that Moscow has lost nearly 6% of its active-duty military personnel in less than five months of combat against an opponent that, on paper, is much weaker militarily. While Russia made progress in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, it has not been as swift and successful.
The online clearinghouse Globalfirepower.com lists Russia’s active-duty force at about 850,000, with another 250,000 reserve forces and another 250,000 in paramilitary groups such as the Wagner Group.
These paramilitary forces play a greater role in Ukraine now that Russia is struggling to rebuild its ranks and maintain pressure on Ukraine’s frontlines in the Donbas, British military officers claim.
The British Ministry of Defense announced Monday that the Wagner Group security personnel played a more prominent role in Russia’s conquest of Luhansk, one of the two Donbas provinces. However, Russia’s inability to supply regular army soldiers for this mission has led to the involvement of the Wagner Group security personnel.
“Wagner have lowered recruitment standards and are hiring convicts as well as formerly-blacklisted people,” British officials stated in a tweet. New recruits receive very limited training. This is likely to have a significant impact on future operational effectiveness and decrease its value as an asset to regular Russian forces
Indeed Moscow relies heavily on the Wagner Group, and other paramilitary arm to carry out its operations in Syria and other conflict zones. The Kremlin will be severely limited in its ability to project its power beyond its borders. This is a characteristic of Vladimir Putin’s foreign and military policy.
The Kremlin is also trying new strategies to increase the ranks its enlisted forces. Experts say that Moscow has begun a coordinated push to recruit new troops for the reinforcement of Russian forces in Ukraine.
” “The Kremlin decided on a 2-pronged approach,” Paul Goble (a Jamestown Foundation researcher) wrote recently for Eurasia Daily Monitor.
“On one hand it’s expanding its recruitment efforts in rural areas away from Moscow, and on the other it’s calling for the governments of Russia’s predominantly Russian ethnic regions and non-Russian republics, to create battalions capable of being dispatched to Ukraine,” wrote he. The first one hasn’t been successful. The second is just starting and it’s causing as much worry as it does hope to produce the results Moscow desires .”
While Mr. Putin is largely considered unchallenged in his power, the Kremlin seems concerned about the public backlash it might provoke if it resorts to major civilian drafts to supplement its forces for what officials refer to as “special military operations .”
Russia seems to be aware of the long-term consequences of its war against Ukraine. Researchers with the Institute for the Study of War said Sunday that Russia’s Young Army Cadets National Movement has opened 500 new cadet classes and 1,000 junior army classes in Belgorod and other cities near the Ukraine border.
Children as old as eight can be enlisted in these programs. However, they won’t qualify for combat for many years. This suggests that Russian officials are aware they require a long-term strategy to prevent a huge manpower shortfall down the line.
But manpower is only one of Russia’s problems. Although Russian military commanders have made improvements in their combat tactics, and reduced the impact of artillery and drone strikes from Ukraine, it will take many years to replace the vehicles that were lost.
In addition to its massive tank losses, Russia has lost at least 490 armored fighting vehicles, 953 infantry fighting vehicles, 127 armored personnel carriers, 90 command posts and communication stations, 65 surface-to-air missile systems, and a host of other equipment, according to the military blog Oryx, which closely tracks both Russian and Ukrainian losses.
Russia has also reportedly turned towards Iran for its drone fleet, after suffering severe losses in Ukraine.
Such damage could have a significant impact on Russia’s future military capabilities, possibly allowing it to achieve one of its key goals.
Mr. Austin was already in Kyiv with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. He said that he saw signs of a Russian “weakening”, which could limit Moscow’s future ambitions over the years.
Russia has “already lost a large amount of military capability and a lot more troops,” Austin stated. We want them to not be able to quickly replicate that capability .”