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Putin Has a Big Ukraine Problem: He Is Running Out of Contract Soldiers

TOS-1 firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Ukraine War Update: On day 109 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is still looking for a breakthrough in the Donbas as the siege of Severodonetsk continues for yet another day.

Donbas and Severodonetsk 

The Russian military has captured most of the strategic city of Severodonetsk, but the Ukrainian forces are holding dearly to the industrial area in the western part of the city. The fighting is currently favoring the Russian military, mainly because Moscow has managed to achieve materiel and manpower superiority in the region.

And yet, despite that superiority, the Russian forces have failed to achieve the breakthrough that they have been seeking since the Kremlin launched its renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine in mid-May. Despite their disadvantages, the Ukrainian military continues to put up a fierce defense, withdrawing from defensive positions only if the situation has become unattainable.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Sunday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 32,150 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 212 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 178 attack and transport helicopters, 1,430 tanks, 715 artillery pieces, 3,484 armored personnel carriers, 226 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 13 boats and cutters, 2,455 vehicles and fuel tanks, 96 anti-aircraft batteries, 582 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 53 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 125 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

Force Overmatch, But For How Long? 

One of the reasons the Russian military has managed several tactical successes in the Donbas is because of its ability to achieve relative superiority at particular locations on the battlefield. Russian commanders have largely managed to hide tactical and professional incompetence behind these numbers.

“Russia is using its overmatch in force ratio and artillery to gradually seize territory in and around Sieverodonetsk. Russia continues to seek to generate more combat units to deploy to Ukraine. In recent weeks, it has likely started preparing to deploy the third battalion from some combat formations. Most brigades normally only commit a maximum of two of their three battalions to operations at any one time,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

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But the deployment of the additional battalion tactical group won’t necessarily translate into more effectiveness on the battlefield. Due to the high number of casualties, the Russian military is running out of experienced contract soldiers to send to the frontlines. As a result, Moscow has to increasingly rely on reservists and inexperienced troops, with the concomitant risk downrange.

“The third battalions within brigades are often not fully staffed – Russia will likely have to rely on new recruits or mobilised reservists to deploy these units to Ukraine. Deploying all three of their battalions simultaneously will likely reduce formations’ longer term capacity to regenerate combat power after operations,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.