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How Putin Broke the Back of the Russian Military in Ukraine

Su-25. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Su-25. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Soviet Union found itself in a military quagmire in Afghanistan that lasted a decade, while the United States later was caught up in a “forever” war in the same land for nearly 20 years. However, in neither situation did the Soviets nor Americans actually find themselves defeated and forced to retreat. Both simply withdrew their respective forces.

Today, the situation in Ukraine is considerably different, and Russian losses have been so significant that some believe Ukraine has the ability to force out the invader. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday morning that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was now “significant potential” to drive back Russian forces as the Kremlin’s offensive in the eastern Donbas region slows.

Change of Plan

Russia was forced to change its tactics after it attempted to capture key western cities, notably Kyiv, which was stopped earlier this spring. The Kremlin refocused its efforts in the Donbas, but now it appears that even there, it is meeting fierce resistance and setbacks.

“I think they’re about to run out of steam. I think our assessment is that the Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower material over the next few weeks,” Richard Moore, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) known as MI6, said on Thursday during an address at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. “They will have to pause in some way, and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back.”

Moore further suggested that recent Russian gains were “tiny” and that with the influx of western-supplied weapons, Ukraine may be able to press the advantage should Russia pause. The recent arrival of a dozen U.S.-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) has helped blunt the Russian offensive and stabilize the front lines in the eastern Donbas. Yet, concern remains that those western arms are slow to arrive and that without the weapons Ukraine can’t press its advantage.

Russia has claimed that it has destroyed four of the systems over the past month, but on Thursday, American officials said all of the systems remained intact.

Counter Attacks Coming

The Ukrainian military has been gearing up for a broader counteroffensive to regain territory along its southern coast that was seized by Russia in the early days of the invasion. WSJ reported that as part of preparations this week, Ukrainian forces struck a strategic bridge linking Russian-occupied Kherson with other Russian-held areas in the south.

On Friday, the Ukrainian Army claimed to have carried out attacks on five Russian strongholds, along with two ammo depots, on the southern front.

Russia’s forces have fortified their positions in anticipation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and officials in Kyiv expect this next stage of the conflict to be the bloodiest yet.

Invasion Recognized as Genocide

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators presented a draft resolution to recognize Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide. President Zelensky hailed it as the first result of first lady Olena Zelenska’s visit to the U.S. The senators introduced the resolution shortly after Ms. Zelenska delivered an address to Congress.

U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chair of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, led Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in introducing the resolution.

The resolution stated that Russia’s actions in Ukraine, including forced deportation to Russia and the targeted killing of Ukrainian civilians, constitute genocide against the people of Ukraine.

“There is no question that what Russia is doing in Ukraine is a genocide,” said Risch. “If you could walk the streets of Kyiv, Irpin and Hostomel like I did last month, and listen to the stories of what the Russian soldiers have done, this is a genocide. The international community is documenting the many Russian abuses that constitute war crimes across Ukraine. It’s time the United States and the world recognize it as such.”

The resolution further condemned Russia for committing acts of genocide against the people of Ukraine; calls on the United States, along with NATO and EU allies, to support the government of Ukraine to prevent further acts of Russian genocide against the Ukrainian people; and supports tribunals and international criminal investigations to hold Russian political leaders and military personnel accountable for a war of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Moscow has denied that it has targeted civilians, and since launching its invasion has described it as a “special military operation” to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine.

A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.