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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Putin Has a Problem: Is Russia’s New Ukraine Offensive Already Failing?

M777 Howitzers
U.S. Marines with Golf Battery, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, currently attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Australian Defence Forces with 109th Battery, 4th Regiment, fire an M777 155 mm Howitzer during Exercise Talisman Sabre 21 on Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia, July 17, 2021. Australian and U.S. Forces combine biennually for Talisman Sabre, a month-long multi-domain exercise that strengthens allied and partner capabilities to respond to the full range of Indo-Pacific security concerts. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ujian Gosun)

On day 145 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fighting in the Donbas is picking up as the Russian military has restarted major offensive operations in the area. However, despite the end of the operational pause, the Russian military hasn’t made any worthwhile advances.

Wagner Group Mercenaries in Ukraine 

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on Russian private military companies, particularly the infamous Wagner Group, their current role in the conflict and how they have the potential to be a disruptive force in the Russian campaign in Ukraine.

“Russia has used private military company Wagner to reinforce front-line forces and to mitigate manning shortfalls and casualties,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

The British Military Intelligence added that the Russian private military company has been very important in recent Russian operations in the Donbas, stating that “Wagner has almost certainly played a central role in recent fighting, including the capture of Popasna and Lysyschansk.”

But to attract more men, Wagner Group and other private military companies have had to lower their standards and accept pretty much anyone who is willing to join and deploy to the warzone, including old men and even convicts, who have been granted their freedom in exchange for combat service in Ukraine.

“This fighting has inflicted heavy casualties on the group. Wagner are lowering recruitment standards, hiring convicts and formerly blacklisted individuals. Very limited training is made available to new recruits. This will highly likely impact on the future operational effectiveness of the group and will reduce its value as a prop to the regular Russian forces,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.

But not all is rosy between the Wagner Group and the Russian military. As everyone else in Russia, the two entities are vying for influence with Putin, and whichever has the most patronage at a particular moment is favored. But that can lead to conflicts between the two sides to the overall detriment of effective combat operations.

“Wagner head, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, has recently been made a Hero of the Russian Federation for Wagner’s performance in Luhansk. This, at a time when a number of very senior Russian military commanders are being replaced, is likely to exacerbate grievances between the military and Wagner. It is also likely to impact negatively on Russian military morale,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

Wagner Group is a private military company with extremely close ties to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin, mainly through Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Wagner Group and retired Russian military intelligence officer.

Prigozhin has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for his involvement in the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Wanger Group first popped up on the stage during the initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when it played an important role in the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Before the war, the Wagner Group mainly recruited former military personnel and deployed them in hot spots around the world in order to support or advance Russian foreign policy interests. The private military company mainly specializes in direct action, combat advising, and foreign internal defense. But what makes it ideal for Putin and the Kremlin is that the Wagner Group doesn’t come with a “national” tag and can be used in a way that offers the Russian leader and the Kremlin plausible deniability on the world stage.

Russian Casualties 

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 38,450 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 220 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 188 attack and transport helicopters, 1,687 tanks, 849 artillery pieces, 3,886 armored personnel carriers, 248 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 15 boats and cutters, 2,753 vehicles and fuel tanks, 113 anti-aircraft batteries, 690 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 70 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 166 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

Drone Attack in Ukraine

Drone from Ukraine dropping a bomb on what appears to be a Russian solider.

To make up for the losses it has been suffering in the war, the Russian military is now relying on a covert mobilization that the Kremlin has started over the past few weeks. According to the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), Russian army cadets organizations are opening up thousands of new positions.

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.

25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Vladimir

    July 18, 2022 at 10:45 am

    Is Maria Sharapova a man or a woman? Hard to tell.

    • abraham lincoln

      July 18, 2022 at 11:35 am

      Most Russian women are men.

      • foike

        July 18, 2022 at 12:16 pm

        C’mon Abe, You know that not’s True. They may have a lot of Hair, but I assure You Hair under The Arm Pits and on Legs is very Sexy to Russian Men. Besides, what did you expect for Ten Bucks a Throw?

  2. Goran

    July 18, 2022 at 11:43 am

    I am still confused by how much damage the Russian military is inflicting on the infrastructure they are trying to take control of. What is the use of population centers that will lose 75% of their population right off the bat, with the rest staying just because they have nowhere to go? Is that goal, gaining control of dead towns worth having the wall go up towards Berlin and Paris? Is getting piles of rubble with dead bodies underneath worth having Finland join NATO? I just don’t understand the rationale behind it.

    • magneto

      July 18, 2022 at 6:39 pm

      The Russian rationale, is an addiction to imperial conquest of territory. This is confirmed by the fact that Russia has the largest country in the world. With such an extraordinarily large country there is surely no need to acquire more territory from other countries. Go back some time ago and you had Russia annexing Finland briefly from Sweden, then Stalin invading for some Finnish territory. Then Putin invading Moldova, Georgia, Grozny, Ukraine, two invasions. The

      As regards the rubble towns and cities, I doubt Putin has any plan for reconstitution, and is only concerned with obtained glory for acquisition of territory.

      I don’t go with the assumption that russians are eager to be cannon fodder, as Putin has attempted to recruit from anywhere but the large cities of Moscow and St.Petersburg. That is why he has been reluctant to describe the conflict as a war.If war was declared Putin would reluctantly be required to bring in compulsory conscription.

      The Ukraine casualty figures for Russia certainly support the call off for the initial invasion of 140,000. Russian casualties 153,000, leaving may be 88,000 of the fresh 100,000 still in the fight. Why else would Russia be trying to recruit criminals from jail?

      • Stefan Stackhouse

        July 19, 2022 at 3:59 pm

        I know of people who keep buying the grocery item each week, forgetting that they already have plenty. It keeps piling up, and they just keep buying it. The Russians are a lot like that when it comes to land.

    • sarsfield

      July 19, 2022 at 2:26 pm

      at height of the cold war RUS occupied E GER, POL, CZECH, the Balkans and Baltics, plus many of the Stans to the south and southeast. This gave mother RUS a buffer zone between it and the west. RUS filled it w/advanced air defense systems – really a fully integrated air defense system in an arc from Tallin all the way to Baku and east. They lost it all and want some back.

    • Dgrat

      July 19, 2022 at 10:23 pm

      It’s brutally straight forward. It is to either turn Ukraine into a Russian vassal or a failed state.

      Broken and depopulated cities is one way to do that.

      An economically prosperous Ukraine that views itself as part of Europe instead of the Russian sphere of influence. Is a direct threat to the Kremlin because it shows the Russian people there is an alternative to rule by corrupt oligarchs and their friends.

      That is more dangerous to Putin than any NATO army.

  3. Jim

    July 18, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    There seem to be two points to the article. One, is to suggest there is infighting between the private Wagner military companies and the formal Russian military. Two, that the Russians are exhausting their military with unsustainable losses.

    In my opinion, no matter how close the financier(s) of the Wagner groups are to Putin, he will give the Russian military a higher priority than “private” military companies. Likely any differences will be worked out in private discussions between the various parties. (That is beyond my knowledge.)

    The second point regarding “unsustainable losses,” accepting the author’s statements as true for the sake of argument, Russia is using only 20% of their military capability for this ‘Special Military Operation’ (invasion force), but know this is an existential exercise, as far as the Russians are concerned.

    Given the existential nature of the war to
    Russia and their past willingness to put everything they have into a war of survival (WWII), they will “do what it takes” to win, from their perspective.

    After taking the author’s statements as true for the above discussion, I need to state for the record that I do not accept the author’s statements about the level of Russian casualties. He cites his own prior articles, which I checked and he relies on Ukrainian claims of Russian casualties (which in my opinion are inflated for morale boosting and propaganda purposes.) And the author relies on British military estimates of Russian losses, which again, in my opinion, are inflated for the same purposes as the Ukrainian claims. Britain is obviously not a neutral observer, they have a “dog in this fight,” so their estimates should be taken with a large grain of salt… unless you are a cheerleader for Ukraine.

    Undeniable facts on the ground are the only real reliable “tale of the tape” … how does the map change over time.

    And, so far, the Russians are winning the “war of the maps” and even the author acknowledges that is the case.

    • Gary Jacobs

      July 18, 2022 at 7:16 pm

      Jim, Some fair points in your post, but you have forgotten or ignored quite a few things. We did, after all, witness the Russians being forced to withdraw from Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, etc. Their supply lines are shorter in the Donbas, and they finally concentrated their fire to take a small area. I dont hear anything convincing me they would be able to replicate that elsewhere. Even if you dont take UK or Ukrainian numbers for Russian casualties at face value, the OSINT companies have done a good job of geolocating and tagging Russian tank loses so that they are not double counted, and those loses are massive.

      Bottom line [which I quote myself to others about]: it looks like a measured, fighting strategic retreat in the east for Ukraine. Could even be a rope-a-dope. If they pin down Russian forces there, and play to Putin’s ego and his need to take Donbas to distract from actual strategy, that’s a solid plan for Ukraine under the circumstances. The real prize for Ukraine is in the south. Ukraine has already made gains toward Kherson, and are only a few miles outside the city. Taking Kherson back would be big for them to have another Black Sea port. If they can get into Nova Kharkova a few miles east and cut off the mouth of the Crimean Canal from the Dnipro River… that’s a strategic win, and something with which to negotiate to turn the water tap to Crimea back on later in exchange for further Russian withdrawal. If they get to Melitopol, then they have cut off the land route from Crimea to Donbas all together.

      Only time will tell how this plays out. Could go a number of different ways. There is a need for differing opinions to game it out.

      • Jim

        July 19, 2022 at 9:10 am

        Regarding Kiev, there was no battle for Kiev. The Russians were hoping (gambling) for a coup de main, with the whole government collapsing. That didn’t happen. It was a twofer, pinning down Ukrainian forces in western Ukraine was also part of it.

        When the Russians engaged in tactical withdrawals after their opening gambit failed, the Ukrainians inflicted losses on Russia.

        (Having long convoys on roads is the perfect setup for hand-held stand-off javelins and other hand-held weapons… Russia paid the price in men & material.)

        It was also a type of blitzkrieg, but failed.

        Ukraine has not had one large combined arms maneuver offensive, rather, they have relied on static defense and they have got pounded.

        • Stefan Stackhouse

          July 19, 2022 at 4:02 pm

          Maybe “klutzkreig” would be a better term for it.

    • gladRocks

      July 19, 2022 at 8:33 am

      Existential? You don’t think Ukraine considers this invasion an actual existential threat that it’s entire population is actually willing to confront vs. Putin needing to pay mercenaries?

      • Jim

        July 19, 2022 at 1:06 pm

        Yes, it’s existential for Ukraine.

        Even more so for Ukraine than Russia. For Ukraine the threat to the existence of their nation-state is staring them in the face, it’s palpable.

        For Russia, it’s more a long-term existential threat because if they lose this war & invasion of Ukraine, those who want to dismember Russia will continue their push and will fully weaponize Ukraine as a launch pad for further action over time.

        In my opinion, on reconsidered reflection, it isn’t an immediate existential threat for Russia, but I’ll suggest the Russians think it is existential from their point of view… and their point of view was what I was presenting… although, I’ll admit, I don’t know what is going on in the mind of Putin or their leadership circle… or what the Russian People think of this war on the level of existential survival.

        • Dmitriy

          July 19, 2022 at 1:50 pm

          Good afternoon!
          I am Russian and from my point of view the situation looks like the USA crossed the red lines of security and Russia reacted to it. The United States also reacted to the crossing of the red lines of the USSR when trying to place nuclear weapons in Cuba.
          One can imagine how the United States would react if pro-Chinese forces came to power in Canada as a result of the coup, which would declare English banned even in everyday communication, completely financially dependent on China, etc.
          The intersection of these red lines is a situation where a threat of survival is created over the state. Then the laws go to hell and the state reacts to it.
          Bottom line – I think the United States is guilty of the situation that has arisen, which has provided Russia with an alternative – or a gradual strangulation with sanctions, and I will remind you that until February 24, sanctions were imposed against Russia almost every two weeks for and without reason, and, for example, Nord Stream-2 was frozen until February 24.
          Or an attempt to escape – an invasion of Ukraine. The USA outplayed Russia for a long time and now Russia is trying not to lose. Briefly so.

          • Jim

            July 19, 2022 at 4:19 pm

            Thank you for your contribution.

            The U. S. did cross Russia’s Red Lines and told Russia to “pound sand” diplomatically and now Ukraine is paying the price, a sad thing, when you consider how close the two countries have been by history & culture and totally unnecessary.

  4. magneto

    July 18, 2022 at 6:51 pm

    If the russians used only 20% of their military capability, this would imply their invasion army of 280,000, sent 56,000 troops to ukraine, yet numerous articles mention 140,000 as the initial invasion force.
    A later article quoted the russians as sending 120 battle groups of average 800 each btg. This was an additional 96,000 troops added to the original 140,000, meaning a total commitment of 236,000. There will be only 44,000 troops guarding Russia’s vulnerable borders. Finally the attempt at recruiting criminal from jails shows desperation in troop numbers.

    • Jim

      July 19, 2022 at 8:52 am

      While I don’t always put a lot of stock in Wikipedia, I put this out from them, anyway:

      Russian Federation Military, one million active duty personnel.

      That’s pretty easy to find out and there are other sources. Given the tone of the rest of your post I can only conclude you are just spewing propaganda.

      Par for the course for most Ukrainian cheerleaders.

  5. Invitado 2

    July 18, 2022 at 9:56 pm

    Te mintieron de eso no hay duda. Investiga en la wikipedia el número de soldados rusos activos: “768,000 soldados, sin contar con las fuerzas especiales”. No creas en la publicidad ucraniana o inglesa de muertos y heridos porque no son confiables, ellos no saben distinguir entre tropas rusas, tropas del Dombas autóctonas o mercenarios como Warner.

  6. Mortenhj

    July 19, 2022 at 3:42 am

    I guess all young russian boys living comportably home at mom and dad in their boy caves with their Playstation just can’t wait to go to Ukraine and risk life and limbs……

  7. Ďuro

    July 19, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    100% hoax

  8. Olga

    July 19, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    Is Putin a moron aswell as a cretin does the tiny man actually believe his own lies his self ? Yes he must if he keeps showing ridiculous propaganda on TV and expects the majority of Russians to believe this crap in the 21 St century is beyond comprehension in today’s environment of the Internet and vpn mobile phone networks.As well as being a murdering evil yellow livered COWARD putin is a joke all his lies are pathetic the little tiny poor excuse for a man is a total laughing stock of the whole world and his puppet ass licker lavrov is equally as bad ( The GrusomeFucking Twosome)

  9. Paul

    July 19, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    If Puking Spewtin is so concerned about Russian speaking citizens in Ukraine ?? viva Ukraine why is he bombing them in all the cities that they redide in. RUSSIA RISE UP NOW MAKE PUTIN DISAPPEAR NOW.

  10. James Bond

    July 19, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    Hogwash.

  11. Givi

    July 19, 2022 at 4:44 pm

    Anyone who repeats the dishonest Ukrainian MoD casualty estimates uncritically, like the author, is a hack and a moron. These are the same folks saying they were gonna run out of shells in May, June, and early July.

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