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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. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
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.