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Putin Has a Problem: Time Is Running Out for Russia’s Military in Ukraine

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Image by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

The war for Russia in Ukraine is going from bad to worse: The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east took the world, and especially Russia, by surprise. In just five days, the Ukrainian forces managed to liberate more territory than the Russian military had captured in five months.

As the Ukrainian offensive gathered steam, the Russian forces were routed, with many units simply abandoning their posts and equipment and making a run for it.

The Russian Military is Bleeding in Ukraine 

In the past six days of fighting, or when the Ukrainian counteroffensive started, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has claimed to have killed 4,000 Russian troops, destroyed or captured 77 tanks, 133 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 84 artillery pieces, 15 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, 8 anti-aircraft systems, six fighter, attack, or transport aircraft, 6 helicopters, 26 unmanned aerial systems, 7 cruise missiles, 8 pieces of special equipment, such as bridging material, and 170 vehicles and fuel tanks.

Some estimates put the cost of the Russian materiel casualties from the Ukrainian counteroffensive at an astounding $700 million, just shy of the $675 million that the U.S. sent to Ukraine as part of its latest security aid package.

One thing is clear: the Russian military can’t sustain the current rate of losses and still conduct combined arms offensive operations in Ukraine. Russian commanders on three different fronts are fighting for precious reinforcements, but only few, if any, are getting them. The whole Russian campaign displays an unenviable lack of strategic coordination.

My Kingdom for Some Reserves! 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin advisers are faced with a strategic dilemma with potentially dire consequences for their ill-thought incursion into Ukraine. Where they commit the remaining Russian reserves will prove critical to the trajectory of the war. Making things worse for the Kremlin is the fact that the Ukrainians seem eager and able to take advantage of any vulnerabilities that Putin’s decision creates.

For example, if the Russian dictator opts to reinforce the east and hold back the Ukrainian counteroffensive there, the Ukrainian forces in the south will have an easier job advancing toward Kherson.

On the other hand, if Putin and his advisers decide to commit their reserves to the south—which is more likely since that is where they have been sending their best troops over the past few weeks in an attempt to deal with the Ukrainian offensive, and any relocation, which means concentration of troops, is a prime target for Ukrainian long-range strikes—the Ukrainian forces in the east could push even further and jeopardize the Russian positions in the Donbas.

Ukraine

Russian T-90M tank. Image Credit: Twitter.

To make matters worse, the Russian military continues to suffer from force generation issues, and any additional manpower isn’t easy to come by. Putin continues to avoid calling a mass mobilization to avoid domestic backlash, further complicating the situation and the prospects of the Russian campaign in Ukraine.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive 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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. DS

    September 13, 2022 at 8:00 am

    Let me raise an issue I haven’t seen discussed. What if Russia’s nukes don’t work, just like so many other elements of their military? There seems to be an assumption that Russia has all these nuclear bombs that they could use if they want, and only politics holds them back. But a nuclear bomb is a complicated thing. It takes dozens of Ph.D.-level experts to make them work. Does anything about the way Russia’s military is run make us think they have crack expert teams sitting around the clock on top of that job? Most of the top scientists left Russia for the West long ago, in a huge brain drain.

    The problem, of course, if that even if 90% fail, even one working is devastating. But it does change the risk assessment.

  2. xheavy

    September 13, 2022 at 8:28 am

    Much more is on the line for Russia at this point.

    They broke into a Nation’s House and trashed the place. Then get into the process of being destroyed and survivors tossed out with many being killed on the way off the property.

    Putin is in a sort of trap. He on one hand howls for a holy war against Ukraine etc… and on the other does not have the balls to mobilize his Nation properly.

    At the rate things are going, Ukraine will toss Russia back out and they gained fuckall. There will be a great loss among Russians when they realize that the last 6 months blood, resources, treasure and all sorts of heavy lifting is moot. Wasted. Poof. Gone.

    And half the RU military revealed to be junk.

    Putin will certainly be tossed from Power. Who gets it next will depend on what the mob wants. Total destruction of UKRAINE, a end to NATO and all sorts of lists of things deferred since the fall of the Berlin Wall. (Whoopsie…)

    OR…

    Go home, meekly go back to work harvesting a bit of gas, cut wood and other things the Europeans now demand for winter so that Russia will not starve or be without money. Ukraine will gain so very much as they replace their broken stuff.

    This war has certainly for good ended the Soviet Era Weaponry and so on. Thats over. Whats next is a new sort of arms race as everyone builds what they now know works. And junk the rest.

    The way Putin is doing nothing endangers Russia as a valid State in the World today. In other words the smallest of Nations will turn Russia into a economic Vassal for a few Euros.

    This Ukraine war has been a waste. What Putin does with it from here on out will decide for generations Russia’s Future. Good or bad. If any at all.

    Europe and USA? We will be fine. As long we do not get woke or any infectious political crap that destroys small unit cohesion in future combat, whatever it might be.

  3. Froike

    September 13, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    If The Russians are smart, and want to save what’s left of their Country, Putin has to be taken out. If Putin loses The War, Russia will be forced to pay Billions in compensation. Their economy is tanking and the sanctions will only increase as long as they continue The War.
    I don’t envy their position.

  4. CPT K

    September 13, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    The Russians are smart, and their elites on all spectrums of the political spectrum believe that Ukraine in NATO is intolerable. The internal criticism of Putin is coming from those who wish to do more and raise the ante there. President Obama’s own ambassador commented on how all strata of Russian educated and economic elites recognize that the situation for Russia, should Ukraine ever be in NATO, would be impermissible and a direct existential threat to Russian capacity for self-defense. In my estimation, I don’t think I’d see it differently if I had by chance been born in some village in the Urals and grown into a Russian officer instead of growing up here in the United States and becoming an officer in the United States’ armed forces. I’d view it—Ukraine falling under American/NATO sway—as an existential threat to be avoided even at high risk and full scale war. I believe, based on this, that the most likely reaction from Russia (whether Putin himself remains in power or is replaced is immaterial) will be to escalate as far as needed to prevent an existential threat to their own security. Whether this would stop at the use of nukes below the horizon (as an EMP) or in the use of tactical nukes (expressly stated within the Russian General Staff Doctrine when losing conventionally) is a question of method, not direction. I don’t see any plausible exit for Russia short of reducing Ukraine entirely (unless Ukraine sues for peace combined with an American guarantee that Ukraine won’t be admitted to NATO unless and until Russia is equally admitted). This again brings me back to the lack of consideration by U.S. planners at the highest levels of secondary and tertiary consequences of compelling Russia to make this unilateral invasion—forcing their committal to an anti-American Sino-Indo-Russo alliance (with the backing of the BRICs) to destroy the West’s ability to intervene in the future in such matters. This they will do through primarily economic means—as I forecast accurately in February with my prediction Putin would require payment for petroleum product/gas in Rubles (thus forcing the West to defend the Russian economy)—including and focused upon breaking the USD’s position as Global Reserve Currency. If this is successful (and in excess of 80% of the world’s population resides in countries aligned against our sanction regimen), the trillions of dollars exported during our monetary expansionist period of the last few decades and exchanged for real goods abroad (imported cheap into the U.S.) will not be used by foreign powers (outside of the West, some 15% of the global population), and these dollars will flow back into the domestic economy, massively raising our inflation and crippling our trade.

    That is what I would do if I were Russia; and I fear that this IS what they will do when faced with the alternative of total defeat and inability to defend Russian borders.

  5. Jhgff jhgc

    September 14, 2022 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks Poutine for your help
    No kill

  6. Andrew P

    September 15, 2022 at 11:49 pm

    I think Russia has only one option left – if they can’t raise the armies and produce the ammo they need, or use their air power because their planes get shot down, then they must use nuclear weapons – massively. And as to whether their nukes work, I’m sure enough of them will work. We won’t know about the ones that don’t explode. If even 1 out of 10 works, that is enough, since Russia has plenty to use.

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