The war in Ukraine goes on as the Russian leadership is making its calculations for the next phases of the conflict.
On day 295 of the war, the Russian military is creating the conditions for surviving the winter without any other major losses.
The Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Meanwhile, the Russian forces continue to suffer extremely heavy casualties on the ground. In the past 48 hours alone, the Russian forces have lost close to 1,400 troops killed and approximately twice to thrice that number wounded.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 96,590 Russian troops (and wounded approximately twice to thrice that number), destroyed 281 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 264 attack and transport helicopters, 2,975 tanks, 1,943 artillery pieces, 5,946 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 406 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,563 vehicles and fuel tanks, 211 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,644 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 172 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 592 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
The Russian Strategic Calculus
Despite a partial mobilization of the reserves, which should have produced approximately 300,000 troops, the Russian forces on the frontlines continue to suffer severe manpower shortages.
Coupled with the heavy casualties that the Russian forces suffer daily—according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, Russia lost more than 15,000 troops killed in November—Moscow lacks the short-term capability to undertake large-scale offensive operations.
The extensive defensive fortifications that the Russian forces have been constructing all across the battlefield, including in the Crimean Peninsula, suggest that Moscow understands its offensive shortcomings.
Putin and his Kremlin advisors want to survive the winter and make sure that the Russian forces don’t suffer any other humiliating defeats on the battlefield.
But it remains to be seen if the Russian forces will manage to both the incoming Ukrainian counteroffensives once the ground hardens again and also create mobile reserves to counterattack in the future.
Putin and the State of the War
Earlier in the week, the Kremlin confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t be holding his traditional end-of-the-year press conference during which he answers questions from journalists for hours.
The British Military Intelligence assessed that the press conference was canceled most likely because of the increasingly vocal anti-war sentiment in Russian society.
The end-of-the-year press conference has become an important event in Russian politics, with Putin often using it as an opportunity to bolster his integrity in the eyes of the Russian people.
The war in Ukraine and the repeated setbacks of the Russian forces on the ground against an adversary that was supposed to be inferior have upset Russian society. The tens of thousands of losses, moreover, have angered many people, as has the partial mobilization that called up about 300,000 reservists.
“Kremlin officials are almost certainly extremely sensitive about the possibility that any event attended by Putin could be hijacked by unsanctioned discussion about the ‘special military operation,’” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate on the war.
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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.