The Ukrainian counteroffensive continues to unfold along the contact line with heavy fighting around Bakhmut, in the Donbas, and in southern Ukraine.
The Russian forces are putting up a skillful resistance and have managed to stall the Ukrainian forces, only allowing for a limited advance.
There are, however, some structural flaws that could undermine the Russian military’s defense.
The Russian Defense and its Structural Flaws
Despite the extensive fortifications that have prevented a Ukrainian operational breakthrough, the Russian defensive lines aren’t impenetrable. Indeed, there are some “structural flaws,” as CIA Director William Burns said on Friday, that the Ukrainians can take advantage of over time to breach Moscow’s defenses.
More specifically, these structural flaws refer to the pervasive morale issues plaguing the Russian forces as well as the serious issue of force generation.
The average Russian soldier fighting in Ukraine likely understands that this is a war without a serious meaning. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims before the invasion that the “special military operation” would be cleansing Ukraine from Nazism and that NATO was ready to attack Russia has collapsed. The Russian troops, as well as Russian society, increasingly realize that this is a war of territorial aggression. A soldier will fight better if he knows that he is fighting a just war compared to a war of aggression with shaky moral grounds.
A second structural flaw that can undermine the Russian defense is force generation. At different points during the conflict, the Russian military has struggled with troop shortages. Last September, Putin was forced to order a partial mobilization that generated about 300,000 reservists. Much of that force, however, has been squandered in the failed large-scale offensive in the spring. Fewer troops to go around—especially experienced ones—means a less effective defensive effort in the long term. But force generation issues would also affect the Kremlin’s offensive potential—offense is much harder than defense—and thus the trajectory and duration of the war.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
On day 515 of the Russian invasion, the Russian military continues to suffer significant casualties on the ground. Over the past couple of days, the rate of Russian casualties has increased to about 600 men killed, wounded, or captured every day.
The Russian forces have also been losing a significant amount of heavy weapon systems (up to 80) every day.
This daily attrition of weapon systems is forcing the Russian military to use obsolete tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery pieces, thereby lessening its effectiveness on the battlefield.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 241,330 Russian troops, destroyed 322 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 310 attack and transport helicopters, 4,140 tanks, 4,629 artillery pieces, 8.096 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 693 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 7,159 vehicles and fuel tanks, 448 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,944 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 691 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,298 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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 Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.