September 26, 2022

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Russia's 'strategic defeat' in Ukraine threatens Putin's regime

Russia’s ‘strategic defeat’ in Ukraine threatens Putin’s regime

  • Experts say the Russian army will have to be rebuilt as a result of the war in Ukraine.
  • One expert told Insider that the war “dramatically” changed perceptions of Russia’s military might.
  • Putin’s regime may now be in danger as well, facing rare examples of opposition.

Over the nearly two decades that Russian President Vladimir Putin was in power, he devoted a lot of time and money to building and modernizing the Russian military. In the process, Putin gained a reputation as a force to be reckoned with and was widely seen as one of the most powerful leaders in the world.

Russian experts and military analysts told Insider that the war in Ukraine has decimated the Russian military that Putin spent years building, while raising questions about his grip on power.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a strategic defeat. So far the Kremlin has not been able to achieve its goals at the strategic level and incurred significant costs. The Russian army will have to be rebuilt,” George Barros, a military analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), told Insider.

“The traditional ground force of the Land Army that the Kremlin has spent the past two decades creating — seeking to create a modern army — has been greatly deteriorated and largely destroyed in the past six months of the war in Ukraine,” Barros added. “It is very correct to say that the conventional Russian ground forces suffered a major defeat in Ukraine. They will have to be rebuilt.”

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Although it is difficult to confirm the death toll as the fighting continues, US military estimates last month put the number of Russian dead up to 80,000. Among the dead were senior officers, Including the generals.

It would likely take “a generation to reconfigure” Russian officers, Barros said, which “will certainly have a long-term strategic impact on the net assessment of the traditional Russian military.”

Although Putin has so far avoided declaring a general mobilization to make up for heavy troop losses in Ukraine, the Russian leader in August ordered the military to Increased ranks by 137000 Starting in 2023 ambitious goal Some see it as unattainable And one of the many signs that the Russian military is being emptied by the war in Ukraine.

a Recent intelligence update From the British Ministry of Defense said that the elite of the 1st Guards Tank Army and other units of the Western Military District suffered heavy losses, indicating that “the Russian conventional force designed to counter NATO has been severely weakened.” “It is likely that it will take years for Russia to rebuild this capacity,” the ministry added.

The Russian military has also seen damage, destruction, and abandonment of staggering amounts of equipment in Ukraine. It is estimated that thousands of armored vehicles have been lost since the war began in late February. These losses forced the Russian army to resort to withdrawing old Soviet-era equipment, Like the T-62 . tanksout of storage.

A destroyed Russian main battle tank rusts next to the main highway to the city on May 20, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine

A destroyed Russian main battle tank rusts next to the main highway leading into the city on May 20, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images


Not as strong as we thought

The Russian army is generally classified as The second most powerful country in the world Just overtaken by the United States.

Robert Ortong, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University whose research focuses on Russia and Ukraine, told Insider that Russia’s disastrous performance in the Ukraine war “will dramatically change the assessment of Russian military power.”

He said the Russian military was “not as strong as we thought”.

A few years ago, Russia appeared to be winning the war in Syria, and Ortung said that “Russian strategy appeared to be superior to Western strategy in the Middle East,” providing a major boost to Moscow’s propaganda about its military might.

A great deal of their ability to make their propaganda effective, Ortung said, depended on their actual prowess on the battlefield, which seemed so powerful in a place like Syria. “Now, essentially unable to achieve their goals, unable to show that there is complementarity between the men who are fighting on the ground, the air force, and other units—it will surely wipe them out. The fact that they have not won on the field will make their propaganda much less effective.”

Before the invasion began, Russia was expected to invade Kyiv within days. But the Ukrainian forces, with the help of military equipment supplied by the West, faced much tougher resistance than Moscow had expected. Russian forces failed to capture the Ukrainian capital and instead turned their attention to the eastern Donbass region. Although there has been war in that region between Kremlin-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces since 2014 — the same year that Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea — Russia has made only incremental progress in its campaign to control Donbass.

Ukraine launched a counterattack in recent days, pushing the Russian forces back and reclaiming a staggering swathe of territory in the south and east of the country. The Ukrainian government said its forces have recaptured about 3,000 square miles in September so far.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the head of the Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 14, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with the head of the Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 14, 2022.

GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images


I will not write off Putin now

Between the devastating troop losses and now the run of Russian forces, Putin is in an increasingly precarious position.

“Power is the only source of Putin’s legitimacy,” Abbas Galiamov, a former Putin speechwriter, He told the New York Times,. “And in a situation that turns out to be powerless, his legitimacy will begin to regress towards zero.” Galiamov told the newspaper that if Ukrainian forces “continue to actively destroy the Russian army as they are now”, they can “accelerate” the elites’ calls to choose Putin’s successor.

Some Russia watchers now believe the Putin regime is in jeopardy. Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia, on Wednesday chirp“Putin has exaggerated in Ukraine. It is the beginning of the end for Putinism in Russia.”

Domestic Russian lawmakers are calling for Putin to be removed from power in Ukraine, which could lead to the deadly risk of criticizing a leader known for ruthlessly crushing dissent. Even the Kremlin advocates in the Russian state media they struggle To continue to provide positive assessments of how the war was going.

“You’re beginning to see grumbling – both on television and at the local grassroots level – about resentment of his leadership and his realization that the war would not go Russia’s favor,” Ortung said. Taken together, Ortung said, “they raise question marks about [Putin’s] image among people and his ability to exercise that image of competence.”

Despite these challenges, and the damage to perceptions of Russia’s power, Ortung is not convinced that this is the end of Putin.

“I will not write off Putin now,” he said. “A lot of people, myself included, have predicted that he will leave power or that his demise is imminent. But he has a lot of strengths – the main strength is that he has eliminated any potential replacement that has a good reputation.”

“It is not clear who will replace him and all the people around him – they depend on him being in power for their own strength. They have an interest in him staying there. He has survived more than 22 years of fighting in a very difficult environment, which is the Russian political landscape,” he added. Ortung, stressing that “most elites think they might be better off with Putin there.”