Recently, Ukrainian forces have been seen successfully retaking several of their occupied territories. While Putin’s success in annexing four key regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation last week is more telling, the overall picture of disaster in the war is stark.
A few days ago, Putin announced in a speech that the deployment of reserve troops could change the dynamics of the battlefield in Ukraine. But analysts believe he is in for a setback as Ukraine’s counter-offensive advances.
A recent Washington Post analysis says four regions of Ukraine that have recently held referendums have attempted to distract from the dark battlefield image by threatening to annex four regions with Russia and use nuclear weapons.
But those widely publicized political maneuvers of Moscow did not see the light of reality in the Ukraine war. Instead, Russia’s forces are disorganized and poorly led.
Military analysts at least agree that 300,000 Russian troops in reserve will not bring Putin much success on the battlefield. It remains to be seen whether such thinking by Putin can bring Moscow long-term stability on the battlefield.
The impact of the new troops depends in part on whether they can be trained effectively and how the Russian military organizes and deploys them.
‘People are not beans,’ says Frederick Kagan, senior fellow and director of the Critical-Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. Units are not units except on a map. If you take a bunch of angry, disillusioned, scared, untrained people, arm them and put them into a fighting force, you don’t have soldiers.’
Kagan also said Putin must first focus on restoring a military’s basic combat capabilities and re-equipping badly battered units at scale, which is difficult to say the least.
How much territory the Russians will lose before reinforcements are not entirely in Moscow’s hands. Because Ukraine has been resisting the Russians on two major fronts for more than a month. However, it is not certain how long the forces of Ukraine will be able to sustain this push.
‘Knowing when to stop is one of the hardest things,’ says Christopher Doherty, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Like you’ve made this huge profit, stretched all your logistical lines and a lot of people are fighting till the end. Winning and being aggressive gives you a psychological boost, but everybody runs out of steam at some point.’
As seen in recent times, Ukraine is maintaining its momentum. They have just recaptured the town of Lyman and are advancing deeper into the occupied Luhansk region. Simultaneously, the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south increased, with forces advancing from the Dnieper River towards Kherson.
Where and when the Ukrainian counteroffensive finally stops will depend on weapons and ammunition. Most of these are coming from the US.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced an additional $625 million in aid to Ukraine, including four more Humerus rocket launchers, 16 155-mm howitzers and 75,000 155-mm artillery rounds. Ukraine has asked for long-range rockets and tanks but so far they have not received them. According to the White House, the United States has pledged $16.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.
Russia has warned of disrupting arms flows if the US and its allies continue to arm Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the amount of American weapons supplied to Kiev had reached a ‘dangerous limit’.
Frustration about Moscow’s position on the battlefield has spread among the Russian public, primarily through the Telegram channel, but also sometimes on tightly controlled state television.
Russian military blogger Maxim Fomin said in a video uploaded to Telegram on Tuesday that the situation facing Russian forces is not good, to put it mildly. Russia does not have sufficient forces on the battlefield to decisively resolve the Ukrainian question.
Expressing concern about the draft soldiers, he said that they will be sent to the front in many cases. But they are not getting proper training. You can fight unprepared people, but it will cost you dearly.
Andrei Marochko, a Russian-backed militia officer in Luhansk, told Russia’s state television show 60 Minutes that the NATO-backed Ukrainians were operating with superior battlefield intelligence capabilities. They literally watch our movements online, satellites in our fortress structures in real time. It gives them some special advantage and makes their chances of success much higher than ours.’
He also said that the Russian side had fewer forces than the Ukrainians in several places.
There has been little sign of any resolution to the major problems that have dogged the Russian military since the invasion began. For months they faced difficulties in conducting combined ground and air attacks.
In more than seven months of war, no commander of the Russian campaign has appeared in public. Recent reports suggest Putin is personally meddling in battlefield decisions. Hardliners within Russia have publicly attacked the country’s generals for making poor decisions.
‘They gave people a reason to pay attention to what was happening on the battlefield,’ said Sam Green, professor of Russian politics at King’s College London. When you are not being sent there, you can get the news from the television and the television will not tell you much. Now suddenly it’s important to you.’
Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corporation, said there is little reliable public information about how Russia plans to train and deploy draftees. It’s too quick to say exactly what kind of impact this might have. They may also be placed in the front row so that it appears that there are many troops in the fleet.