Early Wednesday, Russian forces were filmed leaving the occupied territory of Ossetia in Georgia, heading for the Ukrainian front in a rumbling convoy of tanks and other heavy armour.
the picturesposted several times on social media and from different points of view, seems to confirm that after three weeks of heavy fighting, Moscow is seeking to strengthen its forces in Ukraine by bringing in new troops from elsewhere.
Some took this as a sign of Russia’s failing attack. But it also raises the question of whether the current round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine is nothing more than a ploy to regroup and buy time while reinforcements arrive.
Even before the invasion, figures such as retired General David Petraeus, the architect of the 2007-2008 US push into Iraq, argued that Russia lacked the forces it needed to counter it. -insurrection. The question today is whether Moscow even has the troops it needs to take the territory it seeks.
“Russia is increasingly looking to generate additional troops to reinforce and replace its personnel losses in Ukraine,” the UK Ministry of Defense said this week. To do this, Moscow is redeploying forces from as far away as Russia’s “Eastern Military District, the Pacific Fleet and Armenia.” It also increasingly seeks to exploit irregular sources such as private military companies, Syrian mercenaries and others,” he said.
The United States has estimated that around 6,000 Russian soldiers have died so far; Ukrainians think that figure is more than double. By contrast, Moscow said on March 2 that 498 people had died. In armed conflicts, the number of wounded is usually several times higher than the number of dead.
Whatever the actual number of dead and wounded, the original Russian invasion force, some 200,000 strong, has so far struggled to maintain overstretched supply lines and encircle and then take the cities.
“The Russians are desperately short of manpower,” said Jack Watling, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute. “They advanced along several axes and divided their forces. If they were operating at a high tempo and had been able to do what they planned, that would make sense, but given the low motivation of the troops, what they’ve actually managed to do is set themselves up in several urban battles independent – and in each of these they lack the mass to storm the cities they besiege.
Although Russian troops continued to advance in the south and southeast, Ukrainian counterattacks slowed Russia’s attempted pincer movement on kyiv.
Instead, Russian forces increased the pace of artillery barrages – as they have done on other cities, such as Kharkiv.
Chris Donnelly, an adviser to four former NATO secretaries general on Soviet and Russian military tactics, argues that Russia’s labor issues go back decades.
He said Russian military planners have long been aware of the strains of using a conscript army and the low morale troops tend to have as a result.
Russia’s extensive use of artillery platforms and emphasis on technologies to automate processes such as loading shells into tanks are designed to reduce reliance on young men in First line.
“For years, in a sense, the Russians tried to build an army without soldiers – mainly because they were aware of the vulnerability of their own troops and their will to fight,” Donnelly said, while noting that the invasion of Ukraine revealed flaws in this approach. “There was a serious miscalculation from the point of view of the general staff.”
Analysts say troops brought in from Russia’s Eastern Military District are generally considered less effective than better-prepared units from the Western Military District.
The use of foreign fighters, such as the 16,000 Syrians who the Russian Defense Ministry says are ready to fight in Ukraine, also offers only a partial solution.
Fighters from tropical Africa and/or accustomed to fighting in the desert regions of the Middle East may be less effective on the Ukrainian battlefield.
“None of their combat experience will carry over. They don’t know the terrain and have no strong connection or commitment to the cause,” Watling said.
Watling added: “There’s an element here where they [the Russians] cynically think it’s going to be bloody and grim and there’s going to be a domestic political issue with casualties – so if it’s not the Russians going back in body bags, so much better for Putin.
Nonetheless, some analysts argue that invading forces often experience delays only to reorganize to overcome logistical shortcomings.
Anthony King, chair of war studies at the University of Warwick, suggests the stammering talks between Ukraine and Russia could be an indicator that Moscow is looking to buy time to revitalize its onslaught. “My personal opinion is that it’s just the Russians chaining the Ukrainians,” he said.
“If Russia loses a lot more troops, it may not be a cynical ploy. But at this point, it looks like a “tactical pause” so Russian forces can regroup, reinforce and get their logistics in order.
Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Riga