When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the country’s nuclear forces to go on high alert last week, he looked down a long table at his defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who nodded in assent.
In his decade at the head of the Russian military, Mr. Shoigu, who has never been a professional soldier but holds the rank of general of the army, has worked to modernize and professionalize the armed forces, and build their image as an effective fighting machine and foreign-policy tool.
Victories in Crimea and Syria helped propel Mr. Shoigu and the military to the center of Mr. Putin’s Kremlin power structure, with an upper hand over the feared intelligence services that had previously been the main supporters of the Russian president, who is himself a former spy.
Russian troops’ failure to quickly seize Ukraine, however, has shown Mr. Shoigu’s changes, while real, didn’t create the fearsome fighting force he touted. Poor logistics, flawed strategy and ill-prepared troops mean any victory will be immensely costly, and an occupation hard to sustain.
Experts on the Russian military place some of the blame on Mr. Shoigu’s willingness to back Mr. Putin’s plans, even if they are unrealistic. That has meant agreeing with assumptions the Ukrainian military would quickly fold in the face of a superior force and that Russian troops would be greeted as liberators. [Continue reading…]
The Russian invasion of Ukraine will be a “total failure” and could result in “real international conflict” in the coming months, according to a whistleblower from Russia’s security service.
An anonymous report thought to be written by an analyst in the FSB said the security agency was not forewarned of the invasion of Ukraine and was unprepared to deal with the effects of crippling sanctions.
“I don’t know who came up with the ‘Ukrainian Blitzkrieg,’” they said. “‘Denazification’ and ‘demilitarisation’ are not analytical categories, because they do not have clearly defined parameters by which one can determine the level of accomplishment or non-completion of the task.”
The whistleblower said “it is simply impossible” for Russia “to complete the task now”, adding: “Russia has no way out. There are no options for a possible victory, only defeat.”
The suspected FSB agent said that even if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were killed, Russia would have little chance of occupying Ukraine.
“Even with minimum resistance from the Ukrainians we’d need over 500,000 people, not including supply and logistics workers,” they said. “And now even those who were loyal to us are against [the invasion]. Because it was planned from above, because we were told that there would be no such option, unless we were attacked.”
Moscow is recruiting Syrians skilled in urban combat to fight in Ukraine as Russia’s invasion is poised to expand deeper into cities, according to U.S. officials.
An American assessment indicates that Russia, which has been operating inside Syria since 2015, has in recent days been recruiting fighters from there, hoping their expertise in urban combat can help take Kyiv and deal a devastating blow to the Ukraine government, according to four American officials. The move points to a potential escalation of fighting in Ukraine, experts said.
It is unclear how many fighters have been identified, but some are already in Russia preparing to enter the conflict, according to one official. [Continue reading…]