The war in Ukraine has gutted Russia’s clandestine spetsnaz forces, and it will take Moscow years to rebuild them, according to classified U.S. assessments obtained by The Washington Post.
The finding, which has not been previously reported, is among a cache of sensitive materials leaked online through the messaging platform Discord. U.S. officials attributed their assessments to Russian commanders’ overreliance on the specialized units, which have been put to use as part of front-line infantry formations. Those formations, like the Ukrainians, have suffered massive numbers of dead and wounded.
Typically, spetsnaz personnel are assigned the sorts of stealthy, high-risk missions — including an apparent order to capture Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky — for which they receive some of the Russian military’s most advanced training. But when Moscow launched its full-scale invasion last year, senior commanders eager to seize momentum and skeptical of their conventional fighters’ prowess deviated from the norm, ordering elite forces into direct combat, according to U.S. intelligence findings and independent analysts who have closely followed spetsnaz deployments.
The rapid depletion of Russia’s commando units, observers say, shifted the war’s dynamic from the outset, severely limiting Moscow’s ability to employ clandestine tactics in support of conventional combat operations. U.S. officials believe that the staggering casualties these units have sustained will render them less effective, not only in Ukraine but also in other parts of the world where Russian forces operate, according to the assessments, which range in date from late 2022 to earlier this year. [Continue reading…]