Russia is no longer the dominant power in Eastern Europe

ROBERT CLARK April 21, 2022

Whatever happens, the combined efforts of the former Soviet states have destroyed the idea of Russian military preeminence.

Bolstered by the Red Army’s fearsome reputation in World War Two, many analysts believed that the Russian military was comfortably Eastern Europe’s premier military power. This conjecture is now being seriously challenged. 

Yes, Russia has a formidable nuclear arsenal, but every other aspect of its military machine – from leadership to hardware – has been severely lacking. Indeed, one could argue that Russia’s star has fallen, and that, in unison, the combined powers of many of its Eastern neighbours, including Ukraine, have put an end to the notion that Russia would ever be capable of a blitzkrieg-style takeover of its former territories. 

Following the unsuccessful assault on Kyiv, Putin is desperately searching for a hollow military victory that he can sell to the Russian people before the May 9th Victory Day parade. Incredibly, Russian losses so far in the conflict (potentially up to 20,000 killed) amount to a higher attrition rate than that suffered by the British at the Battle of the Somme. 

Putin may have declared his support for the so-called breakaway republics as a not-too-subtle casus belli days before the invasion began, but these Russian-speaking towns and villages have displayed the same stoic Ukrainian national identity as the rest of the country, in the face of growing Russian occupation and barbarism. 

Whilst Putin claims that he is helping Russian speaking Ukrainians, in fact it is the Russian speaking towns and cities, including Mariupol, and Kharkiv, which have been hardest hit, in his efforts to erase Ukraine as a modern nation state. 

Thus Putin has once more underestimated the pride and heroism of the Ukrainian people, launching his ham-fisted assault this weekend using mainly reconstituted units along a 300-mile wide front, initially concentrating their forces around Izyum, and Severodonetsk.

The support provided by other Eastern European powers has been remarkable. Further to the weapons provided by the UK and the US, Ukrainian forces have been, or soon will be, considerably bolstered by Soviet-designed T-72 tanks and BVP-1 infantry vehicles from the Czech Republic and Soviet-era S-300 air defence missile systems from the Slovakia. Poland, meanwhile, has worked tirelessly taking in millions of Ukrainian refugees, enabling the President Zelensky to focus his efforts on military strategy. 

Russian forces have seen some initial success so far in the new battle for the Donbas. Their use of air power has increased by half to include 200 sorties on Monday, and the city of Rubizhne is close to occupation with smaller villages nearby in Russian control. The Russian long-range fires and slow advance has continued. 

However, whist these minor Russian gains occur, Ukrainian defences are continuing to hold, and in war, maths is key. Russia simply lacks the numbers to seize by force from a well defended and highly motivated opponent key ground, and then in turn to hold that ground from Ukrainian counter-attacks. 

Most estimates place total Russian losses at 25-32% of their pre-invasion figure. With approximately 76 Battalion Tactical Groups (each comprising roughly 800-1,000 soldiers) left in Ukraine, there are another 22 undergoing refit with a further 12 almost combat-ineffective units tied up in Mariupol. This leaves at most 110 BTG available, in time, for the assault in the Donbas. At present its more like 80. 

Meanwhile Ukraine have at least the same amount currently in defensive positions across this new front line. An attacking force requires three times the amount of troops, at a minimum. The maths alone spells Russia’s military defeat in the Donbas.

It’s important to note too that Russia has never even exercised this many troops before under a unified command; further logistical and command problems already exposed will be further exasperated. 

This next phase of the war in Ukraine will be different: a much heavier Russian reliance on artillery, the intensity of the fighting doubling that of what came before. And double it shall, for Putin cannot afford to lose this battle, desperate to show some significant military success in time for the Victory Day celebrations. He knows that losing the Donbas is likely the only thing to change public opinion back in Russia.

So we are now entering the most critical phase of the war. But whatever happens, it seems likely that Russia will never again restore its former reputation as the strongest power in Eastern Europe. The combined efforts of Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and other former Soviet states, have made sure of that.

Robert Clark is Director of the Defence and Security Unit at Civitas. Prior to this Robert served in the British military for 13 years.


    • I know I’ve said this before but I hope Ukraine is ready to be very strict with immigration and maintaining the State ID. It is already very fashionable in Russia to say you are Ukrainian. Especially with the criminals. And I hope there aren’t many that want to come live in Ukraine too. Putin wanted a new Iron Curtain and he’s got it. He made it with his own little tiny hands.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I tend to agree with what this article says. Although I don’t have the correct numbers in troops and gear for either side, the piss poor performance of mafia land will continue. This is a decades long evolution that the cockroaches cannot correct in a mere few weeks. The new general is fighting a war deciding different from Syria. He too will fail.
      In your link, it says, “‘Russia has concentrated sufficient force that if they use it intelligently they should be able to destroy a large part of Ukraine’s forces.
      “But they said that many of the Russian units now targeting the east of Ukraine and the Donbas region had not had time to properly reconstitute after receiving a mauling in the failed advance on Kyiv.
      As a result, they were being fed into the new phase of the war in a ‘piecemeal’ fashion with limited impact, taking ‘relatively small amounts of terrain’.

      These sentences contradict each other. Feeding troops into a major battle piecemeal is never a clever idea. So far, I see no intelligent leadership during this newest phase of the war. I know, it’s still too early, but I am optimistic about this. Mafia troops will continue getting mauled.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Selected comments from Telegraph readers. The last one is an absolute belter!

    James EdwardB
    “You are seeing something else and it is only just getting attention. Eastern Europe is leading the charge in support for Ukraine with Great Britain. Biden, Macron, and the entire German political establishment are resisting as much as they dare. They want a negotiated peace which gives Putin a fat reward for his invasion just like Chamberlain in 1938. They fail to understand that Ukraine will not allow itself to be carved up by others but will in truth fight for its independence. Russian losses are far greater than the numbers state. they have lost effectively 30% of the attacking force in the first battles which is staggering losses on that basis, but in reality they have lost 50% of their fully trained combat power that was deployed around Ukraine on Feb. 1. they have lost many young officers and NCO’s who were well trained and capable of leading men in battle. They are being replaced by second tier units with little leadership at the critical levels.
    It is curious though to see how Putin wants to fight. He does not understand military coherence at all. He clearly thinks he orders men to move down a road and they do. We are witness a thugocracy trying to fight a war the way they intimidate their own citizens. Putin clearly knows nothing of history. The role of weather in Ukraine and Russia for military operations is well know to most of the world, but Putin seems to be ignorant. He ordered this attack at the peak of the spring rains when General Mud rules the battlefield. His units are forced to move on roads and are sitting ducks. Many more of his elites will be slaughtered and what then?”

    Frank Enstein the First
    “This article trudges over the same ground and reviews what we know already. And like every previous article has the same “Yes, Russia does have nuclear weapons but…” cliche.
    Until Russia is stripped of its nuclear weaponry, it always will be a nasty little spot bothering the northern hemisphere. Which means it will remain a dominant power until we can pull the rug from under it and destroy those weapons.”

    Iwona Stephenson
    “The Poles also sent 100 T-72 tanks.
    The EU — at the behest of Germany — has still got sanctions in place on Poland, bizarrely for having a judicial system that is far less politicized than Germany’s.
    Germany is scared that other Eastern European countries will start taxing German Big Business like the Poles are. Eastern Europe is a huge cash cow for Germany — not that any journalist will tell you that. Quite the opposite.”

    Simon Coulter
    “If he is forced back inside the Russian border his troops will leave scorched earth in Donbas and elsewhere.
    Let it be made plain now that all seized Russian assets are already earmarked for the reconstruction of Ukraine.”

Tristan Cutler
“How on earth does Putin think he can hold and occupy the Donbas even if he is able to inflict a military defeat on the Ukrainian forces? Surely he has seen enough to conclude that even the Russian speakers do not see the Russians as liberators. A strategic miscalculation of epic proportions that will pauperise Russia.”

    Alan Knight
    Reply to Tristan Cutler
    “Let us hope and pray that it pauperizes Russia, and that every Russian soldier who participated in it will face eternal damnation in the fires of Hell!”

    Make A Stash
    “I’m not sure why Putin is bothering with this Donbas offensive. It’s not like the Ukrainians will ever counter attack and move into Russia. He could just tell his gullible population that they won, they seem to believe anything.”

    Roy Gardiner
    “I take heart from this article. Putin must be defeated. That clearly is bloody, difficult, potentially daunting, subject to setbacks……but essential.
    All those who have so far supported Ukraine, please keep it going.
    Fight on, brave Ukraine!”

    David Livingstone
    “Drop a few spans of the Crimea Bridge without delay. If you can sink the Mockba, you can knock the hell out of a few sections of fixed infrastructure. Reduce Putin’s vanity projects to rubble (or should that be pronounced ‘rouble’)?
    Must be some kind of wordle gambit there, except both words are six letters long, not five.
    Do it Kyiv….. All those roubles converted to rubble. Tonzamoney down the Russian khazi.
    Remember Hitler’s design for a new capital for his Thousand Year Reich? Didn’t end well.”

    David Chick
    “If Ukraine gain an overall victory I’m sure they’ll be very friendly to the countries that helped them.
    Germany won’t be one of them.”


    Mike Monk
    Reply to David Chick –
    “… and deservedly so.”

    My favorite comment :

    Carpe Jugulum
    “How ironic. The Head Murdering Thief of the Russian Kleptocracy has crippled the Russian armed forces he needed to steal yet more $billions by his invasion of Ukraine.
    I interviewed murderers and thugs as a detective. The overwhelming majority weren’t terribly bright but all of them thought they were. They would raise utterly witless ‘defences’ and smirk, thinking they had just achieved checkmate. Good afternoon Mr Putin. A witless thug who has progressed in a broken system.
    He now has an armed forces of well equipped thugs. Unfortunately for him the money for maintenance has been stolen and the thugs awarded military commissions are, unsurprisingly, inept placemen of corrupt patronage and familial ‘connections’.
    Putin is finished. Surrounded by cronies rather than the capable and now an international pariah in perpetuity. He will die as a paranoid old man, hopefully following in the last steps of Ceaucescu.
    I truly hope he suffers.”

    Very well said Mr Jugulum.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. “Indeed, one could argue that Russia’s star has fallen, and that, in unison, the combined powers of many of its Eastern neighbours, including Ukraine, have put an end to the notion that Russia would ever be capable of a blitzkrieg-style takeover of its former territories.”

    This entire affair – the war and the preceding eight years – have been the West’s lowest level of achievement in this part of the world in its entire history. It has gotten – well, basically nothing right. The worst part, besides throwing Ukraine under the bus numerous times by numerous Western countries, is their total disregard of warnings from Eastern European countries.
    Alas, it is thanks to those countries that mafia land has been exposed for what it is and they are – along with the UK and US – THE main contributors of the toxic erosion of mafia land’s once so proud military.
    But, the crown of glory in all of this belongs to Ukraine!

    Liked by 3 people

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