For about two months, Russia’s attack fronts in Ukraine have grinded along. Many talk of a stalemate while some detached outsiders, such as Henry Kissinger, foresee Ukraine needing to concede territory that Russia captured in the first week of the war.I don’t think so. Russia is likely to lose, and the reasons are many. Let’s take a look at these in detail.
- Strategic mistakes
Russian expansionist Vladimir Putin appears completely dysfunctional and seems to be making every mistake possible. In fact, no military commander since Tsar Nicolas II has been worse than Putin. He can’t win and he is unlikely to stay in power for long.
Increasingly isolated, Putin is showing poor judgment by placing strong reliance on his worst advisers, Nikolai Patrushev and Yuri Kovalchuk, who appear even more removed from reality than Putin himself.
Putin promotes people irrespective of their rationality, just as Stalin once did. He remains determined to conquer the whole of Ukraine, which remains equally beyond his capacity.
Putin has managed the military and its command into almost total disarray. The war’s early commander, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has been pushed to the sidelines together with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Several generals then took command, but they have now been ousted. Then came General Aleksandr Dvornikov, who has also been fired. Putin’s command of chaos is therefore unlikely to yield meaningful results.
Both Russia and Ukraine are highly corrupt, but Russia far more so. In 2021, Transparency International ranked Ukraine122 out of 180 countries, while Russia was ranked 136. Thanks to the exposure of corruption scandals in Ukraine, decentralization, and a strong civil society, Ukraine’s corruption problem is gradually being addressed. Putin’s personal kleptocracy on the other hand has devastated Russia’s military forces.
Italy and the US have now seized five of Putin’s private superyachts, each worth between $100 million and $700 million. A man who steals that much for himself cannot do much good for his country.
- Disillusionment in the field
Perhaps most shocking is that Putin has been unable to formulate a credible goal for his war in Ukraine. Therefore, his soldiers have nothing to fight for but meager pay and out of fear. They are not fighting for their fatherland but for Putin’s obvious lies.
As a result, Putin has significant problems gathering soldiers. He has not carried out mass mobilization and is unlikely to do so, because that would hit the sons of the middle class in the big cities, who would be politicized against Putin. Few contract soldiers or mercenaries want to fight. Meanwhile at least a dozen military registration offices have been set on fire and there are steady reports of small-scale mutinies.
Ukraine has recorded more than 30,000 Russian soldiers killed, 12 generals and dozens of colonels. These horrendous losses must be demoralizing for the Russian forces and the big question is when a major mutiny will take place. Have such feelings among the Russian commanders led to the present near standstill in the Donbas?
We have never seen the Russian security forces as split and leaking as they are now. The military seem to be in near chaos with the killings, sackings and arrests of generals. Putin appears to be successfully destroying the Russian army. The FSB seems torn apart and partially positioned against Putin, as does the Foreign Intelligence Agency (SVR). Such divisions usually precede coups.
- Putin’s health
Clearly, Putin is not healthy. Multiple rumors claim that he is being treated for cancer. The many seemingly fake undated events with Putin after May 9 suggest that he is out of operation for long periods at a time. Two years of extreme isolation due to Covid-19 and presumably security concerns have taken their toll.
The Western sanctions that are only getting tougher have started to bite and they will hurt the economy even more as Russia runs out of inputs for all kinds of production. The standard forecasts are a GDP decline of 10-15% this year. I would guess 15-20%. At some point, the Russian people may protest.
In particular, extensive Western sanctions seem to have stopped most of Russian arms production and the Russians are fighting primarily with their volume of old Soviet artillery.
- Ukraine’s motivated forces
Unlike Russia, Ukraine has an unlimited number of patriotic and motivated soldiers, though many need more training. Ukrainian generals and commanders have excelled as nobody had anticipated.
What Ukraine needs to succeed
Ukraine’s greatest need is for heavy artillery and precision long-distance missiles. The U.S. has at last started providing Ukraine with such weapons, but it is vital that these are delivered in sufficient volumes and quickly. These weapons can and should turn the war.
It is incomprehensible how the U.S. and other Western nations can insist on Ukrainian forces not attacking the scores of bases in Russia, from which the Russians bomb Ukraine. Ukraine must have the full right to defend itself against its attacker. The United Nations Charter (Article 51) states:
“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”
In short, the U.S. and other Western countries cannot demand that Ukraine reneges on its rights according to the UN Charter.
My conclusion is that if Ukraine receives sufficient U.S. modern artillery, it will be enough to turn the war around and Ukraine can start chasing the immoral and demoralized Russian soldiers out of Ukraine.
Anders Åslund is a senior fellow at the Stockholm Free World Forum and author of “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.
(c)KYIV POST 2022