Norway And Estonia Agree: Russia Isn’t Going To End Its War On Ukraine

David AxeForbes Staff

I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.Follow

Feb 13, 2023,12:15pm EST

The intelligence agencies of Estonia and Norway in recent days both have released strategic reports. Both came to the same conclusions about the war in Ukraine.

Yes, Russian forces have performed very badly in the first 11 months of the wider fighting. Yes, the Russians have suffered staggering casualties.

But no, that doesn’t mean the Kremlin is about to order a retreat. Every indication is that the Russian army will draft more men, recondition more old tanks … and keep fighting. Indefinitely.

And there’s no one in Russia who can stop it.

“The Russia-Ukraine war will continue in 2023, given that Russia has so far lacked sincere interest in peace talks, as these would not ensure the fulfillment of the Kremlin’s strategic objectives,” Estonian intelligence reported.

“Russia believes that time is on its side in the war in Ukraine,” the Estonians added. “The Kremlin’s mobilized reserves are being trained, lost military equipment is being replaced by weaponry stored in the mobilization depots and, at the same time, Russia is systematically destroying Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure, hoping to break the Ukrainians’ will to defend.”

History is clear about the prospects for a Ukrainian collapse. Bombarding cities almost never breaks the will of the people in those cities. Indeed, urban blitzes usually boost the morale of civilians living under the indiscriminate attacks. Their will to resist only grows.

So Ukraine is no more likely to capitulate than Russia is. And that means, barring a decisive military move by either side, the war probably will grind on. And on. And on. “The Kremlin’s ambition of controlling Ukraine remains unchanged,” Norwegian intelligence explained.

As many as 270,000 Russians have been killed or wounded in the first 11 months of the wider war on Ukraine. The Ukrainians have destroyed or captured 9,000 Russian tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery and trucks. That’s more heavy equipment than most armies have in their entire inventories.

While these losses have degraded Russia’s combat power, they haven’t crippled it. It’s true that the cohort of fit, military-age men in Russia isn’t huge, but the Kremlin seems content to draft unfitmiddle-age men, instead—even if these men make lackluster soldiers. 

Russian president Vladimir Putin studiously has taken all the legal steps necessary to expand the conscription criteria. Russian mercenary firm The Wagner Group for its part has focused on recruiting convicts from Russia’s prisons.

Russia eventually could run out of men. But it won’t happen soon. Nor will Russia run out of tanks and artillery any time soon. “Russia has large reserve stocks of military equipment, especially of older types,” the Norwegians reported. “Much of this will now be reactivated.”

Old equipment isn’t always good equipment, of course. We already are seeing clear evidence of technological devolution in the Russian armed forces. The initial batches of reactivated war-reserve T-80 and T-72 tanks are arriving at the front with outdated 1PN96MT-02 thermal gunner’s sights that are roughly equivalent to Western sights … from the 1970s.

At the same time Russian forces are degrading, Ukrainian forces are upgrading—with Western-made artillery and tanks and, potentially, warplanes. These opposite trends could tilt the battlefield advantage toward Ukraine. More Russians could die just maintaining Russia’s current positions in Ukraine—to say nothing of expanding Moscow’s territorial control.

Ukraine’s own casualties and equipment losses clearly have been much lighter than Russia’s have been. We can’t say with any confidence how many Ukrainian troops have been hurt or killed, but Ukraine’s vehicle losses—3,000 armored vehicles, guns and trucks—are a third of Russia’s. It stands to reason that Ukrainian human casualties might also be a third of Russia’s. That is, around 90,000 killed and wounded.

Expect Ukraine’s loss rate—in weapons and people—to remain steady or even slow, and Russia’s loss rate to increase. But deepening losses alone probably won’t compel Russia voluntarily to quit Ukraine, the Estonian analysts stressed.

If Ukrainian forces do manage to rout Russian forces and eject them from Ukraine, Putin might lose credibility inside the Kremlin. Regime-change could follow. But even that might mean only a temporary reprieve for Ukraine.

“A sudden power transition in Russia is possible in case a military defeat in Ukraine becomes inevitable,” the Estonians wrote. “The likelihood of this scenario, however, is very low.”

But let’s say there is a coup. It’s a truism in extremist organizations—terror groups, drug cartels, the Russian regime—that eliminating one leader often encourages a more extreme leader to take his place. If the Ukraine fiasco leads to Putin’s fall, it’s entirely possible someone worse than Putin will take over. In that case, a renewed war is likely.

“In the coming years, the current regime led by Putin, or a slightly modified but equally undemocratic and coercive updated version, will most likely continue to hold power in Russia,” the Estonian analysts warned.

So adjust your expectations. Russia’s wider war on Ukraine is likely to rage on … for years.Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here. Send me a secure tip.

David AxeFollow

I’m a journalist, author and filmmaker based in Columbia, South Carolina.


  1. No, this war will not drag on for years. A horde of fat, old, skinny, stupid, drunk, scared, criminal, unwilling, drugged-up, sick, insane goofballs is not an army. Giving them rudimentary training, half rotten clothes and rusty weapons, and sending them into human wave attacks, planned and organized by primates, is not a force to be reckoned with.
    Once Ukraine gets long-range capabilities and Western tanks (and maybe planes), this war will quickly come to an end.

    • It could drag on. It all depends on Ukraine’s biggest backer.

      “So adjust your expectations. Russia’s wider war on Ukraine is likely to rage on … for years.”

      That is the intention of the kremlin murder gang. With no concern about losses, no viable opposition, only sham elections and a fearful, cowed population brainwashed by putinazi TV, which runs on the Orwell 1984 model, they have no worries whatsoever.
      Thanks to the total failure of sanctions, their economy is fine. The allies have even after one year failed to transfer any putinazi cash to Ukraine.
      Putler’s vermin were defeated at Kyiv, thanks to the defenders, plus Javelins and NLAWS. They have been held in check in Donbas and suffered significant defeats, thanks to HIMARS, modern howitzers and the brilliance of the ZSU.
      The failure of the allies to provide tanks, modern fighters, Reapers, Gray Eagles and long range fires means that the putinazis fancy their chances.

      Robin Horsfall today wrote:

      “The current rate of Russian deaths is about 700 per day, that is one killed every two minutes.”

      In order to achieve the desired rout of the orcs, that kill rate needs to quadruple in order to achieve victory. Material and ammo supplies therefore need to go up similarly.

      It is intolerable that civilians should continue to be deliberately murdered by savages, so the allies must step up their game. No country since WW2 other than Russia has deliberately sought to rape, torture and murder civilians of their neighbours in industrial quantities.

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