Expert: Ukrainian offensive may mean change in Russian political rhetoric
Russia is no longer capable of forming new high-quality units, and should Ukraine manage to keep up their current offensive, Russia's political rhetoric may start to change beginning next week as well, security expert Rainer Saks said on Vikerraadio's "Vikerhommik" on Tuesday morning.
Saks said that the Battle of Kharkiv was the first in which Russian forces were clearly forced by Ukrainian pressure to retreat.
"This is significant in the sense that Ukraine has now taken initiative and driven Russian forces out all the way to the Russian border," he said.
He also noted that Ukrainian forces have moved even further east, and are threatening the Russians' rear, which has grouped around the city of Izyum.
"Russian forces have been completely deadlocked and are stopped around Izyum right now," he explained. "It seems as though this is because Ukrainian units have so effectively attacked the positions of the Russians that haven't even managed to go on the attack over the past 14 days. This is also a very significant achievement."
According to the security expert, Russian units have been very active along a narrow strip located by the city of Severodonetsk.
"Fierce battles are underway there," he said. "This is the last major center in Luhansk Oblast still in the hands of Ukrainian units. Russian units likely won't manage to conquer it, but if they did manage, even that wouldn't change the course of the war as significantly anymore, as Russian units elsewhere have already lost their initiative. And in that case, the taking of Severodonetsk would only be a very minor local success."
Russia avoiding large-scale mobilization
Saks believes that the people of Russia have finally understood that this war has not been successful.
"They may not understand how badly things have gone for Russia," he said. "The number of soldiers currently classified as missing in action (MIA) is very high. The search for them has certainly found some degree of resonance in Russia already. And I believe that Russian powers likewise don't want a large-scale mobilization precisely because that would carry a very significant risk of causing panic in society."
He noted that one option would certainly be to conduct a covert mobilization of previously trained professional soldiers who have since retired.
"There may be some 20,000 of them, and all of them certainly won't come to fight," Saks said. "But current signs indicate that Russian units have received some kind of emergency supplement [of troops], but these numbers are so low that they aren't even covering losses."
Nonetheless, it cannot be ruled out that Russia may be able to manage to drum up more men somewhere along the Russian periphery.
"The bigger issue is integrating them into front-line units," he said. "There are no confirmations thus far that Russia has been capable of mobilizing and forming new, high-quality units."
Saks said that when it comes to Ukraine, it can be noted that they are clearly trying to avoid losses to their own army, which is why Ukrainian operations have been rather cautious in nature.
"Ukraine's quality is so much better already that they're managing to hold their loss balance at the point where we can call their activity battles of exhaustion," he said. "Losses on the Russian side are so very much greater than on the Ukrainian side. Ukraine's losses are nonetheless significantly high, and this is certainly very painful for Ukrainian society."
Armistice before August
Saks suggested that Russia would need an armistice in their war in Ukraine before August already. He believes both sides are trying to demonstrate that they are prepared for a longer war, but in reality, neither side is interested in waging a long war.
"Ukraine is no doubt more prepared for it," he added.
The security expert noted that if Russia is losing one battalion tactical group per day, then the war will end at the point where they have lost some one third of them.
Should the Ukrainian troops manage to evacuate from the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Russia will certainly frame it as a major win and the end of the Azov Regiment, he said. It would be a win for Ukraine as well, he continued, because should these troops survive, they can be sued in the future as well. Should they die, however, it would be a major tragedy for Ukraine.
Should Ukraine have the strength to manage to keep up their current offensive next week, Russia's political rhetoric may start to change as well, Saks added.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla