Ministry of Defense: Russian regime shows no signs of weakening

Russia's internal, domestic politics is displaying signs of a militant faction gaining influence, one which actively seeks confrontation with the west, Ministry of Defense adviser Igor Schvede said Friday. The regime shows no signs of weakening, as the war in Ukraine enters its eleventh month, Schvede added.

While western sanctions have hit Russia's revenue sources, the Kremlin is adept in finding new sources, Schvede added, noting that existing sanctions must certainly be continued, and tightened.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Schvede said: "Up to now, these sanctions have not had an impact on political decisions. /.../ In domestic politics, there are more and more signs of a faction that is more militant and looking for a sharper confrontation with the West, [including figures] such as [private security firm] Wagner's chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and [Chechen warlord] Ramzan Kadyrov, is gaining more and more influence."

"The regime shows no signs of weakening. Even if Putin were to fall, Russia's strategic goals would not change," Schvede went on.

According to Schvede, this means that Russia will be likely to seek confrontation with the West even more, bringing with it the risk of Russian military miscalculation. 

Looking for a conflict with NATO, Estonia's eastern neighbor could also consider the Baltic States as the alliance's weakest link, meaning it is here that they might try to demonstrate their position to NATO, and make the western powers face a dilemma and difficult decisions, he said.

Russia has still not changed its strategic goals and wants to alter the current rules-based world order, and restore its sphere of influence policy. Victory for Ukraine is therefore critically important for Estonia and the western nations, and everything must therefore be done to help Ukraine, Schvede continued.

"It would be premature to declare that Russia has strategically failed in this war. If it emerges from the war with even the slightest territorial gain, then its aggression will have succeeded. A message would then have been sent to the whole world, that changing borders by force is permissible," Schvede, continued, reminding listeners that a fifth of Ukraine is still under Russian occupation.

While war weariness can be seen in the West, a ceasefire now would only serve Russia's interests, Schvede warned. "Russia would use any truce to prepare unmolested for a new offensive. This makes it crucial that Ukraine retains the initiative, and the aggressor does not get the slightest space in which to breathe."

While Russia's losses so far have been "insane" – totaling nearly 100,000 soldiers and a vast amount of military equipment – it still has no shortage of personnel, materiel and ammunition, the adviser continued.

As of mid-November, Russia had lost approximately 40 percent of its tanks and 20 percent of its armored vehicles, yet that still leaves nearly 10,000 tanks and approximately 36,000 armored vehicles intact and in its inventory. 

"While this is not the most modern tech, and it is possible that only a third may be usable, this is still a significant force," Schvede said.

Additionally, the first wave of mobilization has been concluded, and a total of 300,000 people have already been sent, or are about to be sent, to the front, which means that Russia currently has 200,000 more soldiers in Ukraine than it had when it launched its offensive in February, Schvede noted.

It is also conceivable that a second wave of mobilization will be carried out in the first months of 2023 and if this happens, the effects will be seen in the frontline in late spring or summer, he added.

Given the current intensity of attacks in Russia, precision ammunition is likely to last at least until the second half of next year, Schvede continued. "It is believed that Russia will be able to come up with something more, despite the sanctions, and it is forecast that it will also receive missiles from Iran."

As for unguided, standard ammunition, the Russian military has around a two-year's supply, he said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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