Over the past 618 days of war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s army has been crippled but not defeated, a geopolitical expert has warned.
George Barros, a senior analyst on the Russia and Ukraine conflict at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), suggested this isn’t the time for Western leaders to become complacent when it comes to providing military aid and support to war-torn Ukraine.
Appearing on the Telegraph’s Ukraine: The Latest podcast, Mr Barros stated: “The Russian military is not defeated. They have been crippled, they have been definitely degraded to a substantial effect, but they are far from defeated.”
Over the past months of conflict, the Russian army has shown to have several issues and has been hit by the economic sanctions enforced by the West following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
But, Mr Barros added, Russia has a massive industry and manpower that can be poured into the war effort – something Ukraine, without the support of its European and US allies, would lack.
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Appearing in the podcast episode released on November 1, he said: “The Russian military, despite all of its problems – and it’s very broken in a variety of ways – they still manage to be able to cobble together enough forces for continued offensive operations like the one we saw in Avdiivka, through their national pseudo-mobilisation campaign.”
Ukraine claims Russia has lost more than 301,000 troops over the past 21 months of war, as well as thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery.
While these numbers are difficult to verify given neither Russia nor Ukraine shares its losses on the battlefield, observers such as the ISW have noticed the Russian army has been drained of men and equipment thanks to Ukraine’s war efforts.
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However, reinforcements could be provided to the Russian army within months, as Mr Barros expects Putin to declare a mass mobilisation after the presidential elections to take place in March next year.
He said: “It is very clear the Russians need that and they can do it, I just think politically Putin will stave that off [until] after his re-election.”
Sanctions are also been partially evaded and deals are being forged with dangerous partners to overcome supply issues, the expert continued as he explained: “The Russian defence industrial base continues to refurbish and produce tanks, although in a small number, they have managed to be able to use sanctions evasive schemes to their trading partners to be able to source the pieces and parts required for actually restoring their pre-war missile and precision-guided ammunition production, they are on track to exceed it moving forward into the next year.
“They have managed also to find creative ways to be able to get access to ammunition, the North Korean artillery shells are one such example.”
Mr Barros stressed again Russians are “not defeated” and “are building up, bulking up”, aware that “time is on the Russian side”.
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He added: “Frankly, that’s true, they have a larger defence industrial base they can leverage against Ukraine, their political will hasn’t been decisively defeated and I don’t think it will be, the key thing is that the Ukrainians have the capability to defeat the Russians, because the Russian intent is not going to change.”
Mr Barros’ warning comes as Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed the support for his country is “not weakening” despite the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Nevertheless, war fatigue is starting to emerge across the Western world, with Slovakia’s new Prime Minister Robert Fico pledging during his recent electoral campaign that got him elected to stop providing Ukraine with military aid.
US President Joe Biden is also struggling to get Congress to approve the billions worth of support he wants to deliver to the war-torn nation.
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