How Badly Is The Ukraine War Going For Vladimir Putin?

Russia has not made any substantial frontline gains in a while – but that's not the only place the war is playing out.
Vladimir Putin waged war against Ukraine nine months ago
Vladimir Putin waged war against Ukraine nine months ago
MIKHAIL METZEL via Getty Images

Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has just entered its ninth month and there’s no sign of any kind of breakthrough for Moscow.

On the frontline, the home front and the world stage, it’s clear invading Russia’s European neighbour is only weakening Putin’s reputation.

While the war is far from over, here’s a look at what the Russian president already seems to have lost.

How many troops has Putin lost?

According to the Ukrainian defence ministry, approximately 88,380 Russian personnel have been eliminated throughout the course of the war.

Ukraine also estimates that Moscow has lost 2,911 tanks, 5,866 armoured combat vehicles and 16 warships.

The US previously estimated that Russia and Ukraine have both lost around 100,000 troops.

But, as the war has been fought on Ukrainian soil, Russia’s basic infrastructure seems – at the moment – to remain intact.

What is happening on the battlefront?

Russia recently withdrew from the only Ukrainian regional capital it had conquered throughout the course of the war, Kherson.

While the forces still hold some Ukrainian land to the east and the south (including the annexed peninsula Crimea), Kyiv’s autumn counteroffensive meant Moscow lost most of its gains.

Russian forces in Ukraine have also stopped deploying as Battalion Tactical Groups, according to the latest from the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

This is a tactic which has “played a major part in Russian military doctrine for the last 10 years”. It meant temporary battalions bring troops and equipment from different units for certain operations.

However, this concept’s “intrinsic weaknesses” have been exposed in the Ukraine war. According to the MoD, Russia’s distribution of artillery is questionable and there is a lack of concentrated firepower hindering the army.

The Royal United Services Institute claim the tactical units are “one of the most important determinants of victory” for Russian forces.

Winter is likely to bring fighting on the frontline to a stop until temperatures rise again in Spring.

In its place, Russia has been launching missile attacks all over Ukraine, trying to take out its energy infrastructure in a move the MoD dubbed “desperate” in October.

While this is having a significant impact on Ukrainian life, Kyiv remains adamant that this will not force them into surrender.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly also said: “We have seen Vladimir Putin attempting to weaponise energy supplies right from the very start of this conflict.

“This targeting of civilian infrastructure of energy infrastructure is obviously designed to try and freeze Ukrainians into submission.”

Russia has been pushed back towards the border in recent months
Russia has been pushed back towards the border in recent months
PA GraphicsPress Association Images

What about the impact on trade?

Moscow has already tried to leverage its energy exports with Europe throughout the war, trying to persuade Kyiv’s allies to part ways with Ukraine.

In fact, Russia has lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever”, according to the International Energy Agency last month.

International relations worsened?

Relations with Ukraine have understandably been completely severed – along with all of Ukraine’s allies, including Nato members and the EU.

The European parliament voted a non-binding resolution to designate Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” last week.

And as time goes on, the number of international leaders looking to distance themselves from Moscow grows.

Pope Francis, who previously refrained from naming Russia as the aggressor in the war, told Jesuit magazine America: “When I speak about Ukraine, I speak about the cruelty because I have much information about the cruelty of the troops that come in.”

Russia has since filed a formal protest to the Vatican, with the country’s ambassador to the Vatican telling state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Monday: “I expressed indignation at such insinuations.”

And it seems India and China are distancing themselves too, with both countries making it clear they had no desire for the war to turn nuclear.

On top of that, a summit at the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – Russia’s collective military alliance – revealed underlying tensions between Russia and its closest allies.

Hundreds of demonstrators showed their frustration with the Ukrainian conflict with Putin arrived in Armenia, carrying signs which read “no to the war” – along with Ukrainian and US flags.

What about domestic issues?

There have been reports of people fleeing Russia to avoid partial mobilisation emerging in recent months.

According to independent Russian human rights project OVD-Info, there have been 19,403 detentions at protests against war and mobilisation since war broke out in February.

And now, The Daily Beast’s columnist Julia Davis believes even “top propagandists and their friends in high places” are starting to fear that Putin cannot win the war.

Davis’ translation claims that the head of RT media outlet, Margarita Simonyan, said: ”We are bombing everyday. God knows, we didn’t want this. No one wanted this.

″I know that the leadership didn’t want this either.”

Simonyan supposedly added that there are people who are afraid “of The Hague” – where people are tried for war crimes – and concluded: “You should be afraid to lose, to be humiliated, and be afraid to betray your people.”

What might happen next?

There is no indication that Russia will give up completely, but there is speculation that Moscow is shifting its red lines.

Professor in the department of war studies at King’s College London, Michael Clarke, told Wall Street Journal, that there’s a “degree of desperation” in Putin’s behaviour now, meaning he knows he had to “settle in for the long haul”.

The Russian president appears to have dialled back on the threatening rhetoric over his nuclear arsenal too, claiming Russia has no plan to use such weapons in late October.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said last week that Russia is not looking for regime change in Kyiv – even though Moscow claimed it wanted to “denazify” Ukraine when it first launched its attack.

However, the Kremlin did cancel nuclear talks with the US recently.

Russia claims it had “no other choice” than to cancel the negotiations with Washington over a nuclear weapons control treaty, which were due to start in Cairo on Tuesday.

According to Russian state-run news agencies, Washington wanted to talk about resuming inspections, but the Kremlin’s priorities are elsewhere.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also predicted that “the terrorists are planning new strikes” and that Russia will not “calm down” until it runs out of missiles.


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