As the war in Ukraine hits three weeks, Russia is in big trouble.
Thousands of soldiers have died on both sides; there are over 3.1 million Ukrainian refugees, but Russia has not achieved its goals.
Vladimir Putin’s military has not yet gained control of the capital of Kiev and has only taken over the city of Kherson. Russia is losing so many tanks and soldiers that plans are stalled as fresh bodies are shipped in like cannon fodder.
This is slaughter. It’s also not something Russia can keep up forever, for one very simple reason. It’s the same reason Germany ended up losing when they tried to invade Russia in 1943.
Russia is Running Out of Time
When Germany invaded Russia in 1943’s Operation Barbarossa, historians often refer to the harsh winter conditions as the reason for failure. The truth is a little bit different; although the brutal winter did its fair share of damage in the end.
The truth is Nazi forces made two huge mistakes. Firstly, they split their forces between Kiev and Moscow under foolish orders from Hitler.
Though secondly, and more crucially, they got stuck in muddy conditions, supply shortages, and running out of fuel on the way to take over Russia.
This essentially led to them being stranded in a hostile warzone without enough backup, supplies, and gas to keep moving.
Russia is now facing a very similar situation. The mud of Ukraine has been a disaster for their tanks and poorly-maintained vehicles; the amount of fuel they have burned through is rapidly running out.
Retired Australian General Mick Ryan says Russia has lost so many troops and Kiev is so well defended that taking it over now looks very unlikely.
Most importantly, Ryan says Russia is so low on fuel they have only ten days left to either finish this war or give up.
The latest update from the team at @TheStudyofWar on the situation in #Ukraine. The level of analysis and insight into military operations in these reports makes them one of my daily 'must read' updates. https://t.co/yfTeRlXjPY
— Major General (just retired!) Mick Ryan (@WarintheFuture) March 16, 2022
Ryan is Right
Ryan is right about the fuel supplies. Observers should not underestimate the damage Russia has done, including the horrific 726 estimated civilians killed (the actual number is likely far higher).
As Ryan explained, Russia is taking very heavy casualties. Ukraine claims to have killed over 12,000 of its troops and injured almost 40% of its initial invasion force.
Russians lost so much equipment, they can barely keep moving. The US estimates the true Russian KIA numbers at closer to 5,000, which is still a huge loss.
Ryan says the West should keep up its massive arms shipments to Ukraine and not let up pressure, but also says there is reason for optimism.
Another reason is Russia is estimated to have pushed almost half its standing army into the war in Ukraine; it will take weeks to get reinforcements.
The US only had 29% of its standing army in Iraq and Afghanistan, even at the peak of the war; having 50% committed is a huge risk and commitment.
In order to feed and power those troops, you need a lot of food and a lot of fuel.
This is almost 2 weeks with little to no progress by Russian forces in the north around Kyiv. https://t.co/9To9RX9dhX
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) March 15, 2022
Can Russia Still Win?
War is not a formula.
Russia still has the ability to take Ukraine if they can seize Mykolaiv and then besiege Odesa. However, this is looking less and less likely. Russia is rapidly running out of time.