The war in Ukraine is a disaster for Moscow and has shattered once-lofty perceptions of the Russian military, which so far has been “getting their ass handed to them” on the battlefield, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” the South Carolina Republican said the visual of Russia’s May 9 Victory Day celebrations will stand in stark contrast to the reality on the ground in Ukraine. (Victory Day commemorates Russia’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II.)
“Here’s what I think will happen: If we stick with Ukraine, they’re not going to give up. Over time, the Russian people will turn on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Mr. Graham said. “This war is a disaster. You’ll see a parade Monday, but the parade doesn’t reflect the Russian military. You see the Russian military getting their ass handed to them on the battlefield in Ukraine.”
Indeed, the performance of Russian forces so far in Ukraine has been unimpressive. Russia has sustained much higher-than-expected casualties and has lost hundreds of tanks and other vehicles, as Ukrainians take full advantage of American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles and other weaponry provided by the West.
Ukrainian forces last month even sank a key Russian warship, dealing a huge psychological blow to the Russian military.
After weeks of failure early in the war, Russian forces abandoned their campaign to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and have instead turned their attention to the disputed eastern Donbas region. Russian troops have made modest gains in the Donbas and appear to be on the verge of capturing the strategically important port city of Mariupol.
But foreign military analysts say the Russian military remains plagued by a host of systemic problems that limit their chances for success. Chief among them is the high casualty rate among senior military offers and the apparent inability of lower-ranking service members to replace them.
“Difficulties in command and control, as well as faltering Russian performance on the front line, have drawn senior commanders onto the battlefield, likely to take personal leadership of operations. Russian commanders rarely delegate operational authority to their subordinates, who in turn do not gain vital leadership experience,” the British Ministry of Defense said Sunday in its daily intelligence update on the Ukraine conflict.
“However, it is not clear that the presence of these commanders on the battlefield has led to a refined or altered operational concept. Flawed planning assumptions and failures in sustainment continue to undermine Russian progress,” the defense ministry said. “The forward deployment of commanders has exposed them to significant risk, leading to disproportionately high losses of Russian officers in this conflict. This has resulted in a force that is slow to respond to setbacks and unable to alter its approach on the battlefield. These issues are likely to endure given the relative lack of operational command experience of the officers promoted in place of those killed.”