The Moment Putin’s Ticking Time Bomb of Failure Could Explode

·4 min read
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty

As Russian forces enter the third month of war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin only has enough supplies and equipment to last him another 12 months on the war effort, according to Ukrainian intelligence.

And by the end of the year, Putin’s military’s juices will be running out, Ukraine’s top military spy, Kyrylo Budanov, said in a newly published interview.

“The active phase should go to the maximum decline by the end of the year,” Budanov told local newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda. “Russia has 12 months of resources to wage a normal war.”

The Russian military has been losing a large amount of personnel and equipment in the last several months as Putin has launched assault after assault on the Ukrainian people with countless logistics problems. As of Tuesday, Russian forces had lost 29,350 troops, 1,302 tanks, 3,194 armored vehicles, and 606 artillery systems, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The war effort has been haphazard at best in several departments: Earlier this month, Russian soldiers were pleading with their mothers to send them money so they could buy better equipment, according to phone calls the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) intercepted. And Russian troops have been abandoning their equipment, sabotaging their equipment, and complaining about their first-aid kits, from the get-go.

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But that exact prediction might not play out entirely, said Ronald Marks, a former special assistant to the assistant director of central intelligence for military affairs at the CIA, noting that Moscow still appears capable of buying and resupplying for the war effort.

“No one ever lost a war because they ran out of ammunition. If he can't build it, he'll buy it somewhere,” Marks said. “There’s a sufficient amount of oil money still.”

And yet, it’s not clear how long Putin's forces will last, and given that he has experienced so many losses already, the war might be headed into a longer-term phase in which Putin has his sights set on inflicting more pain on Ukrainians than he already has, Marks said. In a sign that Putin is likely to dig in and try to make Ukrainians bleed, Russia has already started bringing in barrel bomb experts from Syria who could help the Russian military inflict much more damage on civilians, according to a Guardian report.

“When you're not winning—and they're not—the one thing that you’re going to do is inflict pain,” Marks told The Daily Beast, referring to the barrel bombs. “It's a way of sort of ramping up a level and also terrorizing the population.”

The U.S. intelligence community has already predicted that Russia’s war effort in Ukraine has entered a protracted phase.

The director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Scott Berrier, told lawmakers earlier this month that the war had reached a “stalemate” phase, indicating that the two sides may be at loggerheads for some time.

And although Ukraine has insisted that it wants to regain all the territory Russia has taken, the matchup between Ukraine and Russia might be headed towards a sort of armistice, à la North and South Korea, which are technically still at war, Marks said.

“I think we’re going for a Korean War stalemate. I don’t think the Ukrainians have sufficient resources, even if we give it to them all, to push them back out of Donbas. I don’t think the Russians have the wherewithal to take all of Ukraine,” Marks told The Daily Beast. “I think what you’re going to end up with at some point is some form of armistice that’s going to settle on a border in which the Russians have still a… portion of Ukraine.”

For now, though, Putin’s exact game plan is not entirely clear, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

"In terms of what his overall strategy is, that's unknown," Austin told reporters Monday.

Budanov, Ukraine’s top military intelligence official, has one thing straight: Ukraine plans to take back all of the land that Russia has taken or annexed in recent years, including Crimea.

“It will end in one thing: the return of our occupied territories,” Budanov said.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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