The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on the 1st that due to the threat of being surrounded, the Russian army and the Donbas armed forces have withdrawn from Bonliman to a more favorable position. Obviously, the Russian army has had to give up the important node of Bonliman, and the military situation of the Russian army on the northern front is further deteriorating.
The actual problem is that the Russian army lacks sufficient strength here. The current situation of the Russian army is that 200,000 troops are scattered on a front line of thousands of kilometers. Therefore, the Russian army is extremely lacking in sufficient force density and thus sufficient defensive capabilities and mobile reserves. After Ukraine’s full mobilization, the force has expanded to about 700,000 (it is said to have reached 1 million), and there are 450,000 veterans accumulated over the past 8 years as a skeleton. Although the firepower is still weak in general, the troops are already very abundant, and they have also received large-scale support from NATO, which is capable of forming a group of mechanized troops. Now, these mechanized units are the spearhead of the counterattack.
Of course, Ukraine has almost reached its peak of mobilization, and there will be huge difficulties in mobilizing again. Therefore, Ukraine’s resources are relatively close to the limit or already overloaded, but with NATO assistance, Ukraine can continue to live for a while. This also means that if Ukraine’s existing mobile troops are lost, then Ukraine may indeed have no more available troops.
Although Russia has entered a state of mobilization, it will take time to mobilize, and the Russian army will inevitably increase its troops. Only by increasing troops can the front line be effectively filled and the opportunity to attack gradually be obtained. In the military, although it has suffered a series of humiliating defeats, it should be said that Russia has not really been defeated. After mobilization and reinforcement, Russia may regain the ability to launch a localized offensive.
But Russia’s problem is also that resources will be increasingly stretched. Mobilization requires not only troops, but also equipment, massive ammunition, and other material support. Russia’s retreat in early April and this retreat south of Kharkov both lost a lot of equipment, and replenishing them is difficult. At the same time, Russia is also consuming a lot of ammunition. From June to July alone, the Russian army fired more than 11 million rounds of artillery shells, which have been used in Soviet-era stocks, and the production capacity of precision-guided munitions has always been insufficient. This production capacity is tough to improve in a few days after mobilization.
There is also a more critical issue of national power. Russia’s economy is basically certain that there will be no substantial development. As soon as Western sanctions are imposed, Russia will lose a lot of economic sources and can only rely on oil and gas resources. However, recently oil and gas prices have also dropped, which means that Russia’s earning sources are also decreasing. While Russia’s economic sources are reduced, it has to deal with the huge expenditures of the prolonged war. Obviously, this is a dead end.
Putin is also very clear about this. He can only reduce economic losses and seek a quick end to the war to achieve his political goals. Therefore, when Russia launched a “special military operation” on February 24, the key to attacking Ukraine with only 100,000 people was that he tried to use the hybrid war model to force the Kyiv side to surrender quickly, so as to control the scale of the war. However, it is clear that Russia underestimated Ukraine’s will to resist. If Russia had done this in 2014, it might have been successful, but eight years later, Ukrainian nationalism has been constructed through war, and Russia has lost this possibility of a successful hybrid war.
From this we can also see that there were problems with Moscow’s decision-making system and means of execution, so this war that reduced Russia’s capabilities. Now Russia has fallen into strategic passivity. Unless Russia can quickly annihilate Ukraine’s active forces, thereby forcing Kyiv to accept negotiations, there is basically no possibility for Russia to end the war quickly. But does the Russian army have this capability?