Russia: Rupert Jones on Putin’s next move
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Vladimir Putin’s long-anticipated spring offensive is underway and has left many US officials less than impressed. A senior US diplomat labelled the renewed offensive as “pathetic” in a humiliating assessment of President Putin’s war effort. Victoria Nuland, the under-secretary of state for political affairs, said of the new Russian offensive: “If this is it, it is very pathetic.”
The scathing remarks follow months of anticipation in the West over Russia’s spring offensive in Ukraine.
Last weekend, NATO’s chief said Russia had started its new offensive, following Ukrainian officials who said this month that it appeared to be underway.
During a briefing on Thursday, Ms Nuland said: “Russia has declared that it is launching a new offensive. Well, if this is it, it is very pathetic.”
She highlighted the eastern city of Bakhmut, where Russia has poured thousands of soldiers into the conflict but failed to gain significant advances.
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This echoes Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who said on Wednesday that Russia “continues to pour large numbers” of untrained and poorly-equipped troops into Ukraine.
He said: “Because of that, we see them incurring a lot of casualties. And we’ll probably continue to see that going forward.”
Former US intelligence officer and CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton said that “it looks as if the Russians are not able to mount the kind of offensive that their rhetoric promised we would see”.
He told CNN: “It seems as if we are dealing with a paper tiger.”
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Mr Leighton pointed to a report in the New York Times that revealed that “weeks of failed attacks on a Ukrainian stronghold have left two Russian brigades in tatters, raised questions about Moscow’s military tactics and renewed doubts about its ability to maintain sustained large-scale ground assaults”.
The military analyst remarked that the two brigades – the 40th and 155th marine infantry brigades of the Russian naval forces – “are large units, up to 3,000 men and they are just gone”.
Similarly, a senior US official told CNN that the renewed offensive from the Russian military was “likely more aspirational than realistic”.
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They suggested that Russian forces were moving in before they are ready due to political pressure from the Kremlin.
An unnamed senior Ukrainian diplomat echoed this, saying: “They amassed enough manpower to take one or two small cities in Donbas, but that’s it.
“Underwhelming, compared to the sense of panic they were trying to build in Ukraine.”
US officials predict that Ukraine will carry out its own counter-offensive “sometime in the spring” once Kyiv receives more weapons from the West.
This week, the UK Ministry of Defence said Russian troops had been ordered to “advance in most sectors, but that they have not massed sufficient offensive combat power on any one axis to achieve a decisive effect”.
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