Skepticism in Russia about planned offensive



Select Russian nationalist voices continued to express skepticism towards Russia’s ability to launch a successful offensive past late February. A Wagner-affiliated milblogger noted that Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov (who currently commands Russian forces in Ukraine) has a limited time window to launch a large-scale offensive operation in Ukraine before it is entirely impossible to execute.[5] Another ultra-nationalist voice, former Russian officer Igor Girkin, forecasted that the Russian decisive offensive will not be successful until Russia mobilizes more manpower, industry, and economy.[6] Girkin claimed that an attack without such mobilization would shortly culminate. Both observations highlight that the Russian military command appears to be in a rush to launch the decisive offensive, likely ahead of the arrival of Western military aid and the muddy spring season in Ukraine around April that hindered Russian mechanized maneuvers in spring 2022.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz undermined Russian President Vladimir Putin’s false narrative that the provision of German tanks to Ukraine threatens Russian security. Putin stated on February 2 that German tanks are again threatening Russia, drawing a false parallel with World War II.[7] Scholz stated that Putin’s remarks are "a part of a series of abstruse historical comparisons that he uses to justify his attack on Ukraine."[8] Scholz added that the West and Ukraine have a "consensus" that Ukrainian forces will only use Western-provided weapons to liberate its territories from Russian occupation. Germany’s provision of Leopard tanks does not differ from Western military provisions of Soviet tanks and kit to Ukraine throughout the war, and Putin’s February 2 reaction is likely a continuation of Russian information operation to discourage Western military aid to Ukraine ahead of Russia’s decisive offensive. Kremlin information agents are amplifying similar rhetoric that Ukrainian forces will use Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDM) - which increase the range of HIMARS to 151km from roughly 80km – to target Russian territory alongside occupied Ukrainian territories.[9] Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov confirmed on February 5 that Ukraine agreed to not use Western long-range weapons to strike Russian territories, however.[10]

UK investigative group Conflict Armament Research (CAR) reported in November 2022 that 82% of Iranian Shahed-131, Shahed 136, and Mohajer-6 drones downed in Ukraine had chips, semiconductors, and other components that came from the US despite high import and export control restrictions on such components to Iran.[38] CAR also noted that the downed drones contained higher-end technological capabilities and have a "significant jump in capabilities" compared to other systems previously observed in the Middle East.[39] Most Western-manufactured components in the downed Iranian drones were produced between 2020 and 2021, following the expiration of United Nations Security Council heavy arms sanctions against Iran in 2020.[40] Most Western companies whose components were found in downed Iranian drones in Ukraine denied directly selling components to Russia, Iran, or Belarus since the start of the war.[41] However, the representative of a Swiss manufacturing company noted that it is impossible to be completely sure that distributors of arms components do not sell components to sanctioned entities, implying that Russia, Iran, or other sanctioned states can exploit loopholes allowing them to acquire Western-produced arms components via proxy actors.[42]

Russian conventional and irregular forces may be increasingly struggling to recruit from Russian penal colonies due to high casualties among prior penal colony recruits. Russian opposition outlet Mediazona reported on February 6 that the Wagner Group conducted a second prisoner recruitment drive in late 2022, and the drive at Correctional Colony 16 in Samara, Samara Oblast, only yielded 340 recruits whereas the first drive yielded over 1,000 recruits in the summer and fall of 2022.[83] Mediazona noted that other Russian penal colonies see similar declines in recruitment. Mediazona amplified one report that only 20 percent of prisoners recruited in 2022 are still alive as of February 6. A Russian source claimed that Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) personnel forcibly transported 56 prisoners from the Correctional Colony 41 in Yurga, Kemerovo Oblast, on February 5, suggesting that Russian authorities are increasing coercive measures to exploit prisoners amid low voluntary recruitment.[84]

I have also been skeptical of Russia's ability to assemble the kind of force needed for its planned offensive.  It is doubtful that they would still be trying to recruit people from penal colonies if they had men lining up to join the military.  Their use of the penal colony recruits in human wave attacks where many of them are killed should also be an impediment to recruiting.  The skeptics in Russia have a point about the problem Russia is facing not only in recruiting troops but also in equipping them.  Much of their early operations led to the destruction of tanks and armor as well as the attrition of troops and ammo.

It is remarkable that Iran has been able to get chips for its drones at the same time US manufacturers are struggling to get the chips they need.  The FBI should be investigating the source of the chips Iran is using.

Putin is also continuing to lie about the alleged threat to Russia.  I suspect he is doing that as part of his recruitment operations and to quite the skeptics about the operation within Russia.

See, also:

Russian Wagner mercenaries on the "lies" that lured them to Ukraine


Barely aware there was a war raging in Ukraine, Sergei was told he'd be fighting foreigners there.

"American mercenaries, Polish mercenaries, French… we were told they were Nazis," he said.

Vlad, the other Wagner man, had already served two years of his three-year sentence for assault, but the promise of early release, a record wiped clean, and a salary of $3,500 proved too tempting.

After just two weeks of training, he said he was sent up against Ukrainian tanks with nothing more than a machine gun.

"Our brothers were getting killed in huge numbers," he said. "There were mountains of bodies."

Prigozhin was recently filmed surveying some of those bodies, piled high in a makeshift morgue near the front lines. The slain fighters' final destination, however, is a special Wagner cemetery in Russia. It is already filled with freshly dug graves.

If new recruits see what they're up against and refuse to fight, Vlad said they're given no option.

"You're just killed, that's it," he said. "If you don't agree with an order, you're simply killed."


 Russia's oil and gas revenue crashed by nearly 50% at the start of 2023, leading to a wider budget deficit as Moscow's spending soars


Moscow starts "begging" for negotiations through mediators 


 Russia is unlikely to be able to substantially affect course of war in coming weeks

 British intelligence believes it is unlikely that Russia can build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks.



 Russian state bank VTB blames all of 2022 losses on sanctions -CEO


 Ukraine war latest: Russia pouring troops into Eastern Ukraine ahead of new offensive


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