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As Ukraine war drags on and Russian morale falters, the West sees hope – The Times - 24.08.22

Although the war in Ukraine has entered its seventh month and there are fears the West might be losing interest, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, appears optimistic. There are reasons why - article by Larisa Brown

Back from a short holiday, the former Scots Guard claimed Russia was in a “very fragile position” at the moment, explaining its advance further into Ukrainian territory can be measured “in metres per week, not miles”.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today, Wallace said that although there had been disagreements with Europe about the levels of sanctions imposed on Russia, fundamentally “the international community is united against what Putin is doing”.

Meanwhile, British intelligence indicates Russia’s Donbas offensive in the east is making “minimal progress” and Russia anticipates a large Ukrainian counterattack.

Analysts believe Russian troops are showing signs of “digging in” to their positions and preparing to defend themselves, rather than showing signs of attack.

Russia is also suffering from a shortage of manpower and logistics, having had its supplies disrupted by Ukrainian troops now armed with long-range western weapons.

“Operationally, Russia is suffering from shortages of munitions, vehicles and personnel,” the latest Ministry of Defence update said.

The MoD also claimed that morale was poor in many parts of the Russian military and its army has been significantly degraded. “Its diplomatic power has been diminished and its long-term economic outlook is bleak. Six months in and Russia’s war has proven both costly and strategically harmful,” it added.

Professor Michael Clarke, former director-general of the Royal United Services Institute, believes it is “plausible” that by next spring “the pendulum may shift towards the Ukrainians”.

“The Ukrainians could expel the Russians from the territories they’ve taken since February 24 if the West doesn’t buckle under the pressure of winter gas supplies, if the West is able to up its own weapons production and if the Russians don’t mobilise,” he said.

Wallace had warned earlier that Putin would “use gas as a weapon” to drive up energy prices to punish the West for standing up to him on Ukraine. “That’s why he must not be allowed to be successful in Ukraine in the long term,” he said.

Although some experts believe the war has hit a “stalemate”, Clarke said he believed otherwise. The Russians are struggling to complete the occupation of the Donbas, having barely moved in weeks, and the Ukrainians are gearing up for a “big offensive” in and around the port of Kherson, the first big city to fall during the invasion, he said.

In Luhansk Oblast, which together with Donetsk makes up the Donbas region, the Russian authorities are deploying security forces, “likely in response to waning support for the war and growing unwillingness to fight among Luhansk residents”, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington.

Experts said the deployment diverts these forces from operations elsewhere in Ukraine, “likely contributing to the broader Russian failure to translate limited tactical gains into operational successes”.

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