Russian Army is Bigger Today Than When Ukraine War Started, Says U.S. General

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“Much of the Russian military has not been affected negatively by this conflict”, says top U.S. general, stating the Kremlin’s army is bigger today than when their Ukraine invasion began.

Despite the perception of a Great War-like meat-grinder on the front and military intelligence assessments of huge casualties producing little to no discernable advances, the Russian military has actually lost little of its major equipment and the army is actually bigger now than when the invasion began.

While Russia’s invasion in Ukraine is a life-or-death affair for Kyiv and the people of Ukraine with incessant artillery bombardments by both sides wiping whole towns off the map, the assessment of Russia’s military strength by General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of the United States European Command paints a different picture.

Speaking of the ability of Russia to step up its operations worldwide, including the greatest frequency of naval deployments in decades, General Cavoli reflected that “much of the Russian military has not been affected negatively by this conflict… the Russians are more active than we have seen them in years”.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Christopher Cavoli holds a press conference after a NATO Military Chiefs of Defence Meeting at NATO headquarters on January 19, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)

High-profile Ukrainian successes against Russia notwithstanding, the actual losses of critical Russian military materiel were insignificant, the General said, telling the U.S. House Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday that: “The Russian ground force has been degenerated somewhat by this conflict, although it is bigger today than it was at the beginning of the conflict.

“The airforce has lost very little — they’ve lost 80 planes — they have another 1,000 fighters and fighter-bombers. The navy has lost one ship. So they still have all that conventional power.”

The statement of the General is indicative of the success of Russia’s drive to mobilise reserves and conscript more people into the army, given allegedly official U.S. casualty estimates ‘leaked‘ in the Pentagon Papers last month put Russian total casualties so far at around 200,000, including around 40,000 dead. They also underline how uncommitted to the war the Russian air force has been and not risking many sorties over Ukraine, at least for as long as Ukraine’s supply of air-defence missiles last out.

While replacing casualties on the battlefield may be easy — for now — for Russia, replacing equipment like tanks and other armour which has seen some high attrition is another factor which analysis early in the war indicated would be a problem for them. Yet General Cavoli noted Russia’s success at bringing new equipment very nearly to the front, while also identifying a breakdown in their systems between behind-lines transport and actually deploying it to theatre.

He said: “…the Russians have proven extremely adept at operational-level logistics. They can move large amounts of stuff long distances. But once it gets off the train, that last mile, as it were, that’s part of the system too and they were not ready for that.”

Russia is not alone in having been able to boost its military over the course of the conflict, of course. With the aid of NATO and other world partners, Ukraine has been supplied with huge quantities of new armour, which as reported today includes 230 tanks and 1,550 armoured vehicles. This is enough to have equipped nine new armoured brigades in the space of just one year, NATO said.

While Ukraine now has large amounts of Western tanks — many of which are German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks supplied in several batches by NATO countries which operate them — they have not been seen on the battlefield much yet. Quite possibly this is because this new, higher-quality equipment and the trained crews to use them are being held in reserve for the much-discussed Ukrainian counter offensive which has yet to materialise.

Discussing that on Wednesday, General Cavoli urged Western allies to keep backing Ukraine, saying: “Staying the course we’re on right now is very important, we are in a position where we’re moving into a period where the Ukrainians will conduct offensive operations. We have good, solid plans to continue to support them.”



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