“Russians Do Not Have the Manpower to Sustain This War…”

"The force quality is going to continue to deteriorate."

Editor’s note: Like him or not, recent events have proven Michael Kofman once again right which makes him a very useful source to listen to. This is one mistake the Group Therapy Brigade does — they don’t listen to the best people from the other side. Along with Strelkov, Kofman has been one of the most prophetic commentators on this war, showing he has a far better grasp of reality than most.

What follows is a partial transcript from a recent interview of his. (Transcript by one Shashank Joshi.) Followed by the actual audio interview with Kofman by one Dmitri Aleprovich. (Click on the “spaces” link for the audio.)

Kofman: “Two main blunders…massive military intel. Failure because they clearly didn’t see this build up and didn’t react to it. And secondarily…the Russian military had still been trying to push largely unsuccessfully, against the Ukrainian defensive line east of Kramatorsk.”

Kofman says he was sceptical Russia could’ve taken Kramatorsk. But offensive “basically now alleviates much of the pressure on this part of the Donbas and it will essentially put Russian forces on the defensive, at least for the foreseeable future, going into the winter.”

Kofman: “It’s going to be a quesiton of to what extent Ukrain can capitalise on this momentum… They’re likely going to push back line towards Lysychansk & Severodonetsk… Russian military right now is clearly in retreat and will probably try to reset a defensive line somewhere in Luhansk.”

Kofman: Biggest issue was Russian lack of reserves. “What reserves they tried to throw into the region showed up too late and failed. You actually saw both 90th Tank Division forces to come in and… 3rd Army Corps… drive down and attempt to make contact but didn’t make it”

Kofman: “Folks don’t appreciate how quickly Ukrainians bypassed Russian defences… It’s in some ways a very remarkable offensive given speed at which it was prosecuted. Ukrainan air defence probably the thickest around Kharkiv” and Russian air force “not really willing to put itself at risk.”

Kofman: A lot of regular units in Kharkiv were Western Military District. Western MD “has performed..worst out of all the military districts so far in this war.. badly mauled in the opening phase and probably had biggest struggles in terms of force quality & ability to reconstitute.”

Kofman: “The big issue is a structural problem”. Russians “do not have the manpower to sustain this war…the force quality is going to continue to deteriorate. They do not have the available forces to conduct rotations; the Ukrainians do, so Russian troops…get exhausted.” 

Kofman: “Lack of manpower, lack of force availability and the deterioration of Russian force quality has led to a situation where Ukraine has a clear manpower advantage… It’s able to reconstitute forces better, can put together more than one operational-level offensive at a time” 

Kofman: “Clearly, Ukraine is capable of conducting offensive operations and clearly they’re capable of integrating different types of forces to engage in a combined arms offensive”. Q was: did they have skill at unit level, could they co-ordinate brigades? “Answer seems to be yes”.

Kofman: Kherson was meant to play out over weeks or months. “You expect to make initial gains then Russian forces will retreat from forward defensive positions to secondary positions. The offensive may appear like it stalls out or slows down. That may not be the case.”

Kofman: “Kherson is not a feint…There are two offences progressing at the same time and yes, Ukraine had enough forces for both.” 

Is Russia capable of counter-offensive in Kharkiv? Kofman: “I don’t know. It’s very early into trying to figure out what amount of Russian forces have retreated from the pocket”, how much equipment & ammo they abandoned, the status of reserves sent into fight and lines to which Russia is retreating”

Kofman: Russian “production capacity in no way is going to keep up with artillery usage demand…Russian defence industrial complex starting to ramp up production, but that’s going to take some time and still not at all going to be commensurate with their usage.”

Kofman: “I think the first question is: is this going to be the event that leads Putin to realise that Russia is visibly losing some war and that the Russian military isn’t going to grind the Ukrainian forces down, like he has assumed for some time?” 

Kofman: “Despite all the evidence, Putin has been operating under the assumption that the Russian military ultimately is going to win, which somewhat defies the objective reality of the situation we’re in given all the structural issues that the Russian military has”

Kofman on whether Russia can conduct mass mobilisation: “Russian military is not a mass mobilisation army the way the Soviet military was…somebody has to train and house them. They have to have equipment. They have to be turned into units…That’s why it doesn’t work.”

  1. SteveK9 says

    Russia may have the same problem as the West. Its people do not want to fight in a war. They expect a few professionals … somewhere, over there, to do the fighting, while they continue to watch sporting events, eat out at restaurants, etc. Putin is probably well aware of this. I watched him address a bunch of airline stewardesses at some PR thing, and I think it was the first time he announced that conscripts would not be going to Ukraine. You could see the consternation on the faces of these women, until he reassured them … that told me something.

    1. Oscar Peterson says

      Insightful comment.

      What is really worth dying for in the modern world?

      For most people, very damn little.

      Modernity tends to disaggregate people from their traditional group-affiliations into atomized individuals. Depending on where you stand, that’s either a good or bad thing.

      But clearly the military edge goes to whoever can maintain some relative degree of professional esprit de corps AND stay on the tech edge of war both of which require money–lots of it.

      And while we are using Ukraine against Russia, we are trying to ensure tech superiority over China via microchip and other tech embargoes (in effect) against China.

      1. RegretLeft says

        Ha! a little pocket of intelligence here in an otherwise disappointing commentariat. I saw that address to the airline stewardesses – very cute but very telling. That’s a smart focus on “dying for” and “atomized individuals”. The rulers fashioned a grand victory for themselves with their Covid operation over their populations in precisely that way: removing any last vestige of capacity to die for by terrorizing their populations about simply dying (expose yourself to a virus with a 99.5+% survival rate to hold your dying mother’s hand at her care facility? No No! – utterly unthinkable! We must remain safe!) And Putin and the Russian technocratic class were all in on it; but then they decided to fight a war and send troops into combat zones wearing paper face masks. Not a good start and this may be ending.

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