Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

As war hits the home front, Russia’s defeat inches closer

By Alexey Kovalev

19 Oct 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

“The entire myth of Putin’s infallibility is coming apart.” This vivid FP analysis shows how Russia’s social contract is fraying as the war gets much closer to home.

By many accounts, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is already a colossal failure. The confirmed losses of destroyed and abandoned tanks and other armor alone exceed the entire army of a decent-sized Central or Eastern European country, and the rate of loss doesn’t look likely to be reversed anytime soon. Citing sources close to the Kremlin, Russian independent media has reported 90,000 irrecoverably lost soldiers, including battlefield and hospital deaths plus injuries severe enough to prevent them from ever fighting again. These losses now exceed those incurred during Russia’s wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya, politically devastating conflicts that left deep scars on Russian society that have still not healed today. What’s more, it took Russia 10 years to accumulate its losses in Afghanistan, whereas it has only been fighting in Ukraine for eight months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization,” which he recently promised will be over in two weeks just before the regular annual military draft begins, has also been a failure on all levels. Russian social media is full of clips of fresh conscripts facing squalor in hastily thrown up tents and cold abandoned barracks without food, uniforms, sanitation, equipment, or commanders, left to fend for themselves or survive on parcels brought by their relatives. As men are grabbed from the streets and sent right to the front with only a cursory training course at best, their relatives are expected to cough up money for basic items that are supposed to be provided by the army, such as first-aid kits or winter clothes.

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