Russia’s Motive: Erode Western Support for Ukraine, US Report Says

A Russian push into eastern Ukraine this fall and winter is designed to undermine Western support for Ukraine, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence assessment.

Adrian Watson, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the push has resulted in heavy casualties but not strategic victories on the battlefield for Russia.

According to another newly declassified estimate shared with Congress, Russia has suffered a shockingly high number of casualties since the start of the war. At the beginning of the war, the Russian army had 360,000 troops. Russia has lost 315,000 of those troops, forced to recruit and mobilize new recruits and convicts from its prison system.

According to estimates, Moscow’s equipment was also crushed. At the start of the war, Russia had 3,500 tanks, but lost 2,200 tanks, forcing it to pull 50-year-old T-62 tanks from storage.

The assessment says Russian losses have reduced the complexity of Russia’s recent military operations in Ukraine.

“The war in Ukraine has severely set back a 15-year Russian effort to modernize its ground forces,” the classified assessment said. “As of late November, Russia has lost a quarter of its pre-2022 ground forces equipment and suffered casualties in its trained professional army.”

In the most recent push, Russia lost more than 13,000 people killed and wounded and more than 220 combat vehicles in fighting near Avdiivka and other towns, Ms. Watson said.

Russian forces expected a quick advance, but faced stiff Ukrainian resistance. Ukraine has moved forces from the south to bolster its forces in the east. U.S. officials have said that while Ukraine also suffered many of the same causes, its losses were not as significant as Russia’s. Casualty figures on both sides of the conflict are estimates, according to US officials. Moscow is believed to routinely count its war dead and wounded, and Kiev does not release official figures.

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The information is classified as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington to help press the case that his country needs more U.S. aid against the ongoing offensive.

White House seeks $50 billion in additional security aid for Ukraine But many conservative Republicans are skeptical of the country’s ability to win the war and want major changes to U.S. border security policy as part of a funding deal.

Ms Watson said Russia’s push was linked to funding debates in Congress. Declassified intelligence assessed that Russia “appears to believe that a military standoff over the winter will drain Western support for Ukraine,” Ms. Watson said.

Russia, Ms. Watson said, continues to be short of soldiers and weapons, but is pressing on, hoping to gain an advantage despite its losses in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is watching the debate in Congress closely, Ms Watson said. Other US officials acknowledged the intelligence reports and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said he believed he was beginning to see success in his strategy of keeping the West at bay.

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