Russia’s apparent retreat from Kyiv and retrenchment into Ukraine’s easternmost regions marks the latest sign that the war is at an inflection point — one that U.S. officials believe could portend even uglier fighting to come.
On the Russian side, strategic consolidation of manpower and firepower in the east will not by itself solve Moscow’s mounting attrition problem.
“At this stage, the Russian force is tapped out. … Without national mobilization, there are very hard limits on what is available in terms of fighting power,” said Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert with CNA, a think tank based in Washington. The only way out for Putin, Kofman said, is to make a massive policy shift, by admitting to the Russian people that the Ukrainian offensive is not a “special operation,” as he has claimed, but a full-fledged “war,” allowing him to call up additional forces from across the country.
“Russian political leadership will have a very significant choice to make,” Kofman continued. “They cannot sustain a war with Ukraine as a ‘special operation.’ They’re trying to have it both ways.”
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