Two weeks into war the Russian military is still at great cost.

Two weeks have passed since Russian troops entered neighboring Ukraine after months of preparation. Evidence is growing that this invasion did not go according to plan. This suggests that Russia’s famed military might not be as powerful as once thought.

” “It’s shocking how incompetent they are in the basics of joint military operations by an advanced country.” Barry Pavel, former Pentagon chief and now Senior Vice President at the Atlantic Council, said: “It’s shocking how incompetent they are in the basics of joint military operations by an advanced country.”

That doesn’t mean Russia won’t ultimately seize Kyiv and topple the Ukrainian government. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Ukraine will not suffer horrific civilian and military casualties.

Talks between top diplomats of Ukraine and Russia on March 10 failed to reach an agreement on a cease-fire, while Mariupol, Ukraine, raced to bury the dead. (Alexa Juliana Ard, Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)

But the stumbling pace of Russia’s assault since President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine late last month — marked by apparent confusion among commanders plus viral images of downed Russian planes and tanks set alight — has reset expectations for how the conflict will unfold.

And it probably has raised the ultimate cost — to both Ukraine and Russia — of any eventual Russian victory, especially as Moscow appears to have abandoned plans for a lightning advance, relying instead on shelling besieged cities and launching unguided bombs from the sky.

“What’s the number of civilians killed by days and days and days of artillery? Pavel asked, “What’s the ratio that favors Russia?” “I’m really worried about that.”

While the invasion has turned into a bloody slog in the face of a fierce Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have continued to make slow advances around multiple cities — particularly in the south, where several major cities appear in danger of falling in the coming days. The Russians have only taken Kherson (a major city) so far.

Northern progress is harder to see.

The British Defense Ministry announced Friday that Russia appears to be moving its troops northward of the capital. They could launch new operations against Kyiv soon after an extended stretch where a column of Russian vehicles had stopped. Satellite imagery showed the columns breaking apart into smaller units.

A senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, had said Thursday that leading elements of that advance were nine miles from the center of Kyiv, down from about 12 miles for the prior several days. The official called the movement of the column “creeping”, and stated that it was difficult to know how long Russian forces would take to move more seriously. Another advance on Kyiv from the east was just under 20 miles from the city center.

Airstrikes, meanwhile, targeted sites in western Ukraine, authorities said Friday, signaling the possible expansion of the war beyond the country’s east and center. As of Thursday, the Russians had launched 775 missiles at Ukraine since the invasion began, the senior defense official said. Each day, the number of missiles launched by Russia at Ukraine continues to rise.

But Britain’s Defense Ministry said Thursday that there had been a “notable decrease” in Russian air activity over Ukraine in recent days. In an intelligence briefing, officials said the slowdown probably was due to the “unexpected effectiveness and endurance of Ukrainian air defense forces.”

Officials added that the large Russian column north of Kyiv had “made little progress in over a week and is suffering continued losses.”

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament on Wednesday that Russia had nearly twice the number of battalion tactical groups at its disposal than did Ukraine when the war began, and that air superiority tilted the balance even further toward an “overwhelming” Russian advantage. Wallace stated that almost all of Moscow’s goals in Ukraine remain unfulfilled.

“President Putin’s arrogant assumption that he would be welcomed as a liberator has deservedly crumbled as fast as his troops’ morale,” Wallace said.

Ukrainian officials have held a series of news conferences in recent days in which captured Russian soldiers have said they regretted their parts in the war and did not know they would be invading Ukraine until a day before the attack began. The fog of war has made it difficult to determine the precise number of Russian combat losses. Also, the difficulties of reading a stream of images and videos on social media showing weapons and vehicles taken by Ukrainian forces or destroyed or abandoned makes it hard to estimate the true amount.

The Ukrainian military posted on Facebook on Wednesday that since the invasion began, the Russians had lost 12,000 people, 526 vehicles, 335 tanks, 123 artillery systems and 81 helicopters. If those numbers are accurate, the Russians have lost nearly 7 percent of the 190,000 troops they had arrayed at Ukraine’s border before the invasion began. It was unclear if the deaths of soldiers included both wounded and dead troops as well as those who were taken prisoner of war.

On Tuesday, senior U.S. intelligence officials said they assessed that 2,000 to 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, while adding the caveat that they have “low confidence” in those numbers based on the limited information they have.

Even the lower American estimate would mark an extraordinary loss of life for the Russian military, which was expected to overwhelm Ukrainian forces. During the entire 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan, 2,461 U.S. troops died. About an additional 4,500 U.S. troops were killed in the U.S. war in Iraq from March 2003 to December 2011, according to Defense Department statistics.

Michael Kofman is the director of Russia Studies at CNA. He said that the U.S. figures are closer to reality than those from Ukraine, although he believes they may be more exaggerated. Still, he said, that scale of loss is significant — especially when coupled with the loss of hundreds of vehicles, including about 160 tanks, according to open-source reporting he has reviewed.

” “We’re likely to begin looking at exhaustion in the next few weeks,” Kofman stated. “They’re probably going to reorganize and replenish.”

Replenishing is something Russia can still do. After an erratic showing by the Russian military during a brief war in the republic of Georgia in 2008, Putin went on a spending binge. Moscow has spent about $154 billion annually on defense in recent years, according to Russian state media, though analysts caution that both corruption and a lack of transparency in the Kremlin make it difficult to assess that figure. Yes, they have lost quite a bit of their equipment. They have a lot of equipment, but they are able to replace a lot of it.” Kofman stated that Russia has the most advanced jets, submarines, as well as a wide range of weapons.

The senior U.S. defense official said Thursday that Russia has “greater than 90 percent of their available combat power” still available for use in Ukraine. The official added that the Pentagon has seen no signs of the Russians sending reinforcements. The past two weeks have demonstrated that even though Russia is equipped with the weapons of war, it does not necessarily mean that its commanders are proficient in using them.

Francois Héisbourg, a French analyst and former adviser to President Emmanuel Macron, stated that the Russian advances were strikingly restricted.

“They’ve only taken one regional capital out of the 26 which were free of Russian influence before Feb. 25,” Heisbourg said. With a battle looming against the dug-in Ukrainian soldiers in every city that remains, it’s unclear if Russia has the ability — or will — to win.

” The logistics are poor. He said that the soldiers were not motivated. It’s not what one would consider a steady advance. There is actually very little terrain occupied.”

Dominique Trinquand, a retired French general and former head of the French military mission to the United Nations, said the Russians are primarily gaining ground in the south of Ukraine, where there appear to be fewer Ukrainian troops. The Russians are a powerful presence in this part of Ukraine, with tanks, artillery, and protected infantry. Trinquand stated that Russians are attacking from both Crimea and Donbas.

He stated that he expected Mariupol, Ukraine to be taken over by the Russians in the coming days. Russian advances are also possible in other Ukrainian cities to the south like Odessa. He said that they would be able attack Odessa from land, sea and air.

Trinquand stated that Kyiv, where large-scale civilian evacuations are underway, will prove to be more difficult. He does not expect Kyiv to be bombed in the same way as Syria’s Aleppo was destroyed. He said that Russia is likely to use the pressure it has on Kiev’s capital as an opportunity for bargaining in Ukraine negotiations. A senior French official stated that Putin’s country believes that he wants control over the whole country. Trinquand stated that he was not certain this is Russia’s goal.

“They’ve got roughly 200,000 troops now, to occupy a country which is as large as France,” he said. “They don’t have the forces.”

Nor, apparently, do they have the dominance in the skies that had been widely forecast.

Malcolm Chalmers is deputy director general at RUSI. This think tank is based in London. He said that he was surprised by the Russian military’s “very poor performance”. The Russian Air Force has not yet been able to eliminate all Ukrainian defenses and air assets. It took him a few days, but it did so. The Russian air force is old and has several hundred fixed-wing high-performance aircraft, which are almost equal to Western counterparts. But the Russians, he said, “don’t seem to be able to coordinate the use of them together, and deconflict them and ensure they aren’t shooting each other.”

Still, he cautioned against underplaying Russia’s strength. Although Russia may have not been able to take the sky or advance quickly on the ground it does possess the firepower necessary to cause immense destruction to Ukraine.

“Having painted the Russians as 10 feet tall compared with Ukrainians, now some people are painting them two feet tall,” Chalmers said. It’s somewhere between. They are still a formidable adversary.”

Adam reported from London and Noack from Paris.

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