As the war in Ukraine drags on, well into its second year, Russia’s reputation for military might has been nearly completely unraveled. Their troops have been unable, and at times unwilling, to advance into the interior of Ukraine without resorting to the sort of barbaric and genocidal behavior that will long tarnish the Kremlin in the global community.
Whether it be 70-year-old tanks or rusty AK-47s, weekly headlines regarding Moscow’s incredible ineptitude have peppered the international press. The latest news regarding Russia’s elite forces is dealing quite a blow to Vladimir Putin’s ego.
The war in Ukraine has gutted Russia’s clandestine spetsnaz forces, and it will take Moscow years to rebuild them, according to classified U.S. assessments obtained by The Washington Post.
The finding, which has not been previously reported, is among a cache of sensitive materials leaked online through the messaging platform Discord. U.S. officials attributed their assessments to Russian commanders’ overreliance on the specialized units, which have been put to use as part of front-line infantry formations. Those formations, like the Ukrainians, have suffered massive numbers of dead and wounded.
Typically, spetsnaz personnel are assigned the sorts of stealthy, high-risk missions — including an apparent order to capture Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky — for which they receive some of the Russian military’s most advanced training. But when Moscow launched its full-scale invasion last year, senior commanders eager to seize momentum and skeptical of their conventional fighters’ prowess deviated from the norm, ordering elite forces into direct combat, according to U.S. intelligence findings and independent analysts who have closely followed spetsnaz deployments.
And this wasn’t just military conjecture either. There was plenty of proof.
The hollowing of these units appears to be evident in satellite imagery featured among the leaked materials. Before-and-after photos — showing a base used by the 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade in southern Russia, according to the document — reveal that “all but one of five Russian Separate Spetsnaz Brigades that returned from combat operations in Ukraine in late summer 2022 suffered significant losses.”
Russia’s desperation has grown these last few months exponentially, and losing whatever high-level talent they had left may be the final nail in Putin’s coffin.
Cross-posted with Liberty Hub