According to experts, President Vladimir Putin’s decision to replace his top commander in Ukraine is an indication of military disorder and his increasing dissatisfaction with a conflict Russia is not winning.
On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Valery Gerasimov, the army’s chief of staff, would be taking command in Ukraine.
Veteran of Moscow’s battles since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, his predecessor Sergei Surovikin, would become Gerasimov’s deputy, working with two other generals, the report added.
Both Russian and Western analysts saw the action as a symptom of Putin’s growing exasperation with Ukrainian resistance, as well as with schisms in the Russian army leadership over how to handle the increasingly demanding situation, which might see the commencement of a major assault within the next few weeks.
The post of army chief of staff often involves off-the-field coordination, political connections, threat appraisal, and logistical decisions, so placing one in control of an operation on the ground is rare, according to analysts.
Things are “not going as planned.”
An anonymous Moscow-based defence specialist told AFP that the fact that Putin made the appointment despite this indicates that “things are not according to plan.”
Missile assaults on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, an apparent effort to cow residents into obedience, highlighted the brief legacy of Surovikin, famed for his bald head and stern frown and appointed just in October.
Russia’s concerns over its inability to defeat Ukraine’s army, damage its government, or scare off Western nations more prepared to deliver advanced weaponry to Kyiv have only increased as this plan has showed no indications of succeeding over 11 months into the conflict.
Russia’s largest military casualties from a single Ukrainian strike occurred during the New Year’s holiday in Makiivka, in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 89 personnel.
While severe combat is underway near the frontline city of Bakhmut, several observers have questioned the prudence of making crucial changes at the command.
Tatiana Kastoueva-Jean, a researcher on Russia at the French international relations think tank IFRI, stated, “It’s contradictory to replace the head of operations in the midst of a conflict.”
She told AFP that “unbalancing the whole structure from top to bottom does not give a healthy signal.”
Analysts consulted by AFP expressed optimism that Moscow’s decision signalling the start of a new attack and a probable new mobilisation effort.
According to Russian military researcher Alexander Khramchikhin, who spoke with AFP, “it is apparent that there are intentions to escalate the extent of warfare.”
He said that taking back the four Ukrainian areas of Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia that Russia seized on September 30 will be the primary objective.
Both the Lugansk and Donetsk areas in Ukraine are not entirely under Russia’s authority at the present time, and in November, Russian soldiers withdrew from the city of Kherson. Meanwhile, Russia has never held Zaporizhzhia city.
Warnings of upcoming “serious offensives”
According to Mark Galeotti of the Royal United Services Institute think tank in the United Kingdom: “This is proof, if we needed it, that there would be substantial offensives coming, and that even Putin recognises that poor coordination has been a problem.”
Meanwhile, the shortness of Surovikin’s order suggests Putin’s rising frustration, but analysts conceded that it is frequently impossible to completely analyse the motivations behind the Kremlin master’s opaque decision-making.
Expert on Russian aristocracy Tatiana Stanovaya tweeted that “everyone appears to be in shock.”
A lot of smart individuals don’t seem to grasp the significance of this choice.
Putin has been subjected to “long, heated, passionate arguments over the timeless Russian questions: ‘who is to blame’ and ‘what to do,'” she said, particularly in the wake of the Makiivka tragedy.
Although Galeotti agreed that the foundation for trustworthy alliances was eroding, other commentators suggested that Putin’s personnel shift in Ukraine was driven by the need for a loyal friend.
It’s not going to gain loyalty if you keep appointing, rotating, burning, overburdening, and demoting your stars, he warned.
Khramchikhin predicted that “discontent on why… (Russia) has not won this battle yet” would grow among Moscow’s elite and among the public, making it harder for the Russian leader to win over public opinion.
Source: BSS news