Putin fighting 'logistics war' to keep forces armed

Head of British military says Russian leader is in a rush to declare victory

A destroyed Russian tank outside the village council building in Sloboda, Ukraine. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

President Vladimir Putin is engaged in a “logistics war” to keep his forces in firepower, the head of the British military has said.

After 10 weeks of fighting, the rate at which Russian forces are using missiles and other armaments is making it difficult to keep them supplied, according to Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff.

“He potentially has a problem, because the rate of expenditure and the toughness of the fight is totally different to the one that he perceived on February 24,” Admiral Radakin said.

“We’re talking severe impact on their armed forces. We’ve had 25 per cent of their forces effectively being taken out — either through people being killed or through the damage to their battalion tactical groups.”

In an interview with TalkTV’s The News Desk, Admiral Radakin said there was “incredible pressure” in Russia for the campaign to deliver results and Mr Putin is in a rush to claim victory despite his forces' continued struggle for momentum.

On Wednesday, Ukraine said Russia was planning to hold a Victory Day military parade in the besieged city of Mariupol as part of the country’s celebrations marking victory over the Nazis in the Second World War.

Russians celebrate Victory Day every year on May 9 with military parades and public events commemorating the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany.

However, Admiral Radakin said while there were “real risks” the Russians could gain ground in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine — the new focus of their offensive — he said they had little time to make the improvements needed after they were driven back from the capital Kyiv.

“You’re also seeing, on a daily basis, Russia struggling to get the momentum, struggling to align its air forces with its land forces and struggling to get what we call a modern campaign which creates that momentum,” he said.

He said the Russians were in for a “hard slog” and questioned whether the “rushed manner” in which Mr Putin was seeking to achieve victory would succeed.

“I think what we’re now seeing is incredible pressure — political pressure and military pressure — for a victory,” he said.

“This is going to be a tough fight. And it’s going to carry on being a tough fight. This is going to be a hard slog.

“You’re seeing the tactical fight, where he’s trying to rush to a tactical victory, and then he’ll push that with his own people.”

Separately, Admiral Radakin confirmed UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had warned Chancellor Rishi Sunak that rising inflation and the need to arm Ukraine meant the UK could miss its commitment to spend 2 per cent of national income on defence.

Mr Wallace reportedly wrote to the Chancellor before the Spring Statement in March to say that the Nato spending target was in jeopardy but had received no reply.

“We’re a big-spending department and we have regular conversations at all levels with the Treasury,” Admiral Radakin said.

“The defence secretary writing to the Chancellor to say this is our view of where defence spending is going, I think is pretty normal business.

“At the moment, under this spending review, we’re above 2 per cent through the whole period. And then it starts to peter off, I think, in 2024/25.

“At the moment the trajectory is going up and then it gets really close staying above 2 per cent. Then that needs to be a fresher conversation, because the ambition of this government is to stay above 2 per cent.”

— The full interview with Admiral Radakin is broadcast on Talk TV at 7pm on Thursday.

Updated: May 05, 2022, 6:04 PM