Russia’s strategy in its war against Ukraine is moving towards a ‘slow annihilation’ of Ukraine’s military, US and Western officials tell CNN, warning that Russia could focus on a bloody and deadly bombardment of towns and civilian targets as the conflict becomes an overwhelming war of attrition.
Ukrainian forces have so far been able to stave off the initial Russian push, maintaining control of Kyiv and other major cities. But they remain massively under-armed and understaffed. And Russia is now bringing heavier, more destructive weapons and increasingly striking civilian infrastructure, after initially focusing on military targets, officials said.
The change of strategy likely reflects Russian President Vladimir Putin’s acknowledgment that his original plan to quickly overthrow Kiev failed, a senior Western intelligence official said — partly because the Ukrainians fought harder than expected and partly because logistical and supply missteps slowed the Russian advance.
But Western officials now expect Russia to step up its heavy-weapons bombardment of Ukrainian cities and possibly march “tens of thousands” of troops, a US official said. Eventually, officials warn, the Ukrainian military will likely run out of supplies needed to continue the fight.
The United States has delivered hundreds of Stinger missiles to Ukraine in the past few days, including more than 200 on Monday, according to a US official and a congressional source briefed on the matter. But the United States and NATO have made it clear that they will not commit troops to defend Ukraine.
Ukraine’s willingness to fight ‘prolongs this’ said the top Western intelligence official. “But the cruel military calculations of this will eventually pay off, absent an intervention, absent a fundamental shift in dynamics.”
For Ukraine, whose military forces and civilian population have shown no sign of surrender, the war seems poised to become a grim struggle for survival in a protracted and uncertain future.
The numbers are already grim: Russia has lost about 3% to 5% of its tanks, planes, artillery and other military assets inside Ukraine – against Ukrainian losses of about 10% of its capabilities, according to two US officials familiar with the latest information.