Is Russian President Vladimir Putin dealing with widespread dissension among his military ranks, as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war crosses the 75-day mark?
This week, a number of reports have surfaced about Russian troops exhibiting low morale, or even displaying insubordination against senior officers.
On Monday, Newsmax chronicled a senior Pentagon official's assessment of how the Russian forces have failed to make significant progress in Russia's military offensive in eastern Ukraine, partly due to "poor morale" and some troops "refusing to obey orders."
"We still see anecdotal reports of poor morale of troops, indeed officers, refusing to obey orders and move and not really sound command and control from a leadership perspective," the unidentified senior U.S. official told reporters.
And later in the week, a New York Times report — again quoting a senior Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity — posited the Russians have not yet established "air superiority" over Ukraine.
As part of that, Russia has nearly "blown through" many of its most sophisticated guided weapons, such as cruise missiles and short- or medium-range ballistic missiles.
What can explain Russia's seeming malaise during its war with a neighboring nation?
When speaking to Newsweek recently, Lawrence Reardon, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said the Russian soldiers and officers have paid an enormous physical and emotional price in surviving the daily horrors of military conflict.
"I am not surprised at the stories depicting Russian soldiers and even midlevel officers refusing to follow orders, as they are facing a different form or warfare, where the soldiers not only worry about land mines but unseen, silent drones flying overhead launching missiles and dropping grenades on Russian armor and Russian generals," Reardon said.
The UNH professor also stated the majority of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine "are conscripts from the Russian heartland who are dealing with old or defective equipment, [and] lack the technological expertise" to counter the more high-tech Western arms going to Ukraine.
At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier estimated that eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched on Feb. 24.
Berrier, a lieutenant general, attributed the large number of deaths among Russian officers to the military's lack of noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, resulting in higher-ranking military leaders being pressed into duty along the dangerous front lines of battle.
Reardon ostensibly concurred with Berrier, citing Russia's lack of NCOs as a problem, saying such leaders could help "keep the conscripts obeying their orders."
Yuri Zhukov, an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, had this assessment regarding Russia's supposedly deflated military efforts.
"Insubordination and low troop morale are things that happen in any war. My own sense is that Russia almost certainly has a more serious morale problem than the Ukrainians do, and they are adapting to try to keep these cases contained," Zhukov said.
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