The World Today for November 22, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

The Wizard of Oz

RUSSIA

More than 100,000 Russian troops have died since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, according to American estimates that Agence France-Presse cited. The same experts estimated that Ukraine likely has suffered a similar number of losses.

Ukraine has disputed those estimates, ABC News reported. Putin has never released realistic numbers for Russia’s war dead. But more Russian civilians are voicing their displeasure about high mortality rates in Ukraine, wrote the Washington Post. Their anger reflects stories from soldiers at the front who describe equipment shortages, unorganized leadership, and incompetence.

“A Ukrainian drone first flew over us, and after that their artillery started to pound us for hours and hours, nonstop,” Russian conscript Aleksei Agafonov told the Guardian, adding that his unit was ordered to dig trenches but didn’t have enough shovels. “I saw men being ripped apart in front of me, most of our unit is gone, destroyed. It was hell.”

Putin is showing no signs of relenting. He recently sent 50,000 more soldiers to the war zone and has another 250,000 in training as part of a massive call-up of troops dating from September. But sending more drafted men into the meatgrinder won’t help Russia’s cause, argued Center for American Progress senior fellow Larry Korb on Military.com.

With the help of Western weaponry, including new experimental weapons, as the New York Times explained, Ukrainians have gained the momentum in the war, recently retaking the city of Kherson, a major prize. (As CNN reported, survivors are now sharing stories of the brutality, including torture chambers, under Russian occupation.) Meanwhile, Russia’s new draftees were preparing to fight 60 km back from the frontline in Ukraine, suggesting they expect more Ukrainian advancements, the Independent noted.

At the same time, Putin’s hawkish allies appear to be fragmenting. Radio Free Europe referred to Putin’s close ally and pro-war advocate, Yevgeny Prigozhin, as Grigory Rasputin, the Svengali-like monk who controlled Russia’s last tsar in the early 20th century before the Soviet revolution. An oligarch whose wealth comes from lucrative Kremlin catering contracts, Prigozhin owns the private mercenary company, the Wagner Group. To show how demented Russian militarists like Prigozhin have become, the Bulwark related a gruesome story about a hapless Wagner fighter who made the mistake of admitting to switching sides and joining Ukraine, before being murdered on video with a sledgehammer.

Prigozhin might accumulate more wealth as the war drags on. Other oligarchs might not be so optimistic. As the Russian army loses on the battlefield, the Russian economy is on its knees, too. Amid harsh Western sanctions and partial economic isolation, skyrocketing expenses related to the war and exacerbated supply-chain worries and other post-pandemic concerns, the Russian economy shrunk by 4 percent in the third quarter of the year, reported Reuters, officially tipping into recession.

Perhaps hundreds of thousands of ill-trained, ill-supplied recruits will win the day for Russia. Maybe the cold winter will force the West to buy more Russian energy, throwing Putin a lifeline. China could run to Putin’s rescue, too. Or Russia might continue to lose, lose, lose.

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