RIGA - The recruitment of Syrian militants for the war in Ukraine looks more like a psychological tactic, and such forces are unlikely to make a real contribution for Russia, said Colonel Eriks Naglis, Chief of the Armor Control Service of the National Armed Forces (NAF) and former Defense Attache to Ukraine.
Naglis, who was once the commander of the NATO force integration unit in Latvia, acknowledged that due to the heroism of the Ukrainians, the movement of Russian forces over land is problematic, so now there is a moment of respite at the operational-strategic level.
This means that the Russian army is trying to recover from the initial shock of a failed lightning strike. This could mean that either additional forces are being sought to make up for the loss, or the Russians are trying to change tactics.
"It seems to me that Russia is trying to regroup and refresh its forces. They have probably given up plans to storm the cities. Apparently they will try to surround the big cities and then terrorize them with bombing and causing a humanitarian crisis. Russia is also likely to focus on larger areas of Ukraine. There is a moment of respite now, because they have to recover from the first shock and replenish the reserves, if, of course, Russia still has them. I allow that Russia still has reserves," Naglis pointed out.
Replenishment of its forces through mobilization cannot be ruled out, but it would be an extreme step and it now appears that the Russians could find reserves without this measure, as Russia has a large armed forces. In this context, however, the question arises as to how prepared and capable these forces are.
Judging by the information that Russia is looking to recruit fighters from Syria, Naglis believes that he does not see any real benefit from the Syrians. At present, it looks more like a psychological tactic trying to scare the Ukrainians - similar to what happened when they threatened to send in Chechen soldiers.
Although it has been said that Russia has recruited tens of thousands of militants for the war in Ukraine, Naglis drew attention to the fact that, first of all, the Syrians will certainly not have fighting equipment. Secondly, the Syrians are skilled soldiers in populated areas, but no major city in Ukraine has yet been taken, so they will have to fight in the steppes, meadows and forests. Thirdly, Ukraine has a colder climate than Syria, and at the same time there are language barriers and how these combatants will be trained.
The plans to supply even more modern and heavier Western weapons to Ukraine are to be welcomed, but Naglis does not think they will play a decisive role in the outcome of the war.
These weapons would allow them to fight more effectively and give the Ukrainians a moral impetus, but political and diplomatic solutions and the impact of economic sanctions are needed to turn the war in Ukraine's favor. It is also undeniable that Ukrainians need more time to learn how to use more sophisticated weapons.
Speaking about the worst-case scenarios in regards to war, Naglis pointed out that one of the worst-case scenarios has already come true for the Russians, namely, the Russians have failed in its lightning war and have suffered heavy losses.
The Russians are unlikely to abandon their main strategic goal of changing the political power in Ukraine, and the conflict is currently between the two countries, even though Belarus is allowing Russian troops to use its territory. A bad scenario would occur if Belarus invaded Ukraine with its own troops, as this would pave the way for a wider regional conflict.
The war would also be exacerbated by Russia's use of chemical weapons, because then the international community would have to react very seriously to such a turn of events. Threatening with nuclear weapons, on the other hand, looks more like intimidation, although this factor should still be taken into account.
The colonel is convinced that this war will end with a Ukrainian victory. The only question is how soon the end of the war will come and how many more people will be killed.
"I do not envisage a quick resolution of this conflict, because I do not think that Vladimir Putin will stop. He needs at least some kind of gain, so the war could continue. How long - no one can predict this yet, even in spite of Western sanctions and the heavy losses of the Russian army," Naglis emphasized.
What is bad for the Ukrainians is that if the Russians fail to achieve their goals, they are expanding their medieval methods - bombing civilians and causing a humanitarian crisis. At present, the Ukrainians are mainly fighting for defensive positions, but at the moment they do not have the strength and resources to carry out large-scale attacks at the operational level.
Naglis did not deny that many in the West had the impression that Russia was learning from the mistakes of previous wars and the great might of its army, but the war in Ukraine has shown the opposite.
At the same time, the Western countries cannot underestimate Russia's forces, because the Russians also have sufficiently elite and well-trained units. "If there is bad leadership, recalculations and supply shortfalls, it will not work in the war. For example, it is difficult for me to explain why the Russians have deployed such a large front," Naglis concluded.