Russia seems increasingly frustrated at the pace of its war against Ukraine as it expected the country to surrender, but failed to anticipate the resolve of its people, according to a military analyst.
“They [Russians], thought it would be completely easy. They would roll right in and the Ukrainians would give up,” Jack Jacobs, a retired colonel in the United States army, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday.
He added the Kremlin totally underestimated the “leadership of a comedian who is now not only leading his country,” referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but was also able to galvanize the world’s attention to Russia’s assault.
U.S. President Joe Biden rallied allies Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, touting joint economic sanctions imposed on Moscow.
“We are cutting off Russia’s largest banks from the international financial system,” Biden said. “Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever,” he added.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a fast-growing list of companies to shun Moscow, with firms scrambling to cut ties as foreign governments ratchet up punitive economic sanctions.
“You’ve got Shell oil leaving Russia. You’ve got Switzerland coming down on the side of the right way to do it. And the Russians now are frustrated and have started to decide that they are now going to take the gloves off,” Jacobs said.
Shell said Tuesday it is ending an “equity partnership” with Gazprom, a Russian state-owned energy company. Switzerland, which traditionally stays neutral, also said it will adopt all the sanctions that the European Union has imposed on Russia and freeze assets.
NBC News reports that U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that Russian President Vladimir Putin is growing angry at the military’s struggles and may order an escalation of violence in Ukraine.
Besides the Kremlin underestimating the tenacity and patriotism of ordinary Ukrainian people, Jacobs said there are number of reasons why Russia has not been able to swiftly achieve its military objectives.
“The Russians are not nearly as well trained as they think they are or as we thought they were, they’re not nearly as well equipped,” he said, adding Putin and “his cronies are in a bubble.”
“Putin has surrounded himself with people who tell him that he’s saying the right thing and doing the right thing. And there’s not a free exchange of national security ideas, no military ideas, economic ideas in order for the Russians to pursue what their objectives are,” Jacobs said.
Russia appears to have upped the ante overnight with satellite imagery indicating that a long convoy — some 40 miles (65 kilometers) long — of Russian military vehicles is heading toward Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.
Time is “not working on the Ukrainian side” as Russia has the upper hand in its war against the country, said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at Rand Corporation.
Only a fraction of Russian capabilities “have really been deployed,” but it’s clear that the Russians are now “regrouping,” and the numbers are stacked against the Ukrainians, he told CNBC on Tuesday.
“Unless there’s a deal to have a cease-fire and some sort of settlement in the coming days, I’m quite concerned about this sort of massive column that’s heading toward Kyiv,” Charap said.
The Russians will persevere, said Col. Jacobs, mainly because Putin will have a “hard time walking this back.”
“He’s going to keep going until he gets it done … at some enormous cost to Ukraine, to Russia, and perhaps even to allies.”