To occupy Ukraine, Russia would need 2 million troops, says former Polish defense minister

Former Deputy Defense Minister and military expert Romuald Szeremietiew said Russia would need 2 million troops to conquer Ukraine

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
Smoke rises from a building in Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Libkos, File)

When asked what Ukraine had achieved by unsuccessfully defending Bakhmut, former Polish Deputy Minister Romuald Szeremietiew said that Ukraine had actually succeeded in “making Russia bleed.” By hanging onto the city for so long, there was evidence that Ukraine had laid the groundwork for a counteroffensive that was about to begin. 

During the interview with the news outlet, the former minister was also asked whether the raid on Belgorod in Russia had been a part of that counteroffensive, and he concurred. The point of that attack was to show Russia “that its territory is under threat.” This meant that Russia would have to engage its forces in that area of the border, thereby weakening Russia’s presence on the 1,500-kilometer-long frontline inside Ukraine. Szeremietiew said that by forcing Russia to disperse its forces, it has weakened Russia’s position. 

Szeremietiew dismissed the likelihood of Russia intervening militarily in Belarus in the event of there being some form of uprising against the Lukashenko government. He said that Russia did not have the strength to open up another front. He also doubted that an uprising in Belarus was likely. 

The defense expert believes Russia simply does not have the troop numbers it needs. He calculates that there are currently between 200,000 and 300,000 troops engaged in Ukraine, but the numbers Ukraine has deployed mean that to win, Russia would need to have 2 million.

“But they don’t have those numbers. If they had the necessary forces and resources, they would have occupied Belarus by now,” he said. 

Asked about U.S. warnings issued to Ukraine about the use of American arms in attacking Russian territory, Szeremietiew thinks that the West in general continues to be concerned about a situation in which a military incident in Russia could ensnare it in a war with the Russians.

According to the former defense minister, this gives Moscow leverage. “Moscow knows this and continues to issue threats,” he says.

However, Szeremietiew said he is convinced that Russia does not have the forces needed to challenge the West, so it is issuing empty threats. 

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