The race is now on to constitute forces capable of overcoming such odds and achieving a breakthrough. Moscow already has a substantial troop reserve. Last year, it mobilised 300,000 recruits and sent half of them straight into battle with minimal training. The remaining 150,000 are being trained but it is not clear to what end. They could just be rotated in piecemeal to replace casualties, or Russia could be building a new armoured brigade.
Outfitting such a force with effective equipment will be a challenge. The Russian army has been bringing antiquated equipment out of storage to replace its losses, and there are many signs it is trying to economise on its use of missiles and artillery shells. The force that Russia is assembling is an inferior, cheaper version of the force with which it began the war.
There are also serious questions over whether Russia forces have learned the tactical lessons from the fiasco a year ago and are in any better shape now to mount properly coordinated attacks.
“I think the Russian ability for offensive manoeuvre on a large scale right now is really challenged,” said Dara Massicot, former senior Pentagon analyst on Russian military capabilities, who is now a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corporation.