Former CIA chief of counterintelligence James Olson stated in an interview that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin could be a “dead man walking” because of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Particularly unnerving is the high casualty rate that Russian soldiers are suffering. The losses not only shock military leaders and nauseate the oligarchs, but they are also causing the Russian population to growing weary.

Olson, a highly decorated 30-year CIA veteran says he believes the huge loss of life amongst Russian troops is creating a “strong undercurrent of opposition to Putin.” According to Olson, “It is not going well at all. I believe Putin is in a no-win situation now.” Olson further stated, “If Putin stays in power, there will be a long war because he will not give up — but I do not think that Putin is going to stay in power. I believe that he will be removed from power.” He believes that if Putin were to be ousted from power by some uprising, that war would quickly end. However, the challenges facing Russia are multifaceted.

Manpower Shortages

According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies last month, between 60,000 and 70,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the war began. The U.S. State Department believes Russian dead and wounded are upwards of 200,000. Regardless of the actual figures, strategists state the numbers are causing tremendous strife amongst Russians and support for the war is eroding.

With the Ukraine invasion becoming a war of attrition, Russian military officials continue to indicate that new troops will be needed for the war effort. The twice-yearly draft of military conscripts, which is supposedly different from recent multiple mobilization call-up, was to begin on April 1. Russian officials intend to conscript between 170,000 and 200,000 men during the spring draft. But how do they obtain additional troops during continued losses? Analysts say Russia will proceed with a continuous series of small call ups or at some point perform a massive mobilization.

Revenue Problems

Another issue is revenue. With Europe no longer buying Russian oil and gas, the Russian economy, is under significant stress. Fossil fuel, chemicals and products made with fossil fuels represent 75% of all Russian exports. The European Union has cut Russian oil imports from about 750,000 barrels per day to near zero. Europe’s replacement oil is coming largely from the Middle East and the U.S. Putin thought Europe would capitulate with the loss of cheap Russian natural gas. In the end, Putin’s thoughts on Europe were proven wrong.

With a 30% drop in Russian exports from a year ago, fuel prices continue to move towards normal. This past week, West Texas Intermediate had fallen more than 44% to $69 from last year. Even with Brent crude jumping to $85 on Monday after the OPEC announced output cuts, it is still down more than 32% from $125 last April. Russian oil has fallen from $92 a year ago to $49 this past month according to the Kremlin Finance Ministry. The one bright spot for Russia is China as a buyer. Other buyers like Cuba, Egypt, North Korea, and Sri Lanka have little capacity to pay cash for the oil.

Leadership Support Faltering

Former Russian leaders and oligarchs remain cautiously critical of the Kremlin. Over the weekend, a former Russian commander Igor Girkin ridiculed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s announcement of increasing the number of munitions for Russian troops fighting on the front lines in Ukraine. Girkin, in support of the Ukraine invasion, is a leading voice of Russian military bloggers critical of Moscow’s Ukrainian strategy. Girkin recently blogged Shoigu and other Russian military leaders were being “idiots” and “do not understand what they say and write.” Recently he stated the Russian population will eventually begin to ask, “If everything is so good and healthy with us, why is the war going on for the 14th month, the losses are high, and the victory is further away than at the beginning?”

Arrest Threats

With the international criminal court (ICC) issuing an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin last month, we see the walls closing in from multiple fronts. However, many believe countries threatened by Russia or favored trading partners, will not arrest Putin. Unfortunately, Russian leaderships’ sly and crafty behavior may very well allow for the continuation of their war effort for a long time.


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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at