Putin’s Next Ukraine Problem: Russian independent news outlet The Insider claimed this week that the Russian military is expecting an “acute shortage of weapons” by the end of the year. The news comes as Ukraine pushes ahead with a fresh offensive in Kherson with the long-term aim of pushing Russian soldiers out of the region entirely and reclaiming all occupied territory in the southeast.
The claim was not made based on inside information from the Kremlin or Ukrainian officials. Instead, the prediction is based on a forensic analysis of Russia’s previous military pursuits, existing supplies of weapons and ammunition, and losses experienced on the battlefield over the last six months.
Why a Weapons Shortage for Russia? Analysis:
According to the newspaper, Russia is already running low on guided missiles, and the military’s supply of artillery shells and armored vehicles available will be entirely exhausted by the end of the year due to the Ukraine war. The outlet also claims that the state of Russia’s military aviation “does not allow for a full-scale air campaign.”
The outlet estimated the volume of actual artillery ammunition production by looking at figures from the end of 2017. 1.7 million munitions and missiles were produced by the end of 2017 after a large-scale program was launched in 2014 to resupply the Russian military – amounting to roughly 570,000 per year.
“Based on these figures, it is possible to estimate the volume of actual production of artillery ammunition,” The Insider notes, adding that it is possible to calculate a ratio of repair and production of new ammunition based on available data.
For every 570,000 refurbished shells, the outlet notes, there are as many as 1.14 million new shells produced.
“Thus, the total annual rate of replenishment of artillery arsenals in the 2010s did not exceed 1.6-1.7 million shells of all types. And here it is worth mentioning an interesting detail: the supply of rockets of all types, for example, in 2017 amounted to only 10,700 pieces,” the report claims.
If the calculations hold true, it suggests that six months of Russian aggression in Ukraine have cost at least 7 million shells so far. That figure also doesn’t consider the number of shells lost to Ukrainian HIMARS strikes on Russian ammunition depots.
The Insider also offered calculations that reveal the threat posed by barrel wear, which could hinder Russia’s ability to maintain a long-term presence in Ukraine. Even with proper maintenance, the long-term use of multiple-launch rocket systems gradually reduces their effectiveness and could leave the Russian military without the firepower it needs by the end of the year.
Unless Russia’s allies step up and provide direct military assistance or supply weapons and ammunition to Russia in the same way NATO is backing Ukraine, Putin could be forced to withdraw his troops in 2023.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.