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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Russia Might Not Be Able to Fight NATO Thanks to the Ukraine War

M1 Abrams
The Abrams Main Battle Tank closes with and destroys the enemy using mobility, firepower, and shock effect.

Could Russia still fight NATO? The war in Ukraine has proved catastrophic for the Russian military thus far. In almost seven months of war, the Russian forces have suffered one humiliating defeat after another, losing tens of thousands of troops in the process and thousands of pieces of equipment.

As a result, the capabilities of the Russian military have been seriously degraded, and Moscow’s ability to fight the U.S. and NATO has been dramatically degraded.

The Destruction of the Russian Military 

The heavy losses of the Russian military in Ukraine will take years and billions to repair. For example, some of the Russian units that defended—and retreated—from Kharkiv belonged to the elite 1st Guards Tank Army.

One of the best formations in the Russian military before the war, the 1st Guards Tank Army was used in the assault on Kyiv in the opening weeks and months of the war.

In peacetime, the unit is reserved for the defense of Moscow and for counterattacks against NATO forces in the event of a conflict with the transatlantic alliance.

But the heavy fighting around Kyiv and Kharkiv has left the formation in tatters, losing dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles and thousands of troops. The losses from the Battle for Kyiv were so heavy that even five months later the formation hadn’t fully replenished them when the Ukrainian forces counterattacked around Kharkiv.

“With 1 GTA and other WEMD [Western Military District] formations severely degraded, Russia’s conventional force designed to counter NATO is severely weakened. It will likely take years for Russia to rebuild this capability,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its daily estimate of the war.

Russia Has Taken Some Big Wholesale Losses 

The losses of the 1st Guards Tank Army are representative of the wholesale losses of the entire Russian military in Ukraine.

In the last week of fighting alone, the Russian military has lost 4,350 Russian troops killed (and between 8,500 to 13,000 wounded), 84 tanks, 155 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 94 artillery pieces, 15 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, 11 anti-aircraft systems, 7 fighter, attack, or transport aircraft, 6 helicopters, 27 unmanned aerial systems, 24 cruise missiles, 8 pieces of special equipment, such as bridging material, and 176 vehicles and fuel tanks.

Such losses are hard to replenish, especially under the excruciating sanctions that the U.S. and the West have imposed on Moscow. To be sure, Russia is a vast country with a large population. Under real stress, the Kremlin could replenish its forces by triggering a mass mobilization. But in the materiel aspect, the situation isn’t as easy.


Tu-160 Bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The U.S. and Western sanctions have crippled the Russian defense and aerospace industry, and any tank, fighter jet, artillery piece, and ballistic missile being lost in Ukraine is that much harder to replace.

As the war continues, the Russian military capabilities are bound to decrease in effectiveness and, alongside them, the conventional military deterrence of Russia.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.



  1. Mario

    September 14, 2022 at 4:42 am

    “Could Russia still fight NATO?”

    No, dear Stavros. Russia just in the seventies was almost a pair with nato. In the 1980s it weakened and in the 1990s it fell apart. It never regained the fighting ability of the mid 70’s.
    Any mid sized NATO armed forces can drive out russian forces from his territory as a small and underequiped army has showed us recently. Russian armed forces hardware has not aged well, too out of date for the times. Bad comms, bad logistics, bad tactics, bad weaponry, bad intelligence…

    Russia is allmost a pair with a, for example, french, italian, german, spanish or UK armed forces but is no match for even two of them together. Imagine against NATO at full force. Their only chance, would be nukes. Unfortunately.

  2. Yrral

    September 14, 2022 at 4:50 am

    If American railroad go on strike ,America will not be able to deliver it own military supply,let along the economy will collapse Google Rail Strike

  3. TheDon

    September 14, 2022 at 7:15 am

    Defending a homeland is different than an invasion.
    Ukraine doesnt want Russian control. Iraq didnt want Saddams control. Afganistan said no to Russians.
    Russia still has many formidable weapons. They may not “win” but it would be costly to all.
    The only winner is Xi.
    A war may make china the dominate world military.
    Peace w Russia even after Putins idiotic attempt, long term is better for Nato.
    Bring Russia into EU would isolate the largest communist regime.
    Its a long shot to think leaders can have a future vision. What is apparent, food and energy cooperation is becoming more important.

  4. Froike

    September 14, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    This ORC Invasion of Ukraine proved that Ukrainians are First Rate Soldiers. Many were trained by The US and NATO Partners. If they had NATO Weaponry in the beginning of this conflict, the war would have been over by now.
    Granted, NATO/US Intelligence helped a lot, as did advanced weapons technology: HARMS, HIMARS, Javelins, Air Defense and Artillery Radars, etc. Imagine what The Ukrainians could have accomplished with modern armor and aircraft? If NATO supplies these weapons to Ukraine, Russia will never be able to invade another country!

  5. Jacksonian Libertarian

    September 14, 2022 at 1:02 pm

    “Russia could mobilize more troops.” they say.

    What would they arm them with? Russia has burned through decades of accumulated weapons, and is reduced to using emergency supplies of old Soviet equipment like the T-62 tanks, and artillery rounds. Russia is buying weapons from North Korea and Iran, because it can’t supply the troops it has fighting now. Russian troops are now surrendering in large numbers, as dying for Putin’s territorial ambitions is a wasted life.

    Russian democratic political forces could get a second chance in the near future.

  6. SkippingDog

    September 14, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    If you understood American labor law, you’d know any rail strike won’t last long, since rail is one of the industries under significant levels of federal oversight and control for just the reasons you claim.

  7. Rob

    September 15, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    Russia doesn’t have to fight NATO. NATO countries can’t even keep the lights on.

  8. Chris Cha

    September 15, 2022 at 11:11 pm

    As others have said here, @Mario, Russia could not take on NATO before the Ukraine war. With its depleted resources, Russia would be quickly wiped out in a conventional war. They would quickly threaten and resort to nukes.

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