Ukraine is getting a lot of weapons from Russia thanks to Putin’s forces leaving equipment behind: More than seven months into the war and the Ukrainian military is on the counteroffensive. Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian forces have managed to liberate thousands of square miles of territory and destroy or capture large numbers of Russian forces.
Surprisingly, however, despite the billions that the Ukrainian military has received in security aid from the United States, United Kingdom, and the rest of NATO, the Russian military remains perhaps the biggest supplier of the Ukrainian military—but with a twist.
How Russia Supplies Ukraine
Starting in September, the Ukrainian military has launched two highly successful counteroffensives in the east and the south.
The result has been the liberation of hundreds of settlements and tens of thousands of people. But the Ukrainians have been gaining more than just land. At every turn of the Ukrainian counteroffensives, the Russian forces have retreated, abandoning hundreds of tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces, and other weapon systems behind.
Both the Russian and Ukrainian military use the same basic Soviet/Russian weapon systems. Much like the German Wehrmacht in the Second World War would feed some of its offensives with fuel captured at Allied logistical hubs, the Ukrainian forces are feeding their counteroffensives with main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles they capture from the Russians. Besides potential manpower losses, it doesn’t matter if a Ukrainian unit loses three T-72 tanks during an assault against a Russian-held village if it captures seven T-80 tanks after the battle.
Repurposed Russian Weapon Systems
As a result, the Ukrainian military is now using a large amount of repurposed Russian weapon systems that have been captured on the battlefield.
“Re-purposed captured Russian equipment now makes up a large proportion of Ukraine’s military hardware. Ukraine has likely captured at least 440 Russian Main Battle Tanks, and around 650 other armoured vehicles since the invasion. Over half of Ukraine’s currently fielded tank fleet potentially consists of captured vehicles,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
The Russian forces are abandoning weapon systems with alarming ease, a sign of a force that has largely lost its morale—a determined force with high morale would fight until its position became unattainable and then destroy everything before withdrawing.
“The failure of Russian crews to destroy intact equipment before withdrawing or surrendering highlights their poor state of training and low levels of battle discipline. With Russian formations under severe strain in several sectors and increasingly demoralised troops, Russia will likely continue to lose heavy weaponry,” the British Military Intelligence added.
At the end of the day, it’s a double loss for the Russian military as it not only losses weapon systems that are hard to replace, but those very same weapons are used against it by its opponent.
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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.