Before invading Ukraine, the Russian army was considered the second biggest military force in the world. After almost five months of war with considerable losses of troops and military equipment, both data experts and military experts say Russia will now need many years to recover. In the worst case for the Russians, the former military potential could never be restored.
Even if it does not make public losses of soldiers and officers...
Since March, when the Russian Defense Ministry announced the number of casualties among the Russian troops in the war in Ukraine (1,351 reported deaths), the losses of lives among soldiers have no longer been made public. Nevertheless, from independent sources it is known that until the fourth month of war, Russian lost 2% to 4% of the personnel of its active army on the battlefield. An estimated minimum of 2% can be obtained if the data made known by the British intelligence services at the end of May – 15,000 deaths – are taken into account. According to these, Russia’s losses during three months of war in Ukraine are comparable with the losses of the USSR during the ten-year war in Afghanistan and exceed the casualties in the two wars in Chechnya that, according to Russian official statistics, rose to over 11,000 people. According to the data of the Ukrainian General Staff, in the middle of June Russia irremediably lost over 33,000 soldiers and officers or 4% of its army. It should be noted that the Ukrainians include not only the dead, but also those who were seriously hurt in the casualties. For the Russian military grouping that attacked Ukraine starting on February 24, this means that it irrecoverably lost 8% to 18% of its composition until the fourth month of war.
The general state of the Russian army is affected by the losses among the body of officers that, according to Mediazona, until the start of June totaled 581 officers dead in Ukraine. These are only those whose death became known. The Western military experts are bewildered at the large number of losses among high-ranking officers – generals and colonels of the Russian army in Ukraine. According to them, this is due to the degrading military tactics of the Russian army that were inherited and got frozen since the last world war.
Great capacity to lose armored tanks and small capacity to restore number?
If we speak about the losses of Russian military equipment on the battlefield, the war in Ukraine hit the worst the armored vehicles and tanks. This is the main type of armament of the Russian side. This equipment is used by the land troops that are involved in fighting to the greatest extent. According to the international agency Important Stories, the Russian army lost 23% to 42% of its tanks engaged in fighting and 8% to 19% of other armored vehicles. The international project Oryx, which analyses photos and videos of lost equipment, estimated a minimum of 785 tanks (23%) and 1,549 units (8%) of armored vehicles. According to analysts of the Conflict Intelligence Team, these figures reflect approximately 70-80% of the real losses during the first two months of war. According to the data of the U.S. Department of State, the Russian army by the end of May lost 1,000 tanks, which is 29% of all the active tanks of Russia.
It’s true that Russia has over 10,000 tanks in reserve or in so-called conservation, but it is hard to bank on them. According to experts, not all the equipment of the reserve is suitable for immediate use or can be restored during the shortest period of time. It can take Russia years to restore its fleet of tanks and other armored vehicles to the level before the war, but this can turn out to be impossible owing to the sanctions. This estimation is based on knowledge of the fact that during the last decade after 2011, Russia modernized and produced 150-160 tanks and approximately 500 other types of armored vehicles a year. Taking into account the losses of this equipment in the war in Ukraine, five to seven years of work will be needed to restore it. But the modernization took place using imported electronic components. For example, Thales (French company) thermal sights were placed on the tank T-72. Now that the imports are not possible, something like this is impossible.
Shells and rockets close to be exhausted?
As regards the artillery, the same Important Stories says that Russia lost already a considerable number of its weapons. According to pictures and videos of the battlefield, Russia lost 5% of its missiles. The U.S. Department of State put the figure at 6%, while the general Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at 16%. Consumption of shells is a serious problem of the Russian artillery. It is estimated that the Soviet shell reserves in Russia’s military depots are close to an end.
The Russian army’s reserves of missiles are even in a more serious state. Early in June, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenski said the Russian troops already launched over 2,500 rockets against different targets all over the country and most of them hit civilian facilities. According to military experts, Russia so far consumed two thirds of its rocket supplies. It is noteworthy that Russia has two types of rocket systems: Soviet and post-Soviet. The Soviet-era rockets are close to be used up and no one will ever make them again. For example, the X-555 and X-22 cruise missiles that were inherited from the Soviet Union will be soon exhausted and will no longer exist as they are out of production. The rockets produced in Russia (Iskander, Caliber, Onyx and others) do not exceed 50 pieces of each type a year. Consequently, estimates show that at most 2,000 rockets have been produced since 2011. The supplies contained another 1,000 Soviet rockets. Out of these, more than 2,000 rockets or two third of all the supplies were already used. Furthermore, not all the supplies can be used in a war as there is an irreducible reserve for the Northern Fleet, for the Pacific Fleet, for the strategic navigation. Otherwise, the whole nuclear discouragement doctrine will collapse and Russia will become militarily naked in the international competition of the great nuclear powers of the world.
In such conditions, some military experts consider that even if Russia continues using the rest of the missiles, striking targets on the territory of Ukraine, the intensity of shelling decreased considerably last month, to three-four rockets a day. It’s true that the Russian army tries to maintain a particular rhythm of air terror so as to demoralize the population as air strikes are daily launched in Ukraine for the civilians to be afraid and to believe that the Russians have interminable arms supplies. But objective data show the armament reserves have been significantly used and the Russian military-industrial complex does not have the capacity to swiftly refill the supplies because the Russian missile factories use imported parts and production is more difficult now that the Western countries imposed sanctions. Surely, another 50 rockets of each type can be made this year by the Russian arms industry, but this will not help restore the over 2,000 rockets used in the war. This number of newly made rockets will create problems to Ukraine, but will not secure Russia’s victory. Even if there is place for fighting, in the long run there is no place for optimism for the Russian army when the Russian military-industrial complex is slowly, but definitely killed by the Western sanctions.
If it yet happens...
In accordance with the expertise note of a number of military experts, in the war in Ukraine Russia already lost so many troops and equipment that if another country attacks it with conventional weapons, Russia will now face difficulties in fighting back. It is estimated that if the main forces of an army are involved in a war, what remains in the country is not of the best quality and, in this case, it does not go only to qualitative parameters. On the other hand, Russia itself can face huge problems if it invades now another country, even such a small and vulnerable country as the Republic of Moldova, while continuing the war in Ukraine. This is good news for the Republic of Moldova whose citizens follow the Russian military aggression against Ukraine with natural concern. Now that Russia got stuck in the war in Ukraine, this period should be used to the maximum to swiftly strengthen the defense capabilities of the National Army as a factor for additionally discouraging an eventual military aggression against the Moldovan state.
Propagandistic part of the war
The hot war in Ukraine has lasted for over four months, but Russia attacks not only with tanks and artillery. It wages a real propagandistic war not only against Ukraine, but also against other states, in particular the Republic of Moldova. The Russian mass media that are fully subordinated to the Kremlin fuel international public opinion with provocative narrative about the possibility of the Third World War if Russia is not allowed to devour Ukraine. Furthermore, the Russian propaganda threatens other states that try to strengthen their military defense capabilities that they can become the next victims, by the example of Ukraine. But the war in Ukraine spoiled the reputation of infatuated invincibility of the Russian army that at the moment cannot represent, from the perspective of conventional weapons, a serious threat to NATO, for example, while Russia needs years to comprehensively reform and rebuild its army.
Think about peace, but brace for … something else
Surely, Chisinau should attentively follow the military developments in Ukraine and strengthen the political and logistical capacities for offering an increased security level to the state. Even if there is no danger of a Russian military invasion of the Republic of Moldova at the moment, this perspective cannot be excluded in the future. The counteracting of an eventual Russian offensive against the Republic of Moldova necessitates the strengthening of the political-military cooperation with Romania, which is a NATO member, so as to build the military resistance of the Moldovan state by extending cooperation with the most powerful and efficient collective security mechanism in the world. Moscow should know that if necessary, Chisinau will ask support from Romania and NATO so as to be able to resist foreign military aggression.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.