For months, Kyiv has been begging its allies for ever-increasing amounts of weapons, before suddenly launching a full-scale counter-offensive. For its part, Russia continues to bombard its enemy, but seems to be experiencing difficulties in supplying its troops as they advance into Ukrainian territory, stretching the front line and destroying all infrastructure.
From abandoned tanks to drop-delivered rocket launchers, the war in Ukraine is also a war of equipment and stocks. But who will win this battle? Can Ukraine win without the West’s precious ammunition? Will Russia end the drought? 20 minutes examines the situation with Philippe Migault, director of the European Center for Strategic Analysis.
What do we know about the state of ammunition and armament stocks in each country?
In essence, it is impossible to know precisely the state of the stocks of the Russian or Ukrainian army, because “these data are classified”, recalls Philippe Migault in 20 minutes. Nevertheless, the expert on strategic issues remembers an important point: “the Ukrainians have a very low” and severely damaged defense industry, where the Russians remain “the second largest exporter” of weapons.
Thus, although deprived of all aid or subject to sanctions, Moscow can mobilize its entire arms industry in the service of war. “And in stocks, Russia is fighting with weapons and ammunition from the Soviet era in large quantities,” the researcher said. Dating from the Cold War, thousands of tanks, are actually old now, so can be repaired without needing Western technology, he judges. However, the war lasted longer than the Kremlin expected, “the chances of a Russian military fatigue are higher than a Ukrainian military fatigue”, estimated recently Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) in the Black Sea and Balkan Security Forum.
Russia may have another trick: in the last few days, rumors have been circulating about the delivery of weapons to North Korea and Iran. Debris of a drone shot down by the Ukrainian defense has been found, and it can be proven that the drone was of Iranian manufacture. In the meantime, Philippe Migault “refused to comment” until there is confirmation.
Is Ukraine suspended from Western aid?
As Ukraine’s arms industry is one of the main targets of Russian bombing, it has become difficult for kyiv to manufacture and repair its own weapons. Ukraine thus finds itself “subdued by Western industrial aid”, Philippe Migault sums up. This poses several limitations. “This industry needs to do more, to bring equipment to the Ukrainian border and then beyond, and to train Ukrainians,” he listed. Much more complicated than Russia, which can at least get its weapons across the border easily.
But can this help continue? “The German example is shining”, pointed out the director of the CEAS, while Berlin slowed down the export of weapons. “The German army is in a state of weakness that the equipment has to work to give it to Ukraine”, not to mention that the Germans “realized that German industry cannot survive without Russian gas” . For the researcher, “as time passes and winter approaches, divisions grow within the EU” in the Ukrainian file.
Whoever is the first to empty his ammunition, will he really lose?
“We cannot win a war without ammunition or men,” said Philippe Migault. The lack of information on the number of people fighting and not in the war complicates the reading of the balance of forces. Therefore, kyiv showed that it killed more than 50,000 Russian soldiers since the beginning of the war, but “never talked about its own losses”, the researcher recalled. However, due to “so many testimonies of Russian artillery power, one can imagine that there will be many losses”. With a tight flow of equipment, forced to use general mobilization, the Ukrainian army played its counter-offensive at 100% of its capacity.
On the other hand, “we saw pictures of abandoned tanks but no corpses”, said Philippe Migault, which made him say that “the Russians saved the men”, while they were numerically low on the forehead. “The one who is at risk of losing the war of attrition is the one who can launch the counter-offensive in excess”, judge for his part Pierre Grasser, co-researcher of the Sirice laboratory, in an interview with AFP. And especially the one “who has the most important bleeding”, concludes Philippe Migault.