Russian military analyst Atomic Cherry provides an overview of the Western military aid to Ukraine, implying it is not enough to provide a strategic advantage over the Russian army. Instead, the Ukrainian army will continue to rely heavily on Soviet equipment, the burden of repairs of which falls on the shoulders of Eastern European nations that preserved their military-industrial complex from the Soviet period.
The translation of 6 Telegram posts is below:
Over the months of hostilities, Western military assistance to Ukraine has undergone significant structural changes, the essence of which often escapes an inattentive observer.
By default, it is assumed that with each new stage of the conflict, the volume of supplies only increases in order to strengthen the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but this statement is only partly true – a certain increase in the volume of assistance is primarily associated with replenishing the losses of the Ukrainian army in military equipment, ammunition and military property, but not enhancing its capabilities.
From the first days of hostilities, Europe and the United States proceeded from a very specific logic, the essence of which was that after inflicting a certain percentage of losses on the Russian Federation in manpower and equipment, it was believed that Moscow should have abandoned its plans and agreed to peace negotiations. For this reason, deliveries were targeted, their goal was to stop certain advantages of the Russian army: superiority in tanks, artillery, and naval forces.
The problem with this approach lies in the very logic of the fact that the notorious “percentage of losses” can generally have at least some influence on the Kremlin or the internal situation in the Russian Federation. Western planners left out of their calculations a fact that should have been taken into account at least from the point of view of military history – Russia is a country with extremely low sensitivity to losses. You can laugh at it, you can dispute it, you can consider it insignificant, but building a strategy based on ignoring such basic principles of national psychology and perception turned out to be not only absurd but also a fatal mistake.
From the point of view of military art, Russia has always been a country that does not adapt well to a rapidly changing situation and is poorly oriented in conditions of a war with the high speed of decision-making. Here, examples of the Russian-Japanese or Soviet-Finnish wars are quite appropriate – when faced with a strong rival, the country reacted too slowly to the defeats, and having received more or less acceptable conditions for making peace, it preferred to retreat. But sometimes events developed according to a different scenario: one way or another, Russia rebuilt and came to the format of warfare that was most comfortable for it – a war of attrition.
After the events of the first half of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Moscow, which did not suffer serious (for you they may seem catastrophic, but ask yourself a simple reasonable question – does the Kremlin, as the only actor in all processes in the Russian Federation, consider them the same?) economic or resource losses, resorted to this historically developed model.
This fact also had a direct impact on the structure of military assistance for Ukraine from the countries of the NATO bloc, which were forced to adapt to the realities of large-scale military operations of attrition in the face of limited capabilities of their own military industry.
TEXT 2: Attrition Campaign
During the summer-autumn period, NATO actively provided the Ukrainian army with a significant amount of artillery ammunition and tactical missiles, which ensured the short-term superiority of the Armed Forces of Ukraine over the forces of the RF Armed Forces: the accumulated data bank on the objectives of the rear infrastructure of the Russian troops, coupled with a significantly expanded arsenal of high-precision weapons, allowed the Ukrainian army to carry out a number of successful offensive operations near Kharkiv, Izyum and Liman. The targeted destruction of Russian ammunition depots, combined with the increase in the supply of traditional artillery systems, gave Ukraine the necessary advantage in firepower.
During the implementation of offensive operations, it was probably expected that upon completion of such operations, Moscow would request negotiations, and no further high-intensity hostilities were planned. For this reason, Europe and the United States freely provided Kyiv with ammunition from their own military reserves: for example, more than 1 million pieces of 155-mm shells were delivered from July to October. By November, the Western arsenals were significantly depleted without the possibility of a quick replenishment – in the course of subsequent revisions, it turned out that it would take from 3 to 5 years to restore the Alliance’s reserves, due not only to the lack of a sufficient amount of industrial capacity but also in some cases their complete elimination (this situation happened, for example, with the German SMArt 155).
The reason for this is simple – Europe and the United States during the Cold War years were actively looking for ways to reduce their own military spending. If the USSR throughout almost its entire existence actively followed the principle of “guns instead of butter”, then the population of Western countries categorically refused to make such sacrifices. Maintaining the combat readiness of the armed forces is in itself an extremely costly and even unprofitable enterprise, and from the point of view of the economy, the provision of a strategic and mobilization reserve looks like a real “black hole”. After the 50s, the United States took drastic measures, completely abandoning the very concept of “mobilization reserve” – all the country’s military reserves were calculated for a period of super-intense hostilities in Europe for a period of no more than six months. At the end of this period, it was believed that NATO and the Warsaw Pact should have come to some kind of peace agreement – otherwise, America would begin the process of deploying new military production, designed for a period of 5 to 8 years (we are talking, of course, about conventional war scenarios) …
At the same moment, events began to develop in a completely different way – Russia began the process of mobilization. The saturation of the army with manpower contributed to a change in the structure of logistics (the practice of forming large warehouses of military equipment disappeared), and also made it possible to restore the capabilities of rocket and artillery units by reactivating weapons from the strategic reserve. In addition, the factor of expanding the capabilities of the Russian military industry cannot be dismissed: there are a number of interesting stories related to the supply of large batches of European-made industrial equipment to Russia after February 24 of this year, i.e. under the sanctions regime. To date, Russian artillery has restored the pace of fire intensity and is again firing more than 20,000 shells per day.
In a word, the conflict not only did not subside, it turned into a war of attrition, which, for a number of reasons, cannot be considered desirable even for powerful Western economies.
With the beginning of autumn, many rightly expected an intensification of the supply of Western weapons for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Such a step looked logical – by that time the Ukrainian army had demonstrated the ability to both defend and attack, while NATO countries had six months to prepare and organize processes related to increasing the volume of military assistance.
But that did not happen.
As mentioned above, the North Atlantic Alliance has historically sought to cut defense spending, and with the end of the Cold War, this trend became even stronger – NATO became a de facto military-technical hegemon and did not need any military reserves at all. The volumes of those were reduced to the rate of 1 month of intense hostilities, military factories were reduced or redesigned, and funding for defense departments was cut.
For example, let’s talk about heavy armored vehicles.
At present, Germany can produce 100 Leopard 2 tanks in… 65 months. At the same time, Germany does not have the ability to simultaneously produce both tanks and self-propelled guns – the PzH 2000 uses components of the Leo tank chassis (by the way, a few months ago, Kyiv signed a contract with Berlin for the supply of 100 self-propelled guns – and they will be produced, according to its terms, in more than 5 years).
In the United States, the situation is somewhat different, but there is no production of new tank bodies (the current stocks of tanks are needed by the United States to meet their own needs, because vehicles of new modifications are being produced on their basis). America can restore and modernize the old Abrams at a rate of 30 vehicles per month at the moment, 60 vehicles with an increase in funding for the production line, 88 with a radical increase and expansion of the capacities of the only tank plant in the country (this is open data provided in budget documents of the US Armed Forces).
With most other positions (with the exception of military vehicles and aircraft of various types), Western mobilization capabilities are the same as with tanks – they function exclusively to meet the needs of NATO in peacetime. There have been no colossal stockpiles in the Alliance for several decades, which is why it is absolutely impossible to supply the 1-million Ukrainian army with European and American weapons (taking into account the fact that, according to the most conservative estimates, armies lose 1% of equipment per day of current hostilities!). No one plans to radically change this situation – the process of expanding military production in itself is extremely expensive and takes at least five years – and in 2027, perhaps, the relevance of this issue will be lost. NATO countries themselves do not need excess military capacity or strategic reserves – on the contrary, the extremely difficult global economic situation dictates the need to reduce defense spending (Britain, which has cut its already modest assets, is an example of this). As a result, Europe and the United States are having a hard time finding the necessary equipment for Ukraine, and it is for this reason that Kyiv receives either Soviet-made equipment or old M113 armored personnel carriers and police armored personnel carriers.
Nevertheless, NATO countries are forced not only to ensure the functioning of the Ukrainian army, but also to increase the volume of supplies – and in this matter, the heavy legacy of socialism turned out to be a serious help …
The Czech Republic can historically be called one of the key weapons forges in Europe. So it was in the era of the existence of Austria-Hungary and the Soviet Union. A significant part of the Soviet export systems of weapons supplied, for example, to Africa and the Middle East, were produced in Czechoslovakia, which, thanks to the colossal volumes of military orders, was able to maintain a powerful and developed arms industry.
But after the collapse of the Department of Internal Affairs, and then the USSR, the Czech and Slovak military factories were left out of work. One could think that at this moment their story ends, but the Czechs turned out to be much smarter and more perspicacious than their new partners from Western Europe and their former allies from the Soviet republics. Production facilities were mothballed until better times, and waited for their moment for several decades.
Of course, in this matter it is pointless to discuss exclusively the production in the Czech Republic and Slovakia – we are also talking about Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania. The military factories of these countries have provided arms and ammunition supplies to Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict, and continue to steadily expand their capacities (for example, the Polish state concern PGZ is increasing the production of missiles for man-portable air defense systems from 300 to 1000 units per year). The Czech Republic, ironically, turned out to be the only NATO country capable of restoring and modernizing more than 100 units of heavy armored vehicles per month: back in the spring, the pace of work at Czech defense plants made it possible to ship 150 tanks and 150 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine within 30 days.
During the summer period, factories in Eastern Europe reopened and expanded the production of spare parts for Soviet-type artillery (in particular, new gun barrels), as well as 73-mm, 122-mm, 125-mm and 152-mm shells. This made it possible to significantly improve the supply of Ukrainian artillery, although the situation is still far from covering at least 50% of the needs of the artillery brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
However, it should be noted that in the former countries of the Warsaw Pact, the production of full-cycle weapons was practically destroyed – i.e. they can successfully repair and restore a large amount of Soviet-type equipment, but not produce it from scratch. The production of new weapons, as the example of the Polish self-propelled guns “Krab” and the Slovak self-propelled guns “Zuzana” shows, takes a significant amount of time and is possible only in limited batches. But otherwise, the volume of work carried out by the defense plants of Eastern Europe is colossal: they repair wrecked vehicles, take them out of conservation, restore equipment from conservation sites located in Ukraine, modernize Soviet equipment, produce mortars, recoilless guns, shells, cartridges, mine-explosive equipment, anti-aircraft missiles (if not for them, Ukrainian air defense would have exhausted its reserves long ago).
The trend, in a word, is obvious – the rejection of Soviet weapons systems in Ukraine is not expected not only in the coming months, but even years. At the same time, it is worth recognizing that at the moment Eastern Europe cannot ensure the complete satisfaction of the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine: the Ukrainian army is experiencing a chronic “shell hunger”, a lack of infantry firepower, light armored vehicles (this is a separate topic for conversation because the main unit of transport in the Armed Forces of Ukraine have long become Pickups and SUVs, which accordingly affects the number of losses among personnel), as well as army aviation. Given the amount of funding for the Czech and Polish military industry, the situation may change next year – in any case, Ukraine will be supplied mainly by the countries of the former Socialist Bloc with Soviet-style equipment.
TEXT 5: A bet on training
In addition to the mobilization of the military industry in Eastern Europe, NATO has begun to implement another important program to assist the Ukrainian army. It is related to the training and retraining of soldiers and officers of the armed forces of Ukraine, as well as the training of mobilized personnel.
Perhaps we should start with the latter. The issues of training recruits in the course of full-scale hostilities as a whole are an extremely complex and painful topic, discussions around which have been going on in the world military community for decades. The Armed Forces of Ukraine were no exception in this matter – the Ukrainian General Staff was unable to develop a single standard and training program for the mobilized. The process itself on the scale of the army is more like a patchwork quilt – somewhere training is carried out directly in the units by experienced sergeants, somewhere it is conducted by over-enlisted soldiers, somewhere by the police, and somewhere it is not done at all. All this, of course, has an extremely negative impact on the combat capability of units, their controllability, and their combat stability. In such conditions, outside help was a necessity, and the countries of the British Commonwealth organized a mission to educate and train Ukrainian recruits.
In parallel with this, back in the spring, Britain began implementing a retraining program for Ukrainian personnel units, around which a shock fist was formed that was subsequently involved in the Kharkiv-Izyum offensive operation.
This, however, was not enough – in the autumn it became obvious that the Ukrainian army could successfully advance in areas with extremely weakened and rare defensive formations, but not carry out operations to break into echeloned defense, which the Armed Forces of Ukraine met in the Kherson direction. The reason for this was to a large extent the very unstable quality of training and coordination of units, in connection with which the NATO countries announced the launch of a number of different training missions for Ukrainian military personnel.
Most of the declared programs are focused specifically on the retraining of existing units, some on the training of specialists (medical personnel, sappers, snipers), and courses for officers are also provided separately. In total, at least 50,000 Ukrainian soldiers are to pass through the military training grounds of Europe from autumn to spring – a very impressive number that can be considered as the backbone for the formation of a number of shock brigades. The goals of this are obvious – Western countries at the current time cannot provide Ukraine with numerical or technical superiority over Russian forces, but they are able to create it by improving the quality of the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
However, the extent to which these plans are feasible in relation to the situation around Bakhmut will become clear towards the end of the winter period.
As mentioned in the texts above, the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance have concentrated their efforts around two key programs for military-technical assistance to Ukraine: the first is related to the expansion of military production in Eastern Europe, the second is to train a significant number of military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Apparently, Europe and the United States assume that the conflict will end no later than the autumn of 2023, and therefore do not plan any drastic measures related to the rearmament of the Ukrainian army and the mobilization of their own military-industrial complexes. Within the framework of this logic, their actions become more than understandable: for one more year of hostilities, it is enough to organize the production of consumables, ammunition, and repair of Soviet military equipment, as well as concentrate on the individual equipment and training of the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Otherwise, the lack of technical means, most likely, will be made up for by civilian vehicles (the Ukrainian army received over 13,000 units of pickups, SUVs, and trucks).
For example, the programs announced by the United States to expand the production of 155-mm ammunition are not connected with the desire to increase the volume of supplies of shells to Ukraine, but to replenish their own reserves and the reserves of NATO allies, as well as to ensure the possibility of uninterrupted arms sales. Due to the provision of the Ukrainian army, the United States was forced to postpone the completion of military orders to Taiwan in the summer, and also lost some customers, as was the case, for example, in the case of Poland. Military officials in Warsaw have seriously reevaluated contracts for the purchase of American weapons (tanks, tactical missile systems and self-propelled guns) in favor of South Korea, which can produce equipment and ammunition at a much faster rate than America.
It should also be added that Ukraine receives significant funds for the development of its own military production facilities, which are located both on the territory of the country and in Eastern Europe (it is known that some Ukrainian defense enterprises have organized operation in Poland and the Czech Republic). At least due to this, the Ukrainian armed forces were able to restore and maintain aircraft from mothballing, organised their own production of drones, electronic warfare equipment, and a certain range of ammunition. Also, at the expense of financing the domestic defense industry, Kyiv is working on the creation of a number of promising weapons of the operational-tactical level, some of which we will probably see in the first half of 2023.
In conclusion, I note that if the hostilities do not end in 2023, the states allied to Ukraine will be forced to develop and mass-produce certain “mobilization” type weapons to make up for losses and the general shortage of equipment in the Ukrainian army. The rate of destruction of light armored vehicles and unarmored vehicles is currently close to the level of the Second World War – at the same time, explosion-proof wheeled armored personnel carriers of the MRAP type, which are widely used in NATO, are poorly suited for operation in the types of soil that are represented in Ukraine, and covering the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on an ongoing basis with these is impractical.