Sanctions strangle Russia’s arms supply chain

A senior US defense official confirmed The war zone Monday morning, something Ukrainian officials have been saying for a while now about arms supplies from Russia. Not only is Russia suffering huge battlefield casualties, but its ability to resupply its forces has been undermined thanks to punitive economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

Since the start of its war against Ukraine on February 24, Russia has lost thousands of major weapon systems, such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems, helicopters, aircraft fixed-wing, ships and many other weapons that were destroyed, damaged. or captured, according to Oryxspioenkop, an independent open source investigator.

Ukrainian servicemen walk next to destroyed Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers in the village of Dmytrivka, west of kyiv, on April 2, 2022. (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)

“There has been an effect on Putin’s ability to resupply and resupply, particularly in the area of ​​components for some of his systems and precision-guided munitions,” the official said in response to a matter of The war zone. “They have already had a problem in terms of restocking their inventory due to the components of some of these systems. And it has already had a practical effect on Putin.

One example, according to Russian media, is the next-generation airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, the A-100 Premier. Its progress has been stalled due to delays in the delivery of electronic components like microchips, thanks to sanctions imposed on Russia.

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The top US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, would not elaborate further on which systems are affected by sanctions-imposed supply chain issues and in which measure. However, the sanctions exacerbate earlier problems in Russia’s supply chain, the official said.

Launch of a Kalibr cruise missile. Guided munitions like Kalibr are among the Russian weapons productions most affected by foreign sanctions.

“We know they are working through their re-supply efforts with their own defense procurement process and are concerned about the speed and scale of their ability to increase their own domestic production of items. defense. And sanctions have an effect on their ability to do so.

Among other things, Ukraine claims that efforts to resupply tanks and air defense systems are affected by the sanctions.

A Russian T-90MS tank manufactured by Uralvagonzavod. Photography Uralvagonzavod.

“They have huge problems with the military infrastructure,” Ukrainian Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov, head of his country’s Defense Intelligence Agency, or GUR, recently told his agency’s Telegram channel. In a summary of his statements in Ukrainian, the Telegram channel said the problems led to the “freezing of the horde of air defense production”. The synopsis adds that Budanov said many companies have already closed and laid off workers.

Russia is depleting its stockpile of missiles, according to the April 16 “War Bulletin” produced by the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and shared with The war zone. “Its military-industrial complex has to operate 24/7 to resupply them.”

This issue of the War Bulletin claimed that “more than 20 Russian military companies have been forced to suspend their activities in whole or in part due to a shortage of parts and components, as well as rising prices due to sanctions”. Among these companies are the research and production company Vimpel, which produces missiles for aircraft, and the only Russian company that manufactures tanks, Uralvagonzavod, the largest such company in the world.

The GUR said that Uralvagonzavod, which among other things manufactures the Russian T-72 main battle tank, “is facing rising interest rates on loans, rising prices for materials and components (including armored steel)”, according to the Institute for the Study of Warfare. The ISW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research organization that focuses on military affairs.

We have contacted the State Department for more information, but have not yet received a response.

Sanctions hit Russian tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod. VASILI MAXIMOV/AFP via Getty Images

John Hardie, director of research and research analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said The war zone he is skeptical of claims that the sanctions will have a serious short-term impact on Russia’s war efforts.

“Western sanctions have and will undoubtedly continue to undermine Russian defense and related industries, for example by hampering Russian missile production and satellite programs,” he said. “But I’m skeptical of claims that sanctions affecting Russia’s defense industrial base will significantly limit Russia’s ability to continue the war, at least in the short term.”

He cited the example of Russian tanks.

“The Ukrainian General Staff claimed on March 21 that a shortage of foreign-made components had forced Russia’s UralVagonZavod (UVZ), which notably manufactures tanks and wagons, to suspend operations,” Hardie said. . “I don’t know whether the sanctions actually slowed or stopped UVZ’s production and, if so, whether it affected its production of military vehicles or just civilian contracts.”

“On the one hand, building tanks obviously takes time, so any additional tanks built by the UVZ might not make it to the battlefield, depending on how long the war lasts,” he said.

Previous sanctions imposed on Russia after the 2014 invasion of Ukraine have not proven bulletproof.

Disclosefor example, reported that between 2015 and 2020, France “issued 76 export licenses to Russia for military equipment with a total value of 152 million euros”.

Offers, Disclose reported, “primarily involve thermal imaging cameras for tanks, and navigation systems and infrared sensors for Russian fighters and attack helicopters.”

Disclose reported that while the United States and its allies pressured French President Francois Hollande to cancel the planned sale of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia in 2015, “successive French governments under the first President Hollande and then President Macron had to take advantage of a loophole in the European embargo: it was not retroactive.

As a result, Disclose reported, “Any contract signed before the decision to impose an embargo could continue.

In addition, the equipment was exported under warranty, that is to say that the French manufacturers undertook to carry out any repairs for several years after delivery, as long as France did not suspend their export license.

The French army, however, dismissed the idea that it was violating 2014 EU sanctions.

“With regard to exports of military equipment, France strictly respects its international commitments, including the Arms Trade Treaty and the EU common position,” said French MOD spokesperson Hervé Grandjean. , in a tweet thread from March 14. “The execution of some contracts signed before 2014 was allowed under the so-called “grandfather clause”. A contract concluded before the annexation of Crimea can be fulfilled and equipment deliveries can be continued.

The 2021 report to Parliament, Grandjean added, “shows that since 2014 the amount of equipment deliveries to Russia has been steadily declining, approaching zero in 2020. This is the result of the successive closures of these contracts.” .

There have been no new contracts with Russia since 2014, according to Grandjean.

“No deliveries have been made to Russia since the start of the #WarUkraine“, he tweeted.

However, some French components were found on Russian equipment captured in Ukraine.

The end of these grandfathering agreements under the 2022 sanctions would also impact Russia’s ability to produce weapons.

France is not the only nation to have its components found in Russian weapons.

A Russian drone shot down in 2017, for example, contained parts from half a dozen Western companies, according to the Washington Postciting a report by the organization Conflict Armament Research.

“The engine came from a German company that supplies model aircraft enthusiasts,” the newspaper reported on February 11. “Computer chips for navigation and wireless communication were made by American suppliers. A British company provided a motion detection chip. Other parts came from Switzerland and South Korea.”

The defense sector is not the only segment of the Russian economy to suffer from sanctions, ISW said. The sanctions “continue to harm Russia’s already fragile economy,” the ISW noted in a recent situation report. Standard & Poor’s “announced on April 8 that Russia had fallen into selective default after Russia offered its required payment in rubles, not dollars.”

Meanwhile, the UK Center for Economics and Business Research estimates that Russia will suffer a 14% loss in gross domestic product output over a two-year period compared to a scenario in which it did not invade the ‘Ukraine.
Although the United States and Ukraine say the current sanctions are affecting Russia’s ability to resupply its war materials, its military continues to devastate Ukrainian cities like Mariupol. And Russia, which the Pentagon says is preparing for another major attack in the Donbass, recently deployed 11 additional battalion battle groups to eastern and southern Ukraine, the senior intelligence official said Monday morning. defense to journalists.

MARIUPOL, UKRAINE – A view of a partially destroyed building in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol under the control of the Russian military and pro-Russian separatists, April 13, 2022. (Photo by Leon Klein/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

So while the good news for Ukraine is that the sanctions appear to be hitting Putin’s war machine, even Kyiv admits there won’t be an instant battlefield postponement.

“Given the Russian stockpiles of ammunition and armor as well as the old-fashioned style of warfare, we could not expect any positive effects of sanctions on war efforts in the short term,” said an expert from defense in Ukraine. The war zone Monday afternoon. “It could happen in the middle and along.”

Putting the Kremlin under fiscal pressure will also make the recapitalization of the Russian military less feasible even after its invasion of Ukraine ends or drastically de-escalates.

Although time will tell how the post-February. 24 sanctions against Russia will be played out on the battlefield, one thing seems likely.

With the new round of much tougher sanctions, future Russian armaments will have to rely on their own domestic production capabilities.