How Russia prepared for a new war and what it missed


The procurement process of a military can highlight the way it will fight its wars, and Russia proves just that with its invasion of Ukraine. The past few days, Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting each other, mainly for control over key-cities that the Ukrainians are eager to defend. 

Even though information is plenty, it is difficult to trust every image and/or video we may see online. Having said that, it is undeniable that large amounts of cruise missiles were utilized in the opening stages of the conflict. It is important to point that out, since the missile arsenal of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was almost completely renovated and supplied with modern systems as part of the GPV-2020 programm. The program alocated around 700b USD for the acquisition of modern, indigenous built weapons, and the upgrade of old Soviet era pieces.

Apart from the missiles, helicopters make constant appearances too. Yet again the Russians would be expected to make good use of their attack helicopters which, just like the missile systems, were put through modernization. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, by 2017 three quarters of the helicopters in the Russian arsenal were modern and/or upgraded.

Last but not least, the armoured forces need to be addressed too. Both sides make heavy use of their armour, which is totally expected. Though those armoured forces seem to be in a very difficult spot as of now, this has to do mostly with their implementation on the battlefield. It is clear that the British supplied NLAWs have made a name for themselves in Ukraine and that very frequently images and videos surface that show ambushes of convoys, including convoys of armoured vehicles. The point here is not to undermine the role of the tank, nor to praise AT systems like the NLAW. The point is that the preparation for the use of armour and the actual use of armour in that conflict highlights the environment in which Russia carries out its operations.

Traditionally it has been believed that working on Soviet era material is easier for the Russian industry. Thus, one would expect that the modernization process of tanks, APCs, IFVs etc. would be very easy and quick. Instead, the Russians have moved more slowly in this sector. It has been stated that only 14% of the 700b worth programm has been given for the modernization and purchase of new armoured units.

Now, apart from the small priority that was given to the armoured forces, we also witness that the tactics used so far in Ukraine put them in a much worse condition. In many cases the Russians pushed forwards with their forces leaving areas controlled by Ukrainian forces untouched. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there were no thoughts regarding the use of these units, but that there was more faith put in other forces without taking into full consideration the type of war in which the Russians would get into and the availability of the more modern systems.

All in all we see a great emphasis put on weapon systems that can deliver precision strikes and which were heavily upgraded during the last decade. Though as we witness, the aforementioned tactics did not hold for long and there was the need to put in use the much more numerous armoured forces of the Russian Federation which seem to not be prepared for the task ahead.