The West’s sanctions policy failed to curtail Russia’s military-industrial production, which actually ended up surging over the past 18 months as a result of clandestine procurement and the successful transition to a wartime economy. Moreover, whatever gaps still exist in production, material, and labor can conveniently be addressed by North Korea, thus adding crucial strategic context to Kim Jong Un’s visit earlier this week.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg belatedly admitted in mid-February that his bloc is in a “race of logistics”/“war of attrition” with Russia, and over half a year later, the New York Times (NYT) just confirmed that Moscow is far ahead in this competition. Here are the relevant highlights from their latest article about how “Russia Overcomes Sanctions to Expand Missile Production, Officials Say”, which will then be analyzed to update readers about the latest dynamics of the NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine.
* Russia’s military-industrial complex is performing better than ever
– “Russia has managed to overcome sanctions and export controls imposed by the West to expand its missile production beyond prewar levels, according to U.S., European and Ukrainian officials, leaving Ukraine especially vulnerable to intensified attacks in the coming months.”
* Its military-intelligence services are responsible for this astounding success
– “Russia subverted American export controls using its intelligence services and ministry of defense to run illicit networks of people who smuggle key components by exporting them to other countries from which they can be shipped to Russia more easily. “
* Ukraine should brace itself for a nationwide missile onslaught
– “Officials fear that increased missile stocks could mean an especially dark and cold winter for Ukrainian citizens…Ukraine does not have enough air defense systems to cover the entire country, and must pick the sites it defends. An increased barrage of missiles could overwhelm the country’s air defenses”.
* Russia has successfully transitioned to a wartime economy
– “Today, Russian officials have remade their economy to focus on defense production…The senior Western defense official said that Russia had reallocated nearly a third of its commercial economy toward arms production.”
* Its artillery production is a whopping 7x more than NATO’s
– “As a result of the push, Russia is now producing more ammunition than the United States and Europe. Overall, Kusti Salm, a senior Estonian defense ministry official, estimated that Russia’s current ammunition production is seven times greater than that of the West.”
* And its shells cost 10x less to produce
– “It costs a Western country $5,000 to $6,000 to make a 155-millimeter artillery round, whereas it costs Russia about $600 to produce a comparable 152-millimeter artillery shell, he said.”
* Russia also now has more of some missile types than it did before the special operation
– “It does not have huge inventories of missiles, though they have more of some kinds — like the Kh-55 air-launched cruise missile — in stock now than they did at the beginning of the war, according to people briefed on intelligence reports.”
* Several backpacks’ worth of smuggled chips can make several hundred cruise missiles
– “In cases where Russia needs millions of one particular component, export controls can grind production to a halt. But the chips needed to make a couple of hundred cruise missiles would fit into a few backpacks, which makes evading sanctions relatively simple, Mr. Alperovitch said.”
* And only basic and widely available chips are needed, not high-tech and ultra-restricted ones
– “One of the challenges for the U.S. government is that Russia does not need higher-end chips that are easier to track, but commoditized chips that can be used in a wide range of things, not just guided missiles.”