LONDON — Russia is spending around one-third of its budget on defense, but is burning through arms, ammunition and troops at an unsustainable pace, says a report published today.
Russia will be able to sustain its war effort in Ukraine for “two to three more years,” says International Institute for Strategic Studies Director General Bastian Giegerich. “But in doing so, it will have to sacrifice quality for quantity.”
The Military Balance report by the IISS, a London-based think tank, shows that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has unleashed a deluge of defense spending around the world — most of it from Russia’s rivals.
Global defense spending increased by 9 percent in 2023 to exceed $2.2 trillion; NATO countries spent over half of that amount, with the U.S. leading the pack by a vast margin.
In Europe, countries ramped up spending to assist Ukraine, whose domestic defense industry has been severely damaged by the war.
But the ongoing war has “laid bare the challenges of scaling up production to keep pace with the conflict’s demands” and is showing the cracks in European military preparedness, according to Giegerich.
Despite all the new spending, there is a problem in ramping up the West’s military production capacity. In its report, the IISS noted the EU is on track to miss its target of delivering Ukraine 1 million 155-millimeter artillery shells by March.
Despite those shortcomings, Russia’s continued war against Ukraine has pushed more European countries to meet their NATO defense target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on the military. According to the report, 10 European NATO allies hit that goal last year, up from just two in 2014.
Ukraine is also in a desperate plight, but — for now — is getting crucial aid from its allies.
“Ukraine’s losses also have been heavy and replenished largely through Western support,” said Giegerich. “The effect has been to improve the quality of Ukrainian equipment, although at the cost of greater logistical complexity.”
He added that continued Russian missile and drone attacks “are taking a toll on Ukraine.”
The West “must decide whether to furnish Kyiv with enough weapons to deliver a decisive blow rather than merely enough not to lose,” he said.
While Russia is continuing to throw men and equipment against Ukraine’s defenses, the cost is enormous, the think tank noted.
Henry Boyd, senior fellow for defense and military analysis at IISS, said that Russia was “increasingly dependent on Soviet-era legacy stores to meet the demand for new armored fighting vehicles and artillery pieces” and was “sacrificing training” to offset its troop losses on the battlefield.