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Experts: Russia still able to replenish its war losses

EDF intelligence commander, Col. Ants Kiviselg.
EDF intelligence commander, Col. Ants Kiviselg. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Russia can produce munitions and military equipment in sufficient quantities, plus mobilize enough troops, to replace its war losses in Ukraine. However, if Ukraine does not receive significantly more Western aid than it has been doing, there is a serious danger that Russia will be able to grind Ukraine down, according to two senior defense experts.

Ukraine's stubborn resistance goes on. Russia is advancing only very slowly and at great cost, in terms of losses and of the use of munitions.

However, in this type of attritional warfare, Russia currently still has the advantage. Last year, Russia produced 3.5 million shells, while this year this number will probably rise to four million, Col. Ants Kiviselg, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Defense Intelligence Center (Kaitseväe luurekeskus) says.

"In terms of numbers, over a 365 day period, they could put out 10,000 shells [per day], so in that respect they can restore supply. Additionally, last year's conscription shows that they have managed to recruit around 300,000 people or perhaps a little less. Which again demonstrates that they have been able to recruit more than they have lost in terms of their vitality in the war in Ukraine," Kiviselg told ERR's radio news on Tuesday.

The situation is similar with regard to weapons and military equipment, in other words, Russia's resources are not being tired out.

The intelligence center commander added: "From the perspective of a couple of years, a situation where they lose more than they can replace will likely not arise within the Russian Federation."

Meanwhile, Marek Kohv, a researcher at the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS), argued that Ukraine has been forced onto the defensive, while the initiative lies with Russia.

"We can no longer talk about a war of attrition against Russia from Ukraine's perspective. Instead, as of today, Russia is certainly wearing out Ukraine," Kohv said.

The Ukrainians are coming under an immense amount of pressure, Col. Kiviselg, added, yet the situation is far from hopeless.

"If the West would actually do what they have pledged to many times over, i.e. support Ukraine for as long as is necessary, there is no doubt that Ukraine could win this so-called war of attrition."

The much-publicized one million shells pledge to Ukraine, which is already running late, will in any case cover only a third of Ukraine's actual needs, Marek Kohv said.

Without waiting for European defense industry projectile output to rise significantly, Europe could take a punt and immediately provide Ukraine with munitions from its own critical stocks, he went on.

Kohv also said: "Perhaps we can go a little below the critical threshold [of ammunition stocks] that we have thus far considered to be minimal. Deliver [projectiles] quickly, right now, in the first half of this year, in order to contain Russia."

This is a justifiable risk, as Russia is so tied down in Ukraine that it cannot in any case threaten other countries in the near future, Kohv added.

At present, Ukraine needs to mobilize more personnel in order to make any impact on the front, to provide these soldiers with good training, and restore stocks by 2025, then the attempt can be made again to liberate Ukraine's territory. But even then, there is no quick solution in sight regarding an end to the war, Kohv continued.

"Whatever offensive the Ukrainians manage to carry out in 2025, it will not be the final chapter to end the war in a year," he added.

Nevertheless, Ukrainian victory requires success on the military front line, Kohv stressed. There is no alternative to that, since Russia's desire to dictate absurd peace terms both to Ukraine and to the Western countries has not changed, Kohv noted.

"It is thus vital to support Ukraine militarily in such a way that it is capable of pushing Russia out of its territory, militarily and completely, then only after that can we start talking about how we will end this whole conflict."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi.

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