Wars have always reshaped the world order. They create financial system, new political alliances, new trading laws. But to build new systems, old ones must be on top. In Ukraine, one such monolith could be collapsing. Russian war machine, for years it was considered invincible. They have the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, they inherited the best Soviet weapons. In fact, the military was Russia’s claim to power. Russia’s economy is only the 11th largest in the world. Yet Vladimir Putin had to seat on every important table. Why is that? Because of Russia’s impressive military, but the Russia Ukraine war is changing that perception. First, they fail to capture care, now they’re facing stiff resistance in the Donbass so obviously questions will be asked.
Was the Russian war machine just a paper tiger? According to these numbers, there is a good case to be made. Russia is said to have lost around 1600 tanks in Ukraine, at least 50 helicopters, 36 fighter bombers, and 350 artillery pieces. Now full disclosure, these are US intelligence figures we cannot independently verify them so take it with a pinch of salt.
Having said that, some of these failures were also caught on camera. You might remember the stranded Russian tanks, some of them ran out of fuel, others faced engine trouble. So soldiers had to park those tanks along the road, not exactly super power material. For every weapon Russia loss or loses, it must send replacements. That’s the unseen part of every war.
The industrial work that goes into fighting war, every great military power has a robust industrial base. Now, Germany had it, the Soviet Union had it. The United States has too much of it.
Russia’s military industrial base is important for two reasons;
- It gives Russia a battlefield advantage or at least it was supposed to.
- It props up the Russian economy.
Russia is the second largest weapons exporter in the world. They supplied equipment to 66 countries. They have technical deals with 85 countries. Together Russia makes up 20% of the global arms trade, total income almost $46 billion. That’s a lot of money!
Inside Russia, the defense industry is extremely powerful. It employs 2 million people that’s almost 2.7% of Russia’s labor force. And right now, the laser focused on one thing, beating Ukraine. Most of the production is calibrated to Battlefield requirements. The result is this; exports are lagging behind especially in Africa. It is one of the biggest markets for Russian arms. Algeria makes up 15% of Russia’s sales, Egypt makes up 11.8%, Ethiopia, Nigeria Mali, all these countries get weapons from Russia. That trade could now be in jeopardy.
US officials believe Russian deliveries will be dealing. That their production capacity has fallen considerably. On paper, this assumption makes sense. Western sanctions are making it impossible for Russia to bypass like guidance systems, like microchips, or trackers. These are usually bought from outside and without them Russia cannot manufacture weapons. This could be a huge blow to Moscow’s foreign policy. Their idea was to sway Africa with weapons and so far, the plan was working. In 2013 the United States cut off military aid to Egypt. This was after the military coup, immediately Russia swooped in to fill that vacuum. Same as in Nigeria, the US imposed an arms embargo in 2014 so Russia supplied me 35 helicopters to Nigeria. The question is can they keep up? Other military players are already waiting on the sidelines, the United States, France, China.
Earlier today, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Icc arrived in Paris. He is expected to discuss defense ties with President Macron. African countries are looking for options and why not, defense is after all a buyers’ market and every buyer wants to check two boxes, one is quick and seamless delivery. The second is maintenance and repairs. Can Russia guarantee those in the middle of a war? That is a big question. You’re already hearing reports of delays like the S 400 missile systems, the one that India bought. India was supposed to get the second S 400 shipment this year which report say it has been delayed. Another example is the Sukhoi checkmate. It was supposed to be a fifth generation fighter jet, Russia’s reply to America’s F 35 jets. Production was scheduled to begin in 2025 but now it has been pushed back. The Sukhoi checkmate will begin production in 2027. None of this bodes well for Russia’s defense industry. It may not be a paper tiger like the Western claims, but it’s also not the world conquering successor to the Soviet Red Army!