In a lengthy article dissecting the failure of Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, the French newspaper highlighted three key factors: Russia’s decision to voluntarily withdraw from Kherson and construct an elaborate line of defenses in late 2022, Ukraine’s insufficient tactical prowess, and Russia’s “greater strategic depth” – or its ability to replace lost men and materiel.
“2024 is going to be fraught with danger for the Ukrainians,” risk consultant Stephane Audrand told Le Monde.
“The equipment that has already been delivered to them will be depleted, but they will only be able to partially reconstitute it, as Western production capacities will not be optimal until 2025.”
Russian forces have maintained an artillery advantage since the beginning of the conflict, firing anywhere from three to ten times as many shells per day as their Ukrainian counterparts, according to estimates from American and Ukrainian sources reported last year. With shortages becoming more acute earlier this year, American trainers began instructing Ukrainian soldiers to change their tactics in order to conserve ammunition.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon emptied its stockpiles of 155mm ammunition in South Korea and Israel to keep Kiev’s guns firing. With Israel also asking for this increasingly rare ammo, Washington has reportedly diverted tens of thousands of shells back into its Israeli depot, having originally set them aside for Ukraine.
“Unlike Ukraine, Russia is unlikely to face serious ammunition shortages in 2024,” Nikolay Bielieskov, a researcher at Kiev’s National Institute for Strategic Studies, told the newspaper.
“[Russian President] Vladimir Putin has already been working for over a year to put a large part of the Russian economy on a war footing. Even if this process is far from perfect, it is yielding results.”
Speaking at a press conference last week, Estonian military intelligence chief Colonel Ants Kiviselg estimated that Russia has around four million artillery shells in its stockpiles – double the number that the US has sent to Ukraine since last February.
“This [means they] could continue at the current relatively low intensity of [using] 10,000 rounds per day for just over a year,” he explained, adding that Russia is capable of manufacturing between 2 and 3 million more per year.
Even if the entire Western world were to mobilize its entire arms production capacity exclusively for Ukraine, “that will be not enough for this war,” Ukrainian Strategic Industries Minister Aleksandr Kamyshin told Politico on Monday.
Speaking to Russian servicemen on Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that the Ukrainian military is losing combat power and “panicking.” Shoigu claimed that Russian forces downed 24 Ukrainian military planes in a four-day period, crediting “new weapons systems” for the achievement.