New Storyline in Wall Street Journal: “Russia Is Running Out of Missiles” Shifts to “Russia Can’t Keep Up Production Forever”

In an ideal world, your humble blogger could try to track down the origins of a new storyline now appearing on the front page of the Wall Street Journal: Russia Is Pumping Out Weapons—But Can It Keep It Up? But a comparatively terse treatment will hopefully illuminate some “critical thinking” issues, as well as allow manufacturing and military equipment experts the opportunity to contribute insight and details in comments.

It’s noteworthy that the Journal has shifted from the usual depiction of the Russian military as cavemen with nukes to a headline formulation usually reserved for high-flying stocks. Even so, nowhere does it clearly acknowledge the degree that Russia is outproducing the US/NATO combine. Recall that the famed RUSI paper, The Return of Industrial Warfare, said it would take the West ten years to catch up with Russian production. Note that that presupposed a serious commitment to bulk up, which does not seem to be happening.

So a critical element of this article is its failure to look at Russia’s performance relative to the West, as opposed to cite particular purported problems in a vacuum. It seems curious that there is no mention of how Ukraine has become a killing field for Western hardware, with 2 Patriot missile batteries (an over $1 billion system) taken out in the last 2 weeks, along with a HIMARS platform and 4 Abrams tanks burning in the last week. Alexander Mercouris, in his Tuesday presentation, said based on specific mainstream media reports, that the Ukrainians were unhappy with the performance of the German Leopard 2 tanks, with more than half destroyed, and only 7 of the British Challenger tanks were operational.

Mercouris also pointed out that Russia is now deploying so-called FAB bombs, which are extremely heavy bombs with great destructive capacity. Russia has a significant inventory but until recently could deploy them only as dumb bombs. But they have devised modifications similar to the US JDAMs kit that turns them into precision munitions. Mercouris cited accounts that depicted them as game changers. Even though they do not have the range of ballistic missiles, they are much cheaper and it seems also can be deployed in large numbers.

Similarly, Mark Sleboda pointed out in a recent video that the New York Times stated out that Russian shell production was out pacing not just the US, plus NATO and non-NATO allies…by seven times (see starting at 13:50).

The Wall Street Journal story also fails to mention that Russia is ahead of the US in many critical weapons categories, such as air defense, hypersonic missiles, and signal jamming, or that the for-profit US arms-makers focus on producing expensive, fragile, hard-to-maintain systems that look great in videos for Congress but often don’t perform all that well in real world conditions.

Let’s turn to some key extracts from the article. This is the central argument:

For some Western officials and analysts, Russia’s military production figures are misleading and mask challenges including a shortage of labor and a falloff in quality. The ramp-up may not be sustainable as it saps resources from the wider economy, and any drop in output could leave Russia even more reliant on help from allies such as China, Iran and North Korea, they add.

…the Kremlin quickly pumped resources into its arms industry. Last year, 21% of all federal expenditure went into what Moscow categorizes as defense, up from almost 14% in 2020. The 2024 federal budget calls for an even greater proportion of spending on defense this year, at more than 29%….

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in December that Russia was producing 17.5 times as much ammunition, 17 times as many drones and 5.6 times as many tanks as it did before the war….

Russia can likely sustain its war effort for two to five more years at the current scale, according to a senior North Atlantic Treaty Organization official. At least two European military-intelligence agencies also believe Russia can produce enough weapons to last several more years.

Regarding the Russian military budget, the Journal story does not consider how much is due to bulking up the number of men in service (which would presumably fall back once the situation in Ukraine is resolved) versus producing more hardware.

The article does not give convincing arguments as to why Russia would be forced to cut back on its production surge, even after conceding Russia can maintain it for some years. The first reason is labor shortages, particularly of skilled labor. It is true that Russia generally has a worker shortfall, and bulking up the size of its military has not helped. But the skilled labor element will significantly self-correct over time as factory labor becomes more experienced with production.

A second reason is that the arms manufacture will come at the expense of other sectors. Commentators who have been to Russia or have close contacts there confirm that the government has not gone to a war economy footing and has in large measure has successfully shielded civilian life from its impact. However, I do recall reading some grumblings about cutbacks in certain programs (for the life of me I can’t recall which and I would not trust search to point me to good sources) so it is not as if there have not been losers in Russia from the war effort.

This article might simply be seen as an exercise in copium, but it is arguably worse. It suggests that the US experts and allies are still either not willing or are too invested in their myth of superiority to make an honest assessment of their and Russian capabilities to determine what to do next.

The article makes much of the notion that Russia has not meaningfully increased tank production, as opposed to refurbishing and upgrading them. Note that experts like Brian Berletic have argued that refubished T-72s are effective, modern weapons. The Journal makes much of older tanks being sighted outside factories…without providing confirmation that they have been seen much on battlefields:

Last year Russia brought out at least 1,200 old tanks from storage, Gjerstad estimates, based on a review of satellite images before and after the start of the war. That means that, at the very most, Russia produced 330 new tanks last year, though the true figure is likely to be half that number, Gjerstad said.

For example, up to 200 tanks at a time have sat outside the Omsktransmash tank factory in Omsk, Siberia, since late 2022, according to satellite photos provided by Planet Labs PBC. That’s despite the plant having produced no new tanks for several years before the war began, Gjerstad said.

The tanks look like the T-62, which hasn’t been produced since the 1970s, and the T-54/55, which was first designed just after World War II, according to Nicholas Drummond, a defense consultant.

These older tanks aren’t as good quality as new models, and stocks will eventually run dry.

The Journal account may depend in part on the Institute for the Studies of War assessment:

There are several issues here. One is that the older tanks might not be intended for battlefield use but to patrol and police secured territory. I recall that when Russia first occupied parts of Zaporzhizhia, it used older tanks in that capacity.

Second, and this is much more speculative, the role of tanks may have become more limited in the era of pervasive surveillance and drone warfare. Recall that a hallmark of the failed super duper Ukraine counteroffensive, tanks featured prominently in the initial assault. The Russians had not only mined the field heavily, but even were able to mine behind the tanks, after the advance. The result was many Western tanks were embarrassingly burned. The Ukrainians revolted against this failure and changed tactics, moving men to or close to tree lines in armored vehicles and then having them advance on foot.

The point here was a tank-heavy assault, designed by the geniuses at NATO, was a complete and highly visible flop. Now that was arguably the result of attempting a classic combined arms operations maneuver without air superiority or even air cover.

But an issue missing here, and pervasively in coverage of this war, is how drones in particular have changed the nature of combat. I wish Scott Ritter had developed this point more in one of his recent talks. He described how he had talked shop with a senior Russian soldier who had been taken from the front lines and on his way to get general staff-type training, was debriefed extensively so as to feed battlefield experience into production, as in modify designs to deal with identified shortcomings and make promising upgrades. For instance, more and more Russian drones are being outfitted with night vision as a result of this sort of feedback.

Ritter gave a high-level summary of the way that the Western way of “combined arms” war is 30 years out of date doctrine. Russia now maps battlefield operations around its drone plan, gridding out the contested area. Drones are foundational, both leading assaults and even providing logistics. But you will notice in the Journal account only one mention of drones:

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in December that Russia was producing 17.5 times as much ammunition, 17 times as many drones and 5.6 times as many tanks as it did before the war.

Another odd premise in the piece is that military investment will compete with and drain the rest of the economy. That obviously could come to be true but there are several offsetting factors. First it that as Russia continues to demonstrate superiority on the battlefield, at least some of these investments could fuel new and more sales to foreign buyers. Second is that innovations and improvements in the defense sector can produce civilian spinoffs. Again, those opportunities may not be well exploited, but they certainly have the potential to create synergies, as opposed to resource competition for, the commercial sector.

Finally, the Journal does not consider that Russia may not need to maintain this allegedly unsustainable level of arms output. Ukraine is very unlikely to be able to sustain the war past the end of the year due to if nothing else, manpower shortages. Russia may still continue large-scale military operations well into 2025 to secure and clear some territories and create whatever arrangements it needs to protect expanded Russian territory. That may include a sizable demilitarized zone and possibly even having large peacekeeping forces in key parts of rump Ukraine until a compiant government is in place.

Despite a lot of NATO-member threat display, currently led by French President Emmanuel Macron, military experts deem it to be bluster. NATO forces are simply too small, uncoordinated, not set up for combat with a peer and on top of that are now too low on weapons and in no position to remedy that soon to pose a credible threat (well, save triggering a nuclear war). Accordingly, most NATO leaders are vocally opposing the Macron (and friends like the Baltic states) in his saber-rattling.

So the bigger point is Russia’s war-related needs will slow down due to the intensity of the combat diminishing. Russia may still continue to make arms at its current levels so as to produce an ample stockpile, but there is reason to think it won’t have to produce at surge levels indefinitely.

Mind you, if a non-expert like me can find ample holes in a story like this, imagine what a maven could do (and I hope those experts will pipe up in comments). But this again should highlight the value of careful and skeptical reading in maintaining informational health.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    ‘Note that experts like Brian Berletic have argued that refubished T-72s are effective, modern weapons. The Journal makes much of older tanks being sighted outside factories…without providing confirmation that they have been seen much on battlefields’

    It should be noted that an upgraded T-72 tank made a one-shot kill on a M1 Abrams tank. There is a bit of coping going on with claims that everything modern has been stripped out of those Abrams tanks reducing them to a “tin box with a gun” but hey, a kill is a kill-

    Suddenly all those old T-72 tanks that Russia has are now a matter of concern for NATO.

    1. Wisker

      Oh, it’s cope alright. The M1A1-SA variant sent to Ukraine still constitute about 1/4 of the active US tank fleet*, with the remainder being variously further upgraded models but by no means night and day. Several western sources claim and show ARAT ERA being used with the Ukrainian Abrams as well.

      The upshot is that the NATO tanks in Ukraine are either at (Leo-2, Challenger) or not far behind (Abrams) the frontline standard.

      There have been very few tank duels and I haven’t seen any particularly clear video of this claim. But to be fair, any modern tank can destroy any other in a tank duel owing more to tactics and training than anything else. They are all pretty poorly protected from anything other than the frontal angle.

      And all have proven highly vulnerable to the mines, kamikaze drones, artillery, and anti-tank missiles that make up the majority of the kills in Ukraine. If anything Russian ERA seems somewhat more effective against the later, but that’s anecdata and I haven’t seen any systematic analysis that I would trust.

      * Theoretically export versions replace uranium in some of the armor with tungsten but it’s not at all clear that it makes a particularly big difference.

      1. Felix_47

        Good point but during Desert Storm the MIA1s outranged the T 72 by a thousand yards. That was lethal. Zeiss Wetzlar our of East Germany made the sights for the T 72 which impressed me. The optics were nice. We captured a lot of tanks intact and the crews just gave up. Our targeting and night vision were far superior. Most of what Saddam had was older like T 60s etc. Basically they were sitting ducks. They were a lot easier to maintain and work on though. We needed a lot of General Dynamics contractors to keep our tanks going. In desert conditions the M1A1 was definitely better than the T72 but at shorter ranges the smaller size, weight, fuel and lower maintenance footprint favors the T 72. The T 72 of today is not the T 72 we dealt with 30 years ago.

    2. clarky90

      Speaking as an old hippy……

      My car is 26 years old and still functions well. 40 mpg! My clothes are mostly from the Op Shop. Usually like new when bought.

      My little town tore down a 150 year, Victorian cut stone train station and built a big glass box for the Harbour Board. That was 15 years ago, and they just bulldozed that big glass box building, and are replacing it with another big glass box building, as we speak.

      The amount of usable “garbage/food” that is being buried in landfills is mind boggeling.

      The point I am making….. Russia is using, reconfiguring, refurbishing, updating, repairing ……… what it already has. They are also creating “innovative” new weapons, but not for the sake of “Shiny New”, but because they cannot re-purpose what they already have for a particular task.

      This war will end… but the West must learn lessons. If we are concerned about the environment, just stop bulldozing everything… stop throwing away good things and good food. Stop these harebrained schemes, like electric trucks, private jet-sets and GeoEngineering.

    3. sausage factory

      T72bem is a great tank, it has been doing all the horse work and is (compared to western tanks) light, manouevrable, fast and has a 5km highly accurate and reliable gun and can handle all terrain. 3 man crew saves space and the reliable carousel automatic loader works like a breeze. It suits the conditions so it will be able to deal with whatever the West can throw into the field, Leopards have been risible and Challengers just sink in the mud like the big fat wallowy old hectors they are. Abrams burns like everything else.
      If you know the Russians and how they fight, they use the tool for the job no matter how old it is. Russians have been using T55s as static artillery in some areas, well dug in and why not, its got a 4km gun on it and can provide good cover and reasonable defence and saves on using top artillery so it can be elsewhere. One other thing that the Russians have been very good at is taking feedback from those at the front and actively updating and experimenting with improvements so their weaopns are constantly evolving and improving.
      Ukrainians have had success with mostly Russian tanks too, although not fully uprated to Russian standards. Americans simply can’t cope with the reality of what is happening, they have been drinking their own cool aid for far too long and really rate their own gear which has never once proved itself in a real war (as opposed to turkey shoots in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan etc)
      Russia has all it needs to keep pumping this stuff out and lots lots more, I hate to break it to NATO but fact is Russia are producing lots more than they need in case the war goes full WWIII and they still havent used a lot of the good stuff, hypersonics, more experimental stuff, T14 Armata etc. T90 is doing a great job too and production on that is pumped up. Russia can out last and out fight the West unless the west goes all in for war and starts conscripting the masses required to fight a massive war of attrition across a 13000km wide battlefield.

      US MIC have been writing up their own materiel and I believe falsifying its performance for many years, non of this stuff is as good as they say and now it is meeting the reality of a real war with what appears to be a superior force with superior materiel that works, is reliable, easy to service and accurate. West is in big trouble without the propaganda tsunami, the question is can those in power take the hit to their prestige, image and power. This is a failure and a loss no matter how they want to sell it.

  2. Benny Profane

    ” until a complaint government is in place.”

    Over Vicky Nuland’s dead body. Literally. If anything, we do forever wars really well.

    1. Retired Carpenter

      You are so correct! Victoria Nudelman is joining SIPA-Columbia Uni. to form the “dream team for war” with Rodham-Clinton. She has no plans to shuffle from her ample mortal coil.
      Retired Carpenter

  3. James E Keenan

    The concept of a “complaint government” is intriguing, but I suspect what was actually meant was a compliant government.

  4. ciroc

    NEW: “Russia can’t keep taking chips out of refrigerators and washing machines forever”

    1. Dessa

      They can have the chip from my oven. Damn thing shouldn’t have mandatory wi-fi in the first place

  5. Mikel

    “Russia may still continue to make arms at its current levels so as to produce an ample stockpile, but there is reason to think it won’t have to produce at surge levels indefinitely….”

    The Blob is all but announcing that they will keep poking the bear to spend more on defense. And think of the recent comments by Macroneon. It’s also an attempt to put Russia on a hampster wheel and burn itself out.
    Ukraine is only the latest proxy…not the first or last.
    This does not stop for Russia until the other major European governments stop considering Russia as a threat and let go of the ethnic prejudices.

    Once they make that leap, none of the machinations out of the USA or UK should make as much difference.

  6. Jeff V

    What you’ve got to remember is that US military spending, and aid for Ukraine, provides a big boost for the American economy and is a very good thing.

    Russian military spending, on the other hand, is crippling their economy and is completely unsustainable.

    Once you’ve understood that concept, it becomes a lot easier to appreciate that the Russian army is badly led, has suffered huge casualties, has rock-bottom morale, is rife with corruption, and is easily beatable in Ukraine if we only show enough political will.

    But is also willing and able to conquer the whole of Europe if they identify any weaknesses in NATO’s resolve.

    1. tegnost

      ISTM that spending is spending, Russia is buying from itself just as the west is spending on itself so it’s not obvious to me what you think the difference is. More likely, as I have watched the defense industry hoover up as much gdp as they can bribe congress into giving them, when the journal says russia has spent 20% on defense that the us can basically triple our trillion dollar defense budget (I’m using out of thin air projection of 14 trillion US budget maybe a lowball at this point) to three trillion…now that sounds like something wall st can get behind, “if we show enough political will.”
      I must add, closing with ” is also willing and able to conquer the whole of Europe if they identify any weaknesses” flies in the face of your other claim “…the Russian army is badly led, has suffered huge casualties, has rock-bottom morale, is rife with corruption, and is easily beatable in Ukraine…” makes me wonder what you’re smoking.

        1. Donald

          Most of us probably knew it was sarcasm but precisely what made it funny is how perfectly it captured mainstream Western thinking.

    2. Skip Intro

      And to make things worse, Russian defense industries’ profit margins and executive compensation are laughable in comparison with those common in the US, so they have no incentive to innovate, free up capital wasting in parts inventories, or even outsource expensive manual labor.

    3. Felix_47

      Russia is back on its heels. Our leaders tell us they have had 500000 killed. Ukraine has lost only 30000. At the current rate by the end of Biden’s next term we might hit 2 million dead. Biden is a tough dude…..Putin and Trump have met their match.

  7. j

    There is no need to be confused or apologetic about Russians using older tanks. (But I do not manage to not read some compromised neutrality into such an attempt.) Those tanks were manufactured long ago to be used when needed, and this time is now. These tanks are essentially free, they are not running out any time soon, and they are perfectly capable of bringing battlefield results, especially after retrofits. This is a no-brainer.
    Russian tech will always go for cheap, easily maintainable and idiot-proof. This is where they are their strongest, and this is what makes most sense on the battlefield too. In WWII the German tanks were technologically superior to Russian tanks, to the point where one German tank could take on four Russian tanks at the same time. Russia still won. And let’s not forget about the poster child of this approach, the universal success of the Kalashnikov assault rifle… The West is deep in la-la land doing it’s best right now to not understand any of this. Oh well.

    1. Robert Gray

      > Russian tech will always go for cheap, easily maintainable and idiot-proof.
      > This is where they are their strongest …

      Well, except perhaps for the hypersonic missiles, the Sukhoi Su-57, the Ka-52 Alligator … things like that. Or can you add ‘sophisticated’ to your list of attributes without introducing a contradiction?

      (Like the old tech triad: cheap — fast — reliable; choose any two.)

    2. Piotr Berman

      The role of the tanks changed in the era of drone warfare, superior armor means that to eliminate it, 2-3 drones are needed rather than 1-2, BUT they are hard to replace as firepower that hit target directly. Long range weapons of all kinds are weak against moving people, few seconds delay means that the target is elsewhere. So you need to have mobile artillery, but the lifetime is limited. So one Abrams may have utility of, say, two modernized T-72. Specs like speed are useless in soggy mine infested fields.

      The number of tank vs tank duels is relatively small, and even then odds are not lopsided.

      1. Kalen

        With complete battlefield transparency (day and night drones and real time reconnaissance satellites) and Russian ATGMs like Hornet reaching 7+ km range with up to 1500 mm armor defeat capability tanks are useless as offensive weapons. Superior armor is meaningless to keep tanks going. At best it saves crew’s lives if they quickly evacuate after first hit .

        One Abrams tank was destroyed in Berdychi by ambush with post Soviet RPG from close range hit as they destroyed Abrams tracks and engine and immobilized it then within minutes stationary tank was hit by Krasnopol laser guided artillery shells and destroyed. Another was killed by T72BM that launched ATGM via its smoothbore barrel from distance beyond Abrams’s gun range. I won’t mention that light Russian tanks perform flawlessly on Ukrainian rich soil while Abrams, leopard 2s and challengers sink as western media reported. Also all kinds of western tanks are not property maintained by Ukrainians as Pentagon admitted and 40% of them are non operational ready. Adding to it a price ($10,000) for every western tank killed or captured payable by Russian MoD Ukrainian crews want to avoid manning them.

        Today the only official strategy of NATO in Ukraine is to pray for Russian mistakes. Or nuclear war.

    3. H Alexander Ivey

      one German tank could take on four Russian tanks at the same time

      I heard it was 4 American Sherman tanks to1 German Tiger, so the Americans used 5 tanks…

  8. DavidZ

    Thanks for this wonderful piece.

    There are many intelligent and smart people in the US government & other NATO countries. When humble bloggers and podcasters can see things clearly, it’s entirely possible that there are pockets of governments who have a clear eyed view too.

    I view articles like this and similar ones from NY Times and other media as shaping public opinion, nothing more or less. What the elites want to do, they will do until they can’t get away with it anymore.

    1. Feral Finster

      “I view articles like this and similar ones from NY Times and other media as shaping public opinion, nothing more or less. What the elites want to do, they will do until they can’t get away with it anymore.”

      Of course. And it works. The truth of the assertions is irrelevant. See Professor Frankfurter “On Bullsh!t”.

  9. Robert Hahl

    …any drop in output could leave Russia even more reliant on help from allies such as China, Iran and North Korea, they add.” So what, if those allies are willing and able to help, which they appear to be.

    1. Louis Fyne

      and the presumed North Korean sales of dumb shells to Russia is a win-win for both parties.

      Russia gets to focus on its comparative advantages, amidst Russian full employment; and NK gets a new revenue stream.

  10. Polar Socialist

    For what it’s worth, about a week ago Russia announced starting serial production of the Scalpel drone, which is basically a cheaper version of the Lancet. And last December they started delivering bi-caliber Uragan 1M MRLS systems combining two previous systems into one for efficient counter battery fire. Russian military procurement system has a long tradition of being able to cut unit prices during a conflict.

    It might be worth pointing out that “refurbishing” in Russian tank factories means ripping everything out, redoing all the electric cabling, replacing most of the consumable parts and updating the engine, gun and fire control to the latest standard. The result is for all practical purposes a new tank build on the old frame. There’s basically no difference between a T-90 and a T-72BM3 that would effect either training or logistics.

    Omsktransmash has not been building new tanks for years, but it has been converting obsolete T-80 hulks to T-80 BVM versions (like the one that alone destroyed an Ukrainian attack column) and obsolete T-72 hulks into TOS-1 and TOS-1A systems at least six years.

    Regarding the older tanks, way back last year I did see a news that a heavy machine gun regiment had been converted to use T-55 tanks as mobile bill boxes and infantry support vehicles – basically retaining their concept of operations, but with some added staying power and mobility. Hard to say now, since the Ukrainian summer offensive never reached the actual Russian defensive positions.

    According to the Ukrainians the true “game changing” factor of the FAB-1500 is not just that it can turn your “artillery proof” bunker into a buried mausoleum in milliseconds, but that even surviving human beings can’t withstand them for any longer period of time. The heat and pressure wave from the explosion is enough to knock you from your feet even a hundred meters away.

    Azovstal didn’t last long when Russians started dropping FAB-3000 bomb on the factory.

  11. Ignacio

    All this sums up as the West still in denial of its relative weakness in the Ukrainian arena. Yet the West believes is waging an attrition war with Russia and there is no other possible outcome that victory in the long term. We can add claims published yesterday or the day before on high Russian casualties based on satellite cemetery pictures. These are the two major lines of thinking now. Or wishful thinking if you prefer. They will double down on sanctions because they still believe this is the only way to go.

    We have to believe on the magic, the invisible hand of the market economies, that will some day prevail over those cavemen with nukes. This is the final destiny we should be all assured. Who other better than the Wall Street Journal to communicate the ultimate truth about markets?

    From my comment you can detect heavy influence by some Aurelien as well as NC.

  12. DG

    “….said it would take the West ten years to catch up with Russian production.” Correlli Barnett in his 1986 book “The Audit of War” examines the downfall of the UK after the apparent height of success post WWII. One area he examines is the aircraft industry. During WWII UK developed radar, built a lot of excellent airplanes yet post war slowly disappeared as a factor in aerospace.
    His “audit” reveals that during the 1930’s the UK could design airplanes but did not have the engineers, tool makers, metallurgy etc to produce planes. All the advances in aircraft design had originated in Germany and the USA. During the rearmament of the 1930’s the UK was buying airplane parts – altimeters for example – from foreign countries. If the UK did not have the deep economic pockets, the tons of imported alloys, as well as electrical equipment pouring in from the USA, none of the airplane success story of WWII would have happened.
    His audit blames the terrible education allocation system of the UK as a big factor in not educating the people. Leaving people in their proper place and continuing on, since everything is working OK, was the attitude that doomed the UK.
    I found the book to be imminently depressing. The USA has destroyed the education system, Tim Cook and others say they cannot build in the USA because there is not the personnel that can implement the industrial complexes needed. These are all issues Naked Capitalism has addressed.
    My take in Barnett’s book is: we are repeating the mistakes of the UK 90 years ago. Today in the UK we see the future we are rapidly reaching ourselves.
    Of course Russia and China were able to overcome the follies of the past, so there is hope. But not with the current economic and political leadership.

    1. Zephyrum

      DG, thanks for the book pointer–I look forward to reading it. The UK’s post-war industrial-technology decline was always a bit of a mystery to me.
      As far as overcoming follies, a crisis seems to be required. China has had a long hard slog since 1978 after the fall of the Gang of Four, and Russia’s post-USSR 1990s were both destructive and enormously painful to the population. The US has yet to begin its crisis, though the cracks are showing. May that we enter it soon, and get it over with before things get worse.

      1. jrkrideau

        I remember reading a comment by an Englishman living in Russia that the financisation of the British economy had started in the 1860’s, and had progressed from there.

        The USA may have had a good role model.

      2. James


        The Battle of Bretton Woods by Benn Steil talks about how Britain had to agree to a free trade regime after WWII in return for continued and necessary US assistance.

        Before WWII some of that British industrial technology success had been bolstered by captive markets (aka “Imperial Preference”).

  13. Altandmain

    For the record, I only have limited information too and I’m not a military exoerrt, but speaking as someone from manufacturing and I do have colleagues who have worked in military manufacturing, as Yves notes, there are bigger problems with the Western industrial base.

    Nobody has explained how any Western troop deployment would be supplied. This is in terms of logistics lines, how the construction equipment (presumably to build a defensive line), supplying Western military equipment (which tends to be much more maintenance intensive than their Russian counterparts). The air defenses to protect these supply lines from Russian interdiction do not exist in the West and its possible that Russia may choose to attack the Western manufacturing base directly, for which there is no preparation for.

    On the home front, there is no serious discussion about how to build adequate ammunition, spare parts, and the like to scale up the industrial base. In many cases, these capabilities are non-existent or far to small in the Western world and would take years to build up.

    Europe also has its energy shortage. Essentially what is being asked is that what limited and more expensive energy is being diverted to go to war with Russia. Manufacturing is typically energy intensive.

    There has also been no discussion about the process of treating the casualties. To give an example, there was an Army War College report recognizing that thousands of casualties would be sustained per day.

    Could the military medical system handle it? Could the civilian medical system handle the inevitable overflow? We should also take into consideration the fact that there will be many wounded veterans who will need decades of support after the conflict.

    Then there’s the matter of having adequate manpower for a sustained campaign. Western military forces have recruiting challenges as is. Causalities would worsen that. The Ukrainians aren’t kidnapping people off the streets for no reason. They are running out of men. In the case of the West,, mass conscription would trigger a backlash not seen since Vietnam and, keep in mind, people will be less willing to fight once it becomes clear that the death toll will be far higher than in Vietnam.

    Demographically, here is where the falling birth rates will also have an impact on the number of healthy young people. Obesity and other issues add to that. Less than a quarter of Americans of military age are fit for service. Most are probably kids in the upper middle class. They are more likely to be able to have the resources to fight conscription.

    Then there’s the moral aspect. Young people are being asked to defend a liberal economic system that has screwed them over. It’s not secret how bad young people have it economically. I suspect that this played a role in why the post-WW2 era resulted in a more egalitarian society in the 1950s. To mobilize, the ruling class was forced to make concessions back then. Would today’s ruling class be willing to make similar concessions? I don’t think so.

    For a serious chance, everything would have to be redesigned for ground up. New weapons, training, and tactics would have to be rethought. This is an era change on scale of WW1 or WW2. Lots of Western equipment in my opinion, may actually be inferior. Certainly from a reliability and maintenance point of view. Another problem is that they were designed for Cold War and Gulf War era combat that is not applicable today, hence why I think everything is in need of a rethink.

    The Western military system itself needs an overhaul. It’s very top heavy and there are far too many officers in my opinion, based on historical performance of optimal militaries. Likely a lot of the people who are on top are there because they are good at politics (it’s rather like corporate executives – militaries aren’t meritocracies).

    I could go on, but you get the point. I haven’t even begun to discuss the state of Western nuclear deterrence (hint: it is cause for concern).

    The Russians haven’t solved all of these, but they are far further along than any other nation. There will also be problems with the Western military industrial complex than don’t exist in Russia. War profiteering is a big one. The Russian government has a heavily state owned industry.

  14. Lefty Godot

    What is the schedule for Russia’s next set of wars after Ukraine? I expect them to make a breakthrough on one of the five fronts they are pushing on by the end of this month, and maybe a bigger breakthrough by June (after Zelensky’s term of office has technically run out and coups may be underway). Then maybe wrap it up by next January or shortly afterward?

    After that I can see having to squash some CIA initiated hostilities among the old SSRs…maybe Armenia being the first that needs to be straightened out. Then more NATO provocation that may call for action against Finland, the Baltics, or maybe Poland. Hopefully one sharp rap on the snout will produce the needed attitude adjustment for NATO without a multi-year conflict ensuing.

    That doesn’t seem like it would stretch things beyond 5 years unless World War III breaks out. My guess is once they are fighting non-Slavs on territory that was never part of the USSR, the gloves will come off and much more destruction of infrastructure and non-combatants will be in the cards, so that type of war is not likely to get dragged out as much as this one has.

    1. Oatt Mweens

      Judging by the Propaganda Complex’s most recent bleatings, Moldova looks to be the next Cat’s Paw to be ginned up.

  15. Feral Finster

    The point is to provide a rationalization to keep the war going. Any rationalization will work, as long as people buy it. The truth of any of it is irrelevant, as long as it works.

    “Green shoots!” worked during the GFC. “We’re turning the corner” and “the surge” worked during the GWOT.

  16. 4paul

    These two articles dovetail nicely, Rob Urie: The CIA and the Decline of the American Empire and New Storyline in Wall Street Journal: “Russia Is Running Out of Missiles” Shifts to “Russia Can’t Keep Up Production Forever”

    Remember the speech(es) Trump gave when he first became President, criticizing the CIA/military; that was proof for people prejudiced against him to call him “unhinged”.

    I have a theory that he was a rational actor making a human choice; he would have just received the Briefings, all the “need to know” secret things … and after finding out all the nefarious activities of the CIA et al, he was appalled. Yes, insert the joke about if Trump thinks it’s bad it really must be bad LOL.

    Militarily, I suspect Trump had gotten the military briefings when he became president and was outraged that Russia had announced weapons that the US military didn’t have, and the spies (CIA again, as well as military) had not known Russia was building new weapons better than US/UK/NATO. That was 2016, and it astonished the world, and changed the Balance of Power. All these years later US/UK/NATO have no answer for the Russian “NATO tank killer” weapons, Ultrasonic missiles, or anti missile missiles.

    … actually last week the US tested a hypersonic vehicle, I guess the military is funding the research, cannibalizing space launch research

    I frequently wonder what I would do, if I became President, got the briefings … the CIA briefing: “yeah we assassinated Kennedy, and if you try to interfere we’ll do you too” … the Area 51 briefing “the only thing we could salvage off the spaceship was a laser, we still haven’t figured out how to turn it on, but when we do!…”

    The military briefing “if a war with Russia or China lasts more than 3 weeks, we will lose” – the US military has been focused on Blitzkrieg campaigns, which worked perfectly in Grenada and Kuwait and Iraq (but only the first three weeks). I wonder if it’s possible in today’s technological military, and with asymmetrical warfare, to fight a war anywhere other than next door?

    1. jrkrideau

      I have a theory that he was a rational actor making a human choice;

      I think you may be being bit too kind but he arrived in office as an outsider. I think he could immediately see that most of what he was being briefed on were fantasys that long-time insiders passionately believed in.

      In some ways he may have been the young boy talking about the Emperor’s new clothes

  17. ISL

    Scott Ritter recently pointed out that there is no as in nada effort to increase production of barrels for guns, which degrade much more rapidly in US artillery than Russian artillery. Without replacement barrels, all that 155 mm ammo that NATO has failed to seriously increase despite two years or claiming it is ramping up, will be useless.

    Looking at one weapon of an army (in the military sense, as in the fifth army), in isolation from the military ecosystem is a fools job (i.e., the writers of the WSJ article to support higher spending to the MICC).

    1. JonnyJames

      Same at the NYT. Ol’ Kruggie wants the US to spend MORE on MICIMATT as well. The same over at WaPo. Unified Hegemonic Narrative – very suspicious

  18. Anon

    Thinking ahead… now that we have stirred this beast, what are the odds it will not become us(A)? If only out of the necessity we have created…

    I am not for war, but as I observe Russia’s growth, I do begin to fear that strength. Humble as they have been, Putin will not be around forever.

    Curious, also, that I have yet to feel that concern regarding China…

    1. Dandyandy

      Fast forward 10-15 years and if they elect some crazies, yes, that is exactly what will happen.

      I am amazed that nobody, NOBODY, in our lovely “ garden” has an ability of inclination to project more than a year ahead. If that.

    2. Altandmain

      Not much if the West doesn’t stir the pot.

      The Russians have no desire to attack the US, EU, etc.

      The only reason why the US is stirring the pot is to hold onto hegemony.

  19. JonnyJames

    I may be venturing into “conspiracy” territory but it seems any article in the MassMedia that deals with international affairs comes straight outta Langley.

    If not, they might as well be on the payroll. The sycophant-stenographers (so-called journalists) are doing a helluva job!

    Operation Mockingbird never ended, or so it seems.

  20. Bill Malcolm

    Well, no experts on Russian military weapon design and increased production, whose thoughts are so desired by Yves, have surfaced in the comments so far, and I am no better able to break that logjam, because I do not know anything truly relevant either.

    The Russians seem to have done a fine job of keeping schtum on the matter, except when they want to boast a bit. And the only known CIA wide-eyed American operative on the ground in the RF, Gershkovitch or Lackofwitz of the WSJ, got nabbed outside a Russian facility buying info from some dingbat traitor or FSB security plant who had trouble keeping a straight face, no doubt. Sure, there’s a few hundred dimbulbs on the CIA payroll in Russia, who trooped out for Navalny’s funeral plus others collecting monthly stipends of rubles for doing diddly squat and making up fairy tales from watching Russian TV political talk shows. Where nutballs come standard to boost ratings by having a damn good rant for entertainment value. Like FoxNews does. Hell, G. Doctorow portrays that RF TV commentariat as the true feelings of the Kremlin’s back room boys for free on his blog, along with what Petersburg taxi-drivers think of the world’s state of affairs and Putin. Sure, all Russia is like Petersburg, in lock step. Heck, 20% are Commies and not impressed with VVP.

    Furthermore, I see no reason to suppose that Mercouris, Berletic or Ritter plus all the other talking heads have a real clue either on Russian weapons production. They are speculating, now caught up in a cycle of producing almost daily punditry for their adoring fans.

    Martyanov may think he knows, as a self-confessed logistics expert (now self-graduated to expert on everything military) in the distribution of food, clothes, ammo, weapons and strawberry jam sachets to Russian frontline troops. He assiduously claims it’s a black art. Yes, Logistics is a science unknowable to the uneducated commoner he proclaims; to which regional warehouse distribution managers for supermarket chains serving scores of stores over tens of thousands of square miles would heartily agree. But somehow, by golly, they buckle down and do it, and even have weekends off for solid family time.

    What all this boils down to is my guessing that increased Russian war production has been accomplished mostly by buckling down, focusing, and getting on with the job at hand. Some new factories have been built, like turning a failing urban shopping mall into the Lancet production centre. They even named a new ungainly front propeller drone after the place’s old name — Italmas Shopping Centre. Google it. Other factories have been upgraded with new Chinese precision CNC-controlled production machinery, literally ordered off Ali Baba, and so on. Paid for with increased oil and gas sales to China. No sweat. Russian minds have certainly been concentrated by Shoigu’s exhortations and continual factory inspections with the occasional reprimand for slackness — and it’s not all rocket science to begin with.

    OTOH, Western arms makers instead would rather spin lawmakers a tale of voodoo about secret technology and the difficulties of expanding precision-crafted hi-tech state-of-the-art production, and why a 155 mm artillery round is justifiably worth 8 times the cost it was five years ago. And Patriot missile batteries? Billions more, even before expanded production can possibly be contemplated. Plain old hornswoggling BS, in other words. Send more money, and we’ll think about it, they laugh together at catered corporate brekkies with champagne and OJ openers and “Omelettes made from Free Range Eggs gathered this very overnight from noble chickens humanely-raised antibiotic-free by true animal lovers — “Any style and size fluffy omelette you’d prefer, sir? Or maybe you’d like a custom gourmet raisin bran muffin we call the Softball made with dairy-fresh organic butter to Grandma’s secret recipe from rural Tennessee and a side crystal glassful of just-so exactly perfectly ripe honeydew melon cubes, oozing juicy natural flavour? Toasted artisanal Baker’s Dozen Ancient Grains bread? Trying to keep your figure, sir? Certainly, coming right up! Pardon me? Yes, we heard they’re moving the homeless encampment out of the park tomorrow, sir. I agree, it spoils the view out of our Vista Exclusive Dining Chamber as things stand now.”

    The WSJ seems like a bit of a rag — I’ve never paid attention to it in my almost four decades of existence. Perused the WSJ only now and then; when it was the last paper left on a Business Class air flight. Boring. Does it offer any real insights for financial types to justify its existence? I truly do not know. Or is it merely a droning repeater of Blob mentality and values as it seems to be on the subject of Russia’s current desperate plight, as they imagine it in their uninformed fantasy? A Russia sacrificing its common people’s economy and well-being by beating plowshares into swords while neglecting burgers and Russian substitute Coke for the masses? Carlson sure had trouble picking up candy bars on his trip, eh? Nowhere to be found and overpriced too when he did find them. Ahem. When you’ve got nothing useful to say, but the elites are feeling a bit down about them damn Russkies beating the snot out of NATO, the WSJ can be relied on to bolster their spirits. A bit anyway.

    I am a cynical sarcastic old bastard.

  21. nwwoods

    Simplicius reported in the recent past that RF had been deploying some of the much older tanks as stationary artillery pieces.

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