Russian military is
Russia has “almost completely” overhauled its military capabilities after suffering heavy losses in Ukraine, a senior US official said Wednesday.

“I think we have assessed over the last two months that Russia has almost completely reconstituted itself militarily,” Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said at a talk hosted by the Center for a New American Security. Campbell is co-founder of CNAS, a Washington-based think tank.

He said Moscow suffered initial setbacks during the Ukraine war but “has re-equipped itself and now poses a threat to Ukraine.”

“But not just for Ukraine,” Campbell said. “Their new capabilities pose a longer-term challenge to stability in Europe and threaten NATO allies.”

The Undersecretary of State noted that Russia receives industrial and commercial support from China as it intervenes in a broader debate on security in the Indo-Pacific.

China, the United States’ main rival in the Indo-Pacific, has also been Russia’s largest trading partner, with $240 billion in trade between the two nations last year.

Governments and think tanks have offered varying analyses of how Russia is revitalizing its ailing armed forces. Russia is estimated to have lost 315,000 soldiers killed and wounded in the first years of the war, according to British intelligence services. It has also depleted much of its air and support inventory, according to war analysts.

As a result of these losses, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has launched his country’s military-industrial complex, focusing its economy on the production of projectiles, weapons and equipment.

Russian military is almost completely reconstituted
Military vehicles at a plant, which is part of the Russian missile maker Almaz-Antey, in St. Petersburg on January 18, 2023.

Campbell’s remarks appear to be one of the most optimistic Western assessments of the Kremlin’s productive drive to date.

In December, the British Army released an intelligence update stating that it would likely take Russia 10 years to replenish its ground troops with highly skilled forces, citing a “transition to a lower quality, higher quantity mass army.”

In January, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Russia was building an army that could attack NATO but would probably only achieve such a capability in “five or eight years.”

Lithuania has placed that estimate between five and seven years.

Others say Russia is making steady progress. The Royal United Services Institute, a London-based security think tank, said in February that Moscow had strengthened its troops in Ukraine, going from a disorganized force of 360,000 in 2023 to 410,000 better-trained soldiers in 2024.

“Although the Russian military’s aspiration to increase its size to 1.5 million troops has not been realized, recruiters are currently achieving almost 85% of their assigned troop recruitment goals to fight in Ukraine,” the researchers wrote.

The report noted that Russia is also rapidly producing some 1,500 tanks and 3,000 armored vehicles a year but is unlikely to maintain that capacity because much of this production comes from refurbishing older vehicles.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said the RUSI report indicates Russia may be able to maintain its heavy losses for another two years.

Others say Russia is making steady progress. The Royal United Services Institute, a London-based security think tank, said in February that Moscow had strengthened its troops in Ukraine, going from a disorganized force of 360,000 in 2023 to 410,000 better-trained soldiers in 2024.

“Although the Russian military’s aspiration to increase its size to 1.5 million troops has not been realized, recruiters are currently achieving almost 85% of their assigned troop recruitment goals to fight in Ukraine,” the researchers wrote.

The report noted that Russia is also rapidly producing some 1,500 tanks and 3,000 armored vehicles a year but is unlikely to maintain that capacity because much of this production comes from refurbishing older vehicles.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is suffering from dwindling American support as congressional leaders block billions in aid – including much-needed ammunition and weapons – over domestic political issues.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that his country’s depleted ammunition reserves are seriously harming his forces as Russia slowly advances in the east.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who previously blocked a $60 billion package for Ukraine, recently proposed a plan to use frozen Russian assets to finance Kyiv. It’s not yet clear how much support that plan will get in Congress.

Matthew Loh