Facing A Dwindling Missile Supply, Russian Strikes Against Ukraine Change Course

After 11 months of unrepentant attacks on Ukrainian soil, the Russian army has seen a gradual depletion of its Iskander ballistic missiles, and has resorted to utilizing the S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft systems, according to a report from Reuters. Yurii Inhat, a spokesperson for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, claimed to the press that Russia had less than 100 Iskanders left, and that the strike patterns of both S-300 and S-400 defence systems had been observed at key targets, including Kharkiv, Mykolaiv Oblast, and the capital city of Kyiv. While the Russian Ministry of Defence has not verified these claims, recent trends in warfare show that the pressure imposed by the rising cost of raw materials and continued economic sanctions from the United States, Canada, and the European Union has stymied Russia’s capacity to produce advanced weaponry, forcing the military to primarily rely on pre-manufactured missiles as well as ammunition supplies from the Soviet Era.  

Notably, the S-300 and S-400 missile systems were originally intended to be used as air defence but are now being used for ground targets. The use of older ammunition supply has raised concern among defence experts, who warn that these explosives are prone to a high failure rate. As one U.S. official told the EurAsian Times: “You cross your fingers and hope it’s going to fire, or when it lands that it’s going to explode.” Likewise, the Ukraine Defence Ministry has noted the imprecision and lack of material resources impacting Russia’s warfare and maintains that the country’s defence infrastructure has, so far, been able to brace the S-300 and S-400’s salvo of attacks. “We can see that despite the massive missile attack, the infrastructure of Ukraine has withstood and will certainly endure,” said Andriy Yusov, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, to the Jerusalem Post in December. “They cannot maintain such a high intensity both in terms of regularity and in terms of quantity.”  

In many ways, the impotence of recent Russian combat efforts can be traced to a litany of tactical missteps and corruption scandals that have plagued the post-Soviet reconstruction of the military-industrial complex under Vladimir Putin’s leadership. A November 2022 report from the Atlantic Council reveals that Putin’s army has long been hampered by defective and old vehicles; expired supplies and rations; ineffectual control over oil and fuel consumption; and a tenuous reliance upon Iran and North Korea for drones and other weapons that the Russian government cannot afford to manufacture.

The embezzlement and fraud present at the top-level of Russia’s arms-contracts and political dealings has significantly dwindled the impact of its national defence on the ground, resulting in nearly a year of clunky, protracted battle that has claimed over 200,000 lives in combat on both sides, as reported by the BBC. The continuation of this war will jeopardize basic access to food, water, shelter, and medical care for millions, as food and energy inflation are projected to spike throughout Europe and the United States. Manmade climate change, arguably the greatest threat facing our planetary welfare, will only further perpetuate irreparable damage through the greenhouse gas emissions of the international war machine. Any potential move toward a peacekeeping agreement should factor in these immense and far-reaching costs to human welfare while also taking into consideration the unique challenges Ukraine may face in being pressured to concede certain territories to Moscow or potentially relinquish its goal to join NATO, at least for the time being. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th, 2022 when President Putin declared a “special military operation” to seize multiple Ukrainian regions. Approaching its one-year anniversary, experts are divided over whether this conflict could soon reach an end via negotiations and territorial settlements or will be indefinitely escalated by a key piece of Russia’s remaining leverage ― roughly 1,600 nuclear warheads that are ready to be deployed at any time should any of Putin’s scattered threats from the last few months materialize. For now, Russia remains steadfast in its neo-colonial conquest of Ukraine, even at the great expense of its own people and countless more around the world.