Russia is producing weapons at a record pace, and Ukraine’s partners are trying to increase support for Kyiv

Russia is producing weapons at a record pace, and Ukraine’s partners are trying to increase support for Kyiv
With help from Chinese inputs and massive state spending on defence, Russia is producing record amounts of weapons. / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin May 1, 2024

Russia is producing weapons at a record pace, and Ukraine’s partners are trying to increase support for Kyiv.

Over the past year, Russia has learned to develop new weapons and ammunition faster than at any time in its modern history, including during the Cold War, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said.

According to him, the Russian Federation managed to quicken weapon production thanks to huge supplies of machine tools, microelectronics and optics, mainly from China.

The Secretary of State emphasised that aid to Russia from China creates two problems at once: it allows the Russian Federation to continue its war against Ukraine and contributes to restoring the Russian defence and industrial base.

Blinken was recently in China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and told him to desist in supporting Russia’s military production. Beijing has been careful not to transfer any military supplies, but has provided large amounts of other equipment and dual-use components that have significantly increased Russia’s militarised industrial production.

Russia continues to have access to missile, drone components. Military aid for Ukraine is limited, while Russia continues to have access to "critical components needed to produce missiles and drones," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his evening address on April 14.

Chinese supplies and the 5% of GDP Russia is spending on the defence sector is showing up in Russia’s macroeconomic results and giving the economy a military Keynesianism boost. Year-on-year growth in industrial output in February was 8.5% and GDP growth hit 7.7%, according to Russia’s State Statistics Service.

This sharp acceleration (in January, GDP growth was 4.6%) is partly explained by the additional working day of the leap year. “Fundamentally, though, growth is being driven by military spending, which feeds the manufacturing sector and causes abnormal consumer activity,” Renaissance Capital said in a note.

Russia is already producing more arms and military equipment than it needs for its war against Ukraine, and is filling its weapons warehouses, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said, as reported by the German television channel n-tv on April 25.

The Minister of defence of the Russian Federation Serhiy Shoigu said that in 2024, the first samples of the new generation S-500 anti-aircraft missile system in two versions will be delivered to the Russian army, as a drone war between Russia and Ukraine escalates. The S-500 will replace the state of the art S-400 surface to air missiles, Russia’s best air defence technology.

"This year the troops will receive the first samples of the new generation S-500 anti-aircraft missile system in two versions: long-range anti-aircraft missile systems and anti-missile defence systems, S-400, S-300B4 anti-aircraft missile systems, Buk-M3, Tor-M2U, radar stations of the new generation," Shoigu said. "In order to maintain the pace of the offensive in Ukraine ... the quantity and quality of weapons supplies must increase.”

Blinken said he believes that Russia will use this weapon against European countries when it is "done with Ukraine."

Meanwhile, Latvia has agreed to transfer another package of military aid to Ukraine, which should improve air defence and intelligence capabilities. In particular, Ukraine’s military will receive NBS anti-aircraft installations, tactical unmanned surveillance systems, among other equipment.

The EU still lags behind the US in terms of military aid to Ukraine, study shows. Data from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), as reported by European Pravda.

The EU and its member states have allocated a total of €42bn in military aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the war until the end of February 2024, while the US has provided €43.1bn.

In recent months, Europe has almost caught up with the US and is now "on a par in terms of military aid," explained Christoph Trebesch, head of IfW's Ukraine Support Tracker. However, Europe has not been able to fill the large gap left by the United States, especially in terms of ammunition.

The European defence sector has been very slow in increasing production capacity. Accordingly, Ukraine received about €6bn in additional EU support in January and February 2024, while an aid package totalling over $60bn was blocked in Congress.

The US is also running up a brick wall when it comes to providing Ukraine with more materiel. Whether it’s artillery shells or Patriot missiles, the US simply doesn’t have the resources to produce and provide even half of what Ukraine says it needs to become on par with Russia in the war, according to US Republican Senator J. D. Vance’s commentary entitled “The Math on Ukraine Doesn’t Add Up,” published recently in The New York Times (NYT).

“Ukraine’s manpower situation is even worse” than the situation with its munitions, according to Vance. Vance then argues that these disparities must inform any future US policy toward the conflict, “from further congressional aid to the diplomatic course set by the president.”

“The Biden administration has no viable plan for the Ukrainians to win this war. The sooner Americans confront this truth, the sooner we can fix this mess and broker for peace,” Vance concludes.