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According to a leading think tank, Russia lost as many tanks in the Ukraine war as it had in total active service in its armed forces before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion.
More than 3,000 tanks have been damaged or destroyed in two years of fighting after Moscow failed in its first blitzkrieg to capture the capital Kiev.
To make up for the deficit, the Russian military has been resupplying the front from its strategic arms reserves, while urgently increasing defense spending and putting its economy on a war footing, says the analysis by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
Ukraine, on the other hand, relied heavily on Western weapons to offset its own losses as its citizen army needed to quickly learn combat skills in battle.
Using weapons from the United States and Europe, as well as those being developed at home, the Ukrainians have struck back at Russia deep behind enemy lines and also damaged the capabilities of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea.
The push by NATO member states to increase their military budgets to help Ukraine and prepare their defenses for future Russian aggression has led to a significant increase in defense spending.
The Gaza war and armed confrontation in the Middle East, China’s saber-rattling in the Indo-Pacific, unrest in Central Asia, including the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and military coups in West Africa provided additional impetus for arms sales.
A Ukrainian soldier from the 47th Mechanized Brigade prepares to fight a Bradley fighting vehicle not far from Avdiivka in the Donetsk region
(AFP via Getty Images)
Global defense spending rose 9 percent to a record $2.2 trillion, with non-NATO countries increasing their budgets by an average of 32 percent, the IISS said in its annual Military Balance report.
China and Russia have increased their military budgets by 30 percent, and Iran’s burgeoning defense industry is clearly visible: Iranian-supplied drones are used by Russia in Ukraine, and anti-ship missiles are used by the Houthis in the Red Sea.
Defense budgets have come into focus this week after Donald Trump said he would “encourage” Russia to attack any NATO member state that did not spend enough on its armed forces as part of the alliance.
At a campaign rally, Mr Trump claimed he told a European leader he would tell Moscow to “do whatever the hell they want” to countries that haven’t paid their bills.
A Ukrainian soldier fires a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher at Russian positions near the front line
(General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine)
The White House condemned the comments as “appalling and unhinged.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said any suggestion that “allies will not defend each other undermines our overall security” and endangers soldiers from alliance countries.
The push for a world without nuclear arsenals is fading as China adds missile silos and the U.S. modernizes warheads and delivery systems, the report said.
Interest in a wide range of weapons such as artillery and air defense has increased, while there is a push for new technologies, including hypersonic glide missiles and cruise missiles.
The IISS said: “Military Balance 2024 highlights how much the world has entered a more dangerous phase over the last twelve months and how increasing tensions and conflict have changed the global defense industrial landscape. Our new data shows how countries are reshaping their equipment and spending plans, and how their regional ties are changing according to geopolitical reality.”