Is Russia running out of ammo?

If they are, they’re not running out quickly enough. Today brings news of a new mass-casualty event, many miles from where the two armies are engaged in the east.

Rumors are flying that the shopping center was hit by two missiles, not one, which would destroy the theory that this was an errant strike designed for a military target.

Why would Putin and his goons lash out this way and kill civilians en masse, apart from the fact that it’s a day ending in “Y”? Maybe they’re frustrated at what Ukraine’s been doing to them behind their own front line.

There are also reports circulating of Ukrainian special forces sneaking across the border into Russia to destroy ammo and fuel depots there, a practice that’s also been carried out intermittently via missile strikes as well. It reminds me of how the Ukrainians prioritized targeting Russian supply trucks in the early days of the war outside major cities like Kiev. They understood that Russian supply lines were stretched and fragile, and they took full advantage. You don’t need to kill the enemy to win a war. You only need to deprive him of the things he needs to keep fighting.

Evidently that strategy is now being applied in the east to Russia’s stockpile of ammunition. And no wonder: After months of relentless shelling, western experts have begun to wonder how long it’ll be before Putin finally runs out.

[T]he “creeping” advances are dependent almost entirely on the expenditure of vast quantities of ammunition, notably artillery shells, which are being fired at a rate almost no military in the world would be able to sustain for long, said the senior Western official…

[C]onditions for Ukrainian troops are only likely to improve as more sophisticated Western weapons arrive, while those of Russian forces can be expected to deteriorate as they dig deeper into their stocks of old, outdated equipment, said retired Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. forces in Europe who is now with the Center for European Policy Analysis. At some point in the coming months, the Ukrainians will have received enough Western weaponry that it is likely they will be able to go on the counteroffensive and reverse the tide of the war, he said…

Another unknown is the extent of Russian artillery stocks, which Western intelligence estimates had initially underestimated, the Western official said. Expecting a short war in which Ukrainian forces quickly folded, the Russians made no effort to ramp up production before the invasion and although they have presumably now done so, their defense industrial complex does not have the capacity to keep up with the “enormous” rate at which Russia is expending artillery shells, the Western official said. “Their supply is not infinite,” he said.

Boris Johnson told reporters he believes Russia has a “few months” left before it’s out of gas. Destroying dwindling supplies of Russian ammo is Ukraine’s attempt to accelerate that timeline. No one knows if Putin really is running short on shells, of course, but there’s interesting circumstantial evidence floating around:

Truth or propaganda? We’ll know one way or another in the next few months. If Russia really has reached the point where it’s leaning on Belarus to keep its cannons firing, the endless artillery barrage in the Donbas should begin to slacken sooner rather than later.

The biggest news from the war this weekend is that Ukraine finally gave up on the city of Sievierodonetsk after fighting raged there for weeks. The city isn’t strategically important but the Ukrainians insisted on defending it anyway, sparking theories that they saw it as an opportunity to grind down the Russians. The price each side paid for Russia’s victory is unknown, but rumors that Putin is once again replacing top commanders in the field suggest he’s not happy with the pace of his advance. Phillips O’Brien makes a smart point about the assault on Sievierodonetsk, namely that it’s nutty to think Russia would have willingly assaulted a major city without first cutting the supply lines to that city’s defenders. That’s not something an army does by choice. It’s something they do when they can’t manage to cut those lines.

They’ve spent the past two months trying to seal off pockets in the Donbas, trapping Ukrainian troops inside a la Mariupol and forcing a surrender of a meaningful percentage of the total Ukrainian forces. They just can’t pull it off. They *have* succeeded in killing many Ukrainian troops thanks to their tremendous advantage in artillery, but as western artillery comes online for Ukraine and Russia’s ammo stockpile continues to shrink, the advantage will become less tremendous.

Robert Kelly peers through the smoke and flame in Ukraine and wonders what Putin has “won” after four months of war. What did he gain in return for thousands of dead Russian troops, grinding sanctions, and untold amounts of damage to Russia’s military machine?

Occupying these conquests will be expensive, because a major military or police presence will be needed to prevent revolts. (Ukraine was a hotbed of resistance to both the Nazis and Soviets.) Reconstruction, in order to extract any economic value from these spaces, will be another drain. Most of the world will not recognize these conquests as Russian territory. This means investment and trade will be minimal. Business will also be deterred by the ruined infrastructure. Nor will economically productive people move into such conflict-ridden regions. Only the old and frail will likely stay.

In short order, these conquered areas will require subsidization from the Russian government to survive. This has been a pattern in other Russian ‘frozen conflicts.’ They become an expense and a burden. This is not a sustainable model of expansion, nor is it conquest that pays.

Kelly’s theory, which I suspect is right, is that Putin long ago realized that the cost of the war no longer justifies the benefits now that total conquest and subjugation of the Ukrainian nation is no longer in the cards. All that’s left for him to fight for is prestige, not unlike the U.S. position as the Vietnam War dragged on. At a certain point, a great power has to win simply to preserve global respect for its “greatness.” The difference is that the U.S. was sure to remain an eminent military power no matter how Vietnam ended. I’m not so sure the same is true for Russia after Putin’s folly.

Allahpundit Aug 09, 2022 5:01 PM ET