March 11, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russian forces in Ukraine only has 30 per cent of the arms and equipment required by Russian military doctrine

Institute for the Study of War

A Ukrainian military observer offered assessments of Russian force generation and defense industrial base (DIB) capacities that are consistent with ISW’s previous assessments. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets stated that the Russian military command is aiming to create a “strategic reserve” for offensive operations in spring–summer 2024 but is not planning to equip these newly formed units and formations with the doctrinally required quantities of weapons and equipment due to current Russian DIB production constraints. Mashovets stated that the Russian military command only plans to equip the 27th Motorized Rifle Division — which Russia is reportedly in the process of standing up on the basis of the Central Military District’s existing 21st Motorized Rifle Brigade — with up to 87 percent of its doctrinally required amounts of weapons and equipment by the second and fourth quarters of 2024 and implied that the Russian military command has a similar goal for other new formations and units. Mashovets assessed that it is unlikely that Russian forces will be able to meet this equipment goal by the fourth quarter of 2024 given that many Russian regiments, brigades, and divisions currently operating in Ukraine only have about 30 percent of the doctrinally required amounts of weapons and equipment. Several Western and Ukrainian military officials and analysts noted that Russia’s reported tank production numbers largely reflect restored and modern tanks drawn from storage rather than new production.

Mashovets’ assessment is consistent with ISW’s assessment that the Russian DIB is capable of sustaining Russia’s current tempo of operations, although not likely able to fully support a potential operational or strategic-level offensive operation using a strategic reserve of manpower 2024. Reports that the Russian military is prioritizing creating new underequipped units and formations are consistent with ISW‘s assessment that Russia is prioritizing the quantity of manpower and materiel over the quality of its forces. ISW continues to assess that Russia would have the opportunity to expand its DIB and amass resources if it maintains the theater-wide initiative throughout 2024, thus allowing Russia to set conditions for a future offensive operation using a larger reserve of manpower and equipment.

Mashovets stated that the Russian military command intends to form the bulk of the 27th Motorized Rifle Division from the newly formed 433rd Motorized Rifle Regiment (reportedly staffed by degraded elements of the 21st Separate Motorized Rifle Regiment), 506th Motorized Rifle Regiment, and 589th Motorized Rifle Regiment. Mashovets stated that Russia is currently forming its 433rd, 506th, and 589th motorized rifle regiments at the Totskoye training ground in Orenburg Oblast and the “Trekhizbenovsky“ training ground in occupied Luhansk Oblast and plans to have these units ready for combat by late spring or early summer 2024. These newly formed regiments are likely meant to rapidly deploy to Ukraine to offset frontline losses and are unlikely to be staffed with high-quality recruits or operating at doctrinal end strength. Although Russia likely does not have the capacity to staff and equip these new units near their intended end strength in the near term, the Russian military command almost certainly has long-term intentions to fully equip these and similar units. Mashovets noted that the Russian military command has already been forced to reconsider the formation of a number of units due to “discrepanc[ies]“ between Russia’s force-generation ambitions and realities and that Russia’s ability to deploy its strategic reserves in practice are likely limited “to a certain point.” The Russian military command appears to be prioritizing short-term benefits, such as limited territorial gains, over long-term sustainability and large-scale operationally meaningful undertakings in Ukraine amid ongoing Russian reformation and reconstitution efforts. ISW continues to assess that the Russian military command’s use of ongoing force structure changes to rush newly created and understrength formations into combat in Ukraine will likely constrain the immediate efficacy of these units on the battlefield but is enough to maintain the current pace of operations. The major variable likely to determine the rate at which such partially replenished Russian forces can advance this summer is the availability of materiel to Ukraine, which in turn depends heavily on the continued provision of US military assistance.

Key Takeaways:

  • A Ukrainian military observer offered assessments of Russian force generation and defense industrial base (DIB) capacities that are consistent with ISW’s previous assessments.
  • Russia’s increased defense industrial base (DIB) production is likely not sustainable in the medium and long-term as it will likely suffer from labor shortages, decreased weapons and equipment stockpiles, and an inability to completely compensate for military and dual-use items it can no longer acquire due to sanctions.
  • Transfers of North Korean weapons to Russia by sea have apparently resumed after a pause since mid-February 2024.
  • A Ukrainian military source noted that Russian forces are increasingly using grenades equipped with chemical substances in the Zaporizhia direction, in potential violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which Russia is a signatory.
  • The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has summoned Russian Ambassador to Moldova Oleg Vasnetsov in response to claims that Russia will operate polling stations in pro-Russian Moldovan breakaway region Transnistria during the Russian presidential election.
  • Russia, China, and Iran will hold the joint Maritime Security Belt – 2024 naval exercise in the Gulf of Oman between March 11–15.
  • The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) claimed that the West intends to use Armenia as a tool against Russia, a notable escalation in its information operations criticizing Armenian efforts to distance itself from security relations with Russia.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on March 11 that allows Russian authorities to further restrict actors it deems “foreign agents” to consolidate control over the Russian information space ahead of the presidential election.
  • France is reportedly prepared to build a coalition of countries that are open to potentially sending Western military personnel to Ukraine.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna, Bakhmut, and Donetsk City.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues efforts to cater to Russian servicemembers and their families with the promise of various social benefits.

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