Procurement: Russia Mobilizes Military Production


July 24, 2023: Western economic sanctions on Russia since the 2014 seizure of some Ukrainian territory and especially since the 2022 invasions of Ukraine have crippled Russian efforts to increase or even sustain production of weapons and military equipment. Despite that, Russia ordered major increases in weapons production at the same time they declared details of the process a state secret. The real reason for this extra secrecy is that production is not going very well. Too many key components are not available from the usual foreign suppliers because of the sanctions. Efforts to find other suppliers or setting up production inside Russia take time and is often not possible. Even relatively low-tech weapons, like guided artillery rocket systems, have encountered the component shortage. While the details are secret, similar problems with production of high-tech civilian equipment are not secret.

Such is the case with the Russian commercial aircraft production. This involves production of MC-21 and Tu-204 medium-range jet transports. Both these aircraft are similar to the Boeing 737 and compete internationally by selling for less than similar Boeing or AirBus models. The economic sanctions have made these aircraft, and tie Russian engines, more expensive while also slowing production. Military equipment has similar problems but the details are secret. The problems with production of similar Russian civilian aircraft are not.

The recently ordered Russian weapons have not been showing up in combat and the Russian military is not even receiving them. The reason is production problems. Additional costs for these new weapons is not a crucial problem, but obtaining key components is. Russian troops in Ukraine openly complain about the shortage of weapons and equipment and they seem aware of the reason for it. The Russian military has long suffered from corrupt procurement officials and all manner of front line shortages can be traced back to that. Ukraine was, until 1991, part of the Soviet Union and there are still memories of the epic inefficiency and corruption that crippled the Soviet economy. Ukraine has since shed most of that while Russia has not and Russian soldiers are paying for that.

Russia suffered similar producing problems during World War Two (1939-45), but most of those were resolved by Western Lend-Lease aid, particularly items which Russia could not produce in adequate quantity such as aviation fuel additives, radios, waterproof communications cables, special metals for alloys and, most famously, military trucks. The latter made it possible for Russian production to specialize in those items it made most efficiently compared to the West, notably ammunition, artillery and tanks. Russian military production was not at all self-sufficient in Worlds War Two, a problem solved by huge quantities of Western aid. The aid was never available during the Ukraine War because Western threats of economic retaliation prevented Russia from obtaining essential items from other sources and impact of the shortages is very visible.

Russian military production was not at all self-sufficient in World War Two, and is not self-sufficient now, but this is only apparent now due to its lack of access to Western manufactures.




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