Since February 2022 Russia has lost nearly 4,000 tanks and other armored vehicles in Ukraine as well as nearly a thousand other specialized vehicles, including towed artillery. Over a thousand military trucks have been lost, which are also specialized for military purposes and there weren’t enough of them even at the war’s beginning. Russian was further crippled by the absence of a replaceable item on all Russian railroad cars. While Russia needs its railroad less because of the many businesses shut down by sanctions, the shortage of railroad cars is growing and soon it will disrupt the movements of needed civilian and military cargo. Russia has also used more guided missiles and artillery ammunition than it can replace.
All this has crippled Russian military operations in Ukraine and enabled Ukrainian forces to go on the offensive. Since early September the Ukrainian offensive has been continuous, clearing most of north easter Ukraine of Russian forces and now driving Russian forces out of Donbas and the two provinces north of Crimea. Poor Russian leadership, tactics and training resulted in Russia losing six times as many troops as Ukraine, a country with a population 30 percent the size of Russia’s.
Expanded sanctions on Russia, backed up by American experience dealing with Iranian, North Korean and now Russian smuggling efforts, are increasingly effective. The success of these efforts to disrupt smuggling efforts depends on discovering what the sanctioned nation needs most at any time and to block access to those items as much as possible.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the sanctioned items Russia misses most are key components of munitions and vehicles lost in combat. Increased American efforts in 2022 revealed sanctions imposed since 2014 that Russia had found substitutes for. Access to these items was then blocked. Destroyed or expended Russian weapons and munitions were scrutinized to determine which components Russia imported and could least afford to lose access to. These efforts have not halted all Russian production but has disrupted efforts to produce many, if not most, weapons, vehicles, munitions and other vital military equipment.
That is how Russian forces reached the current dismal states they are in. There are fewer new armored vehicles or trucks to replace those lost. It’s the same with many weapons, including towed artillery and rocket launchers, radars and communications equipment. At the same time, Ukraine continues to concentrate its attacks on Russian logistics, seeking out the locations of Russian supply storage sites and hitting them with guided missiles supplied by the Americans who, along with NATO allies, supplied Ukraine with a continuous supply of weapons and equipment it requested. Russia has been unable to disrupt such supplies coming into Ukraine. Meanwhile Ukraine has a growing network of local civilians in Russian occupied territory who are trained and equipped to quickly report the GPS location for Russian supply storage sites and headquarters and temporary concentrations of troops and vehicles. Russian losses have been so large and continuous that after six months of fighting the Ukrainians have a decisive edge. These Russian losses have been so large that the situation has become a problem back in Russia, where the government had used its control over the media to make it sound like Russian victory in Ukraine was imminent. The opposite is now seen as obviously true even in Russia. Ukraine sees an opportunity to clear the Russians out of Ukraine by the end of the year or shortly thereafter. In desperation the Russians have threatened to use nuclear weapons. This had a negative impact on Russians and especially Russian soldiers in Ukraine or Russians civilians who might soon be in the army and in Ukraine. Russians, more than anyone else, are aware of the unreliability of Russian nukes. Many of the details were revealed after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Most Russians do not want Russia to be the first nation to use nukes since 1945, Both NATO and many Russians fear their current leader, Vladimir Putin, may be desperate or deranged enough to use nukes and bring upon Russia even greater retaliation.
Many Russians do not want to see Russian forces defeated in Ukraine but as the situation grows more desperate for Russia in Ukraine, getting out of Ukraine begins to look like a favorable outcome for Russians.