Why does Western Europe seriously underestimate the future of the Russian military threat?

THE T80BVM is the last version of the T80 in the Russian forces e1681911170703

Supported by major industrial and societal efforts, the Russian military threat is in full transformation, without the Western Europeans adapting to this evolution.

Ahead of the Russian offensive against Ukraine in February 2022, the vast majority of analysts considered that the Russian armed forces had formidable military power, at least on par with the NATO armies deployed in Europe. . In fact, it was reasonable to consider that Ukraine and its armed forces, having almost 10 times less budgetary means each year than their adversaries, could not resist an offensive led by Moscow for very long, except to carry out an in-depth reflection on the reality of the ground and Ukrainian defensive capacities.

Anyway, after a few weeks of fighting it soon became clear that Russian military power was far less than estimated, while the Ukrainian resistance and the Western mobilization turned out to be much more effective than anticipated. Little by little, while the Russian armies were being beaten by Ukrainian fighters as determined as they were inventive, this feeling of the omnipotence of the Russian armies was transformed into a perception of a lack of efficiency concerning both command and doctrine and even the Russian equipment.

Today, while the Russian forces lost almost 65% of their pre-war tank fleet, but also 50% of armored combat vehicles, 25% of its helicopters and 15% of its combat planes, not to mention the very symbolic Moskva cruiser, as well as nearly 200.000 combatants killed, wounded or missing, the Russian armies are not considered than like the ghost of what they were two years ago.

European perception of a Russian military threat under control

Faced with this observation, if Eastern and Northern Europeans, probably driven by the Polish dynamic, continue to modernize and increase their defensive capabilities, particularly in the field of high-intensity warfare, Western Europeans , France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom in the lead, seem for their part to consider in their military programming that this Russian threat is no longer major, at least in the short term.

This is why none of these countries plans to increase their forces dedicated to high-intensity engagement, whereas the existing one is very limited due to successive developments on the basis of dissymmetrical engagement as in Iraq. , Afghanistan or Mali.

The perception of the Russian military threat has been largely shaped by the failures in Ukraine
Russian tanks have paid a very heavy price in Ukraine, almost 2000 of them having been documented destroyed, damaged or abandoned like this T90A

Thus, these 4 powers, although representing a combined GDP of almost $12,500 billion, i.e. 75% of that of the entire European Union, will together have less than 1000 combat tanks in 2030, i.e. less than Poland and its GDP of 700 billion dollars, but also less than 300 155 mm tubes, 700 combat aircraft and less than 250 anti-tank helicopters.

Indeed, by observing the new French, British, German and Italian military programming, it appears that these countries do not envisage that Russia could represent a significant threat in the short term, because of the very heavy losses recorded in Ukraine, and this regardless of the outcome of the conflict.

Overly long-range European programs

Consequently, the budgetary efforts that would have been necessary to strengthen the component dedicated to high intensity have been postponed beyond 2030, or even 2035, so as to free up the appropriations necessary to modernize other components, such as deterrence, anti-ballistic protection, intelligence or power projection. However, several objective elements tend to call into question this perception, whether reasoned or argumentative, at the heart of European plans.

Firstly, it is essential to assess the reconstruction capabilities of the Russian armed forces beyond the war in Ukraine, as well as the thresholds and constraints they face. And in fact, if the term "war economy" is very fashionable in Europe today, to the point of being often overused, even devoid of its substance, it has been methodically applied by Russia since the beginning of the conflict. in Ukraine.

Thus, from an open economy relatively similar to the Western market economy, Russia evolved towards a much more controlled economy, mainly oriented towards the export of raw materials and hydrocarbons, as well as the production of armaments, while making many concessions to public opinion to avoid too much trauma, in particular by replacing Western products hitherto very present with Chinese manufactured products.

The reorganization of the Russian defense industry

Today, the Russian economy is profoundly reorganized to meet these three objectives, without any movement of mood having agitated the population.

uralvagonzavod e1675095900956
For a time at a standstill, the military industrial production of the Uralvagonzavod armored vehicle factory resumed after a few months of sanctions, and now delivers nearly 50 armored vehicles per month, insufficient however to compensate for the monthly losses in Ukraine.

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