Russia is facing a “critical shortage” of artillery shells and Moscow’s ability to conduct ground operations in Ukraine is “rapidly declining” as a result, the head of Britain’s armed forces has said.
Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defense staff, told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank on Wednesday that the Kremlin had only briefly planned to subjugate Ukraine and instead found itself drawn into a nearly 10-month conflict.
“So let me tell Putin tonight what his generals and ministers are probably afraid to say,” the military chief said. “Russia is facing a critical shortage of artillery ammunition.” This means that their ability to conduct successful offensive ground operations is rapidly diminishing.
“There is no mystery as to why this is so.” Putin planned a 30-day war, but Russian weapons have now been firing for almost 300 days. The closet is bare. Morally, conceptually and physically, Putin’s strength is running low.”
The admiral’s statement is the latest in a series of similar claims by Western and Ukrainian leaders and officials, who have counted the number of missiles fired at known stockpiles – even though there was evidence that Russia was building new munitions while the war was going on.
Earlier this month, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president, said he believed Russia had enough cruise missiles for “two or three” more massive strikes on Ukraine – and its first batch of Iranian drones was all but gone.
Ukraine estimates that Russia started the war with 900 Iskander missiles and that it dropped to 119 at the end of November after using 829 and producing 48 despite economic sanctions. Experts, examining the fragments of the Kh-101 cruise missiles that landed in Kiev, concluded that some were made in flight.
However, Russia continues to attack Ukraine’s infrastructure, cutting off electricity to millions or forcing them to ration energy. Last week, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said that half of the power grid had been destroyed by successive waves of missile attacks that began on October 10 and stretched the grid to its limits.
Radakin also sought to argue that Britain must support the US and engage in opposition to China because “the idea that you can separate security in Europe from security in the Pacific seems difficult” – and floated the idea that the UK could regularly deploy the carrier aircraft in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Europe, he said, cannot easily afford to defend itself without the US, due to the size of the Pentagon’s defense budget. “It would cost European NATO nations more than $300 billion over 10 years to match the current U.S. investment in our security,” he said.
There was also the odd attempt to defend Britain’s nuclear deterrent by half-apologizing for it. “There is something very British about our approach to having the bomb: mild embarrassment,” the army chief said, going on to argue that the West’s “extended nuclear deterrent” had helped protect countries in eastern Europe.