How was Russia able to carry out the largest air attack on Ukraine?
Western and Ukrainian officials have said Moscow's stockpiles of missiles are declining. But the blows dealt this week cast doubt on that.
On Tuesday, 96 missiles were fired into Ukraine, making it the largest air attack by Russia in the entire war. But the attack follows months of Western and Ukrainian officials' claims that Moscow's stockpiles of missiles and other weapons are rapidly declining. Where does Russia get weapons from? Four possible scenarios of the situation are described in the publication The New York Times.
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors.
Regardless of whether the attack on infrastructure facilities was long planned, as Ukrainian commanders believe, or brutal response to the return of the city of Kherson by Kyiv last week, a large-scale attack raises questions about whether how much the Russian arsenal could be depleted and whether Moscow can hold out by finding alternative sources of weapons.
Minister of Defense of Ukraine Alexey Reznikov stated last month that Russia has used up almost 70% of its pre-war stockpile of missiles, which were mainly used during Tuesday's attack: Iskander, Kalibr and air-launched cruise missiles. At the time, Reznikov stated that Russia has only 609 of these missiles left, although none of these numbers can be verified by independent experts.
A UK Department of Defense intelligence report dated October 16 said that a large-scale attack on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure six days earlier most likely led to the degradation of Russia's long-range missile stockpiles. "which is likely to limit their ability to hit the desired volume of targets in the future."
Since the spring, Pentagon officials have speculated that Moscow is short of precision-guided missiles, having depleted its stockpile. "pretty fast", as the national security spokesman said in May John F. Kirby.
How then did Russia manage to accomplish what Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, called perhaps "the largest missile attack since the beginning of the war"?
Here are four possible scenarios.
Russia turns to Iran and North Korea for arms
On Wednesday at the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Russia was trying to replenish its missile stockpile to keep up with battlefield needs, "so they turn to Iran, North Korea."
"I think that these countries will probably provide them with a certain resource," Austin said.
The swarms of Iranian-made drones that are attacking Ukraine - most notably the long-range Shahed series of drones that can carry an 88-pound warhead and crash into targets with "kamikaze" strikes - became the newest weapon of Russia in this war. The Ukrainian air force said it shot down 10 Shahed drones during Tuesday's attacks.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force Command said this month that it is also expected that Iran to send ballistic missiles to Russia. press secretary Yuri Ignat said it was not known how many missiles Tehran could hand over to Moscow, but added that the weapons likely to be sent would be made "quite recently", with a range of 300 km to 700 km. The United States accuses North Korea of secretly supplying missiles and artillery shells to Russia, though Kirby said this month that it was not clear whether the munitions were supplied.
Both North Korea and Iran deny that they have supplied Russia with arms since the beginning of the war.
Perhaps Russia is building new missiles
Last month the President of Russia Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin announced stepping up internal efforts to increase the production of equipment and systems, "associated with providing support for a special military operation" in Ukraine.
Defense intelligence company Janes said that Russia likely stockpiled microchips and other technologyneeded to build high-precision missiles before the invasion of Ukraine in February, and possibly several years ago, given Moscow’s worsening relations with the West following the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Janes' analysis, given to The New York Times Thursday, notes that such microelectronic components have also been used in civilian applications and that Russia could get them through third partiesc, such as states or private entities that are willing to risk US sanctions if caught.
Russia probably started producing large numbers of Iskanders, Calibers and cruise missiles even before the invasion, the analysis says.
“Probably they are still being produced now, since the economy is almost at war, and many factories associated with the Russian military-industrial complex, work in three shifts and even on weekends", - according to Janes analysis.
Russia uses air defense missiles for strikes
In a smaller follow-up strike on Thursday, Russia fired at least 10 S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles in cities near the front line, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. Created by Russia and exported throughout Asia and Eastern Europe - including to Iran and Syria, as well as to the Crimea - the S-300 anti-aircraft missile was first developed in 1978 to defend against air attack. The latest generations of missiles can hit aircraft, drones and ballistic missiles.
Ukraine also uses S-300s, both from its own stocks and those provided by other former Soviet states, to defend against Russian air attacks. Fragments of a S-300 missile launched to defend against advancing Russian missiles on Tuesday, caused the unintentional killing of two people in a Polish village near the border with Ukraine, NATO, US and Polish officials said.
But Russia's increasing reliance on the S-300 as a strike weapon against ground targets in Ukraine has been one of the signals to military officials and experts. that she is running out of cruise missiles or other, more conventional offensive weapons.
Russia kept some weapons in reserve for the war against NATO.
Few, if any, Western officials have a clear idea of the state of Russia's arsenal or know exactly how many missiles are left in its inventory, he said. Mark. F. Kansian, a former Marine and White House weapons strategist who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
But, according to him, the Western military believes that Russia has long held missiles and other weapons in reserve in case of a war with NATO. "They obviously have a reserve in case of an imaginary NATO attack"Kansian said on Thursday, "which we think is absurd, but they see it as a real possibility."
"So they're holding back some of their supplies just in case.", - he said.
It is not known whether Russia could have used those stockpiles for strikes on Tuesday.
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