Video Above: The War in Donbas
The Pentagon is taking a bold and clear deliberate step to say the US and its NATO allies would like to “see Russia weakened” following its invasion of Ukraine for the specific purpose of safeguarding other European countries at possible risk of Russian attack.
“We do want to make it harder for Russia to threaten its neighbors and leave them less able to do that. Russia in terms of its land force has been attrited in a significant way they have lost a lot of equipment, precision weapons, lost a surface combatant. Will be harder to replace some of this capability moving forward because of the sanctions. We want to make sure they don't have the ability to bully their neighbors,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Germany following a meeting with leaders from more than 40 nations.
In terms of pure numbers, it might seem difficult to think of substantially weakening Russia’s military, given its size. However, Austin and others have said that indeed Russia has been continuing to lose large amounts of its combat force and equipment in the war, leaving them much less fortified and combat-ready than they were previously.
Also, Russia’s armored vehicle inventory has also taken a large hit in terms of numbers as well, given the number of successful ambushes against Russian convoys and armored formations.
T-14 Armata Tanks, Su-57s and F-35s
The Russian military already seems to be suffering from a numbers deficit when it comes to advanced technologies. While Russia does reportedly have a wide sphere of high tech weaponry to include hypersonics, 5th-generation stealth aircraft and T-14 Armata tanks, the country does not have a sizeable force of any of them.
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Russian press report that the country’s Air Force only operates less than 100 Su-57 5th-generation stealth fighter jets, a number which pales in comparison to the US and NATO which already flies hundreds of F-35s. Also, even if the Russian c Armata is the most advanced tank in the world, there are simply not enough of them produced to present a substantial threat to the US and NATO, assuming it is comparable to upgraded US Abrams tanks, which it may not be.
Not only would Russia have fewer advanced or 5th-generation air assets but has a smaller number of overall fighter jets as well compared with NATO, meaning they could be overwhelmed in the air by US and European F-35s and other fighter jets.
Austin’s comments about weakening Russia are consistent with continued US, NATO and European force build ups in the region clearly intended to reshape NATO’s deterrence posture in light of escalated threats from Russia.
Video Above: Tank Modernization in the Russia-Ukraine War and Tank Battles in the Gulf War
These remarks from Austin, while appearing to of course fall short of announcing an actual “conflict” or engagement with Russia, do seem to represent a move toward a much firmer deterrence posture with Russian. This is likely intended to prevent escalation and send a clear message to Putin that there will be a heavy price to pay should he choose to expand offensive operations beyond Ukraine.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.