The Ukraine war and subsequent sanctions are placing a massive strain on the Russian military engine. Putin’s ability to buy weaponry has been severely hampered, forcing the country to seek more questionable suppliers like Iran and North Korea. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan argues that if the world’s largest artillery manufacturer — Russia — is having issues with restocking its supplies, it’s a sure sign the nation is in desperate shape.
Excerpted from Peter’s Sept. 7 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:
When I recorded the first part of today’s video, it was in reaction to news that the Russians were having to turn to Iran of all places to help replace the drones lost in ongoing invasion of Ukraine. That Moscow needs to rely on Tehran for anything should be concerning, but perhaps not in the reasons that immediately come to mind. This move by the Russians does not point to the Iranians expanding membership to the Axis of Evil, or a tacit recognition of their technological superiority.
Rather, Russia’s desperate.
Iran is not an up-and-coming manufacturing power. Nor have they broken some sort of secret code when it comes to drone and UAV technology. They’re certainly not even producing anything comparable to Turkey’s burgeoning military manufacturing sector. But unlike Turkey, Iranian drones are not dependent on Western technological imports. Or even foreign satellites. Whether or not they’ll have the impact the Russians are looking for in Ukraine is debatable, but the state of the Russian production sector has never looked worse.
Which brings us back to the Axis of Evil. No, a skull-shaped headquarters has not emerged from some fetid swamp (but who can be sure what really goes on in New Jersey politics). Rather, the Russians have tapped another unlikely “partner” to help them combat their rapidly depleting ammunition stocks: North Korea. Moscow is set to begin purchases of artillery shells from Pyongyang, a country whose conventional military production capabilities have not been stress-tested since the cessation of armed conflict on the Korean peninsula nearly seven decades ago.
Hey, everybody, Peter Zane here coming to you from Colorado. Today I wanted to talk about a little bit of the mechanics of the Ukraine war, specifically some of the weapon systems that are in play. Now we’ve all seen the stories about the Ukrainians and the Russians using drones to identify and target assets on the other side. But the new news is that the Russians are having so much of a problem with their own drones and so much difficulty replacing the ones they’ve lost. They have turned to an most unexpected source from materials not going under the international market traditional sense not going to the Chinese go into the Iranians who are not exactly what I would consider a modern industrial power. Specifically, the Russians have purchased what looks to be a few dozen of the the effect of these pronunciations, right, Mohammed air model and the showerhead model. Both of them are capable of carrying multiple 40 to 80 pound ground excuse me air to ground munitions. The Moza air has started mohajir has a range of about 120 miles. In theory, the showerhead can go significantly further, perhaps more than 1000. But both of them require ground control capability. And since the Iranians don’t have a single satellite, we really don’t know what their maximum range might actually be, because they’ve never demonstrated anything. So we’re relatively short range capability. More importantly, both of these new drones are new to the Russians require runways for takeoff and landing. So they can’t be used in advanced position, they’re more to be used as kind of a replacement for fighter bombers, in places where you know, there’s going to be a target rich environment, which is not the sort of environment the Russians have really been dealing with. And certainly not the kind that the Koreans have been dealing with, because then they would need the runways. Anyway, some folks are a little bit nervous about anything that puts Iran and Russia into the same sentence. But I’m really not. Iran is not an industrial power. They have manufactured less than 300 of these things for their own. And even if all 300 were suddenly to be thrown into the Ukraine war, the restrictions on where they can operate. And what they can do means that they’re probably not going to be having a big impact on any particular Battlefield, even if they work well. And some of the reports that we’ve gotten out so far suggest that they’re absolutely not working all that well. If anything, I see this as an extremely enlightening sign of just how much trouble the Russians are in with their industrial and technical collapses. It’s clear from the sort of equipment that the Russians are bringing in that they can’t replace anything at scale. And so they’re dusting off tanks that were built in the 60s and haven’t been modernized since the late 70s to be their new mainline tanks. And if they can’t put just a few dozen drones into the field into production, in a reasonable timeframe, to the point that they’re actually importing finished equipment from third countries that are not leading lights when it comes to manufactured goods, you got to wonder what the maintenance is like for everything else that they have. So for example, think artillery. This is how the Russians have been fighting the war to this point, they’re using over 40,000 shells a day. And most barrels once they fire one to 2000 shells, that’s it, they’re done. You have to take them out of commission and replace them. And with some of the older equipment that the Russians are using, they can never even get to that 1000 You have 600 might be as far as you can go.
So we’re seeing equipment failures in a lot of places. And that’s probably probably probably why the Eastern assault of the Russians on Luhansk stalled out. I’m sorry, Donetsk stalled out about a month ago. Even worse, far worse for the Russians is until this war happened. Russia was the world’s number two arms exporter by value. In fact, they’ve been relying upon the income from those weapons sales to keep their industry alive. There hasn’t been enough demand from the Russian military itself to justify its existence. And in this war, Russian equipment has done very badly. So every country in the world that has imported a lot of Russian equipment to rent out their forces or to mainline their forces, they’re now having second, third and fourth and fifth thoughts about whether or not this is something they want to do it all. In particular, we should be watching the Indians because they India is the only country that has actually provided the seed and development capital that’s necessary to develop some of the more advanced weapon systems, whether it’s jets or helicopters or cruise missiles, and they’re in the process of backing away from almost all of it. And that is their number one the Russians number one market right there. About the only thing about this weapon sales from Iran to Russia that I see that I’m a little bit concerned about is that ground connection thing now Arabians have to have basically a line of sight so as to be a ground station that can communicate with the drone in the United States. We use satellites Koreans don’t have a satellite, but the Russians do. So the Iranians here are probably going to get a lot of great technical data on what it means when you can integrate one of their hardware systems with someone else’s communications network, and down the road that is likely to provide a bit of a boost to the Iranian weapons industry. That’s not a problem for today. That’s a problem for later. But if you’re going to worry about some aspect of that, that’s probably what you’d be concerned about. Okay, that’s it for me. Until next time, everyone quick addendum, we were just about to load up the report on Iran, drone, renting and drones going to Russia. Everything on that stands. But the new news just now is that the Russians are also getting artillery supplies from North Korea of all places. Now, everything we said about the Iranian drone program and what it means for Russia and the war effort that stands However, Russia is the world’s single largest artillery force, and it has the world’s largest artillery manufacturing capacity, and it has the world’s largest artillery shell stockpiles. But by far, by far, just huge amounts compared everyone else. If this is true, and they really are now, turning to the North Koreans for equipment, two things come out of this, it means that the Russian military industrial complex is already in a state of collapse. If the one thing that we know they’re good at, they can’t even maintain flow rates, then this is the end of the Russian military capacity over the next few years. And that is obviously something with significant impacts of luck, wait and see. A second. We haven’t gotten a good look at the inside of the North Korean military complex since 1953. The last time they were involved in general hostilities. So if we’re about to see millions of North Korean artillery shells being used by the Russians, we’re finally going to get a good look at what the North Koreans are capable and whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. That is more information than we have had in over a half a century and that’s going to be fantastic from an intelligence point of view. Okay, that’s it. For real. Take care.