Attrition: Russian Wartime Labor Shortage


September 18, 2023: The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 had several negative effects on the Russian economy. One of the less obvious ones is a labor shortage. As Russia mobilized more and more young men, it deprived many manufacturing or maintenance facilities of key staff. Military-age men who had manufacturing or equipment maintenance skills were forced into the military, even though their employers warned that this would disrupt production if items needed by the military. Such exemptions were granted during World War II, but now the government decided that additional soldiers were more important than production of weapons and military equipment. What the government did not take into account was that, since the war began, nearly a million military age Russians have left the country. This continued even after the government outlawed the migration of military age men from Russia. Corruption in the government and military made it possible for military age men to get out of Russia. The government was told by employers that unless the government took action on the problems, production of key military items would continue to decline.

Sanctions led to the loss of key components normally imported from Western suppliers. It took nearly a year for Russia to line up alternative suppliers as well as smuggling routes to get banned items to Russian factories or existing equipment like armored vehicles, warplanes and warships. There was little success in dealing with the labor shortage.

Ukraine has identified Russian plants that produced key electronic components and recently began attacking them with armed UAVs, severely disrupting or halting production of key electronic components. Now Russia has to devote air defense systems to many of these plants. This is what the Ukrainians did for defense manufacturing plants after the war began. That led Russia to concentrate on urban areas and infrastructure targets like power plants and water distribution facilities. The sanctions plus Ukrainian attacks have reduced the number of land-attack missiles Russia can produce and use against the Ukrainian military. That led to Russia shifting its missile attacks to less well prepared and defended civilian targets.

Russian plans to increase production of tanks, other armored vehicles and combat aircraft could not be met. Armored vehicles production was less than half what was needed and production of military and civilian jet aircraft were reduced even further. Aircraft require even more imports of high-tech items, some of them bulky, closely monitored and difficult to smuggle in.


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