Selling a Scrapheap

Saturday, 19 November 2022 — The van says…

Gifts such as this have appeared in their hundreds over recent months. In spite of Warsaw sending the numbers they have, Russian forces managed to polish off wholesale. Photo©️Vorposte


previous article highlighted the fact that rather than certain East European nations being as benevolent as they would have us believe, much of the equipment they have sold to Kiev is little more than scrap metal. This article will look at both the buyer and the sellers, examining what is really happening here.

Soviet Stock

After the collapse of the USSR, many former Warsaw Pact states sidelined their older Soviet-era kit in favor of NATO-standard apparatus as they prepared to join the Atlantic Alliance. The older tanks, guns and other materiel was at best put into storage or at worst simply left outside at the mercy of the elements. Three decades after nations began to change their apparatus, most of this had either long passed its use-by date or had been left to rust in peace. At best, most of this served as little more than scrap metal, and at worst, it was dangerous material that would cost a fortune to dispose of correctly.

Historical Hangup

Before we discuss arms and arrangements, we need to examine the soldiers who would be required to operate this kit.

Although large, the Ukrainian army was very much a throwback to its Soviet forebears of thirty years before. As part of the USSR, it was obviously equipped with the standard Soviet kit of the time, yet as with any union, the capital region get the best whilst more remote areas receive what remains. This meant that when independence arrived in the Ukraine during 1991, it had a fully equipped army, yet did not possess the cutting-edge materiel found elsewhere.

The next thirty years were not kind to the country, rampant corruption meaning that the vast sums that should have been used to modernize the army simply went astray. The same tanks used in military parades to celebrate independence in 1991 were again wheeled out in 2021, the intervening thirty years scarcely having witnessed upgrades or improvements. With that, the Ukrainian Armed Forces were only really familiar with kit from the Soviet era, and if it were to be effective against another army, other than retraining over two hundred thousand soldiers, any arms deliveries had to be within the limitations of the Ukrainian military skillset.

Training the Troops

Even before the war began, Western nations realized this issue and began training Ukrainian troops both in and out of the country. This was to not only school them in the Western doctrines that would be followed during the coming conflict, but many of those who traveled overseas were versed in the use of NATO equipment. Anyone could see that should things go hot, Western equipment would appear in-theater and to smooth this transition, a small number of soldiers completed conversion courses on weapons such as field guns and communications equipment. The men trained were small in number, but if the materiel destined to be used was to have the desired effect, not only were there men on the ground with the necessary skills, but their knowledge could be passed on to others.

Unforeseen User

With war in Eastern Europe now becoming a real possibility, just like shady secondhand car dealers, the Ukraine’s sponsors began tarting up aging antiques in the hope of offloading them onto an unwitting buyer. Motorized assets would obviously be in great demand, yet with stores sitting full of everything from rifles to rocket launchers, materiel that had been forgotten about was suddenly dusted off and offered to Kiev. Being cornered by the limitations of its troops, the Ukrainians had little option but to buy what was on offer, and on credit terms that will see it in debt long after all this has been expended.

Disposable Debris

As noteworthy as Kiev’s acquisitions have been, what is equally alarming is the rate that its new purchases have been destroyed. Over the last three months, Russia has rushed headlong into drone operations, its Kub and Lancet craft causing an alarming number of casualties amongst heavier assets. Whilst Moscow does not yet field UAVs destructive enough to destroy the frontal armor of a tank, training and tactics now allow drone operators to destroy all but the most heavily protected assets. This may seem futuristic and far from the truth for some, but the effectiveness and versatility of this new tactic is now steering the course of ground operations.

Refuse from Reserves

Uncle Sam got rid of these dinosaurs decades ago. The Russians are getting rid of them again now.

Just as with any industry, the military sector has fielded some products that are better than others. These tend to be in front-line units whilst less capable kit is kept in reserve. This has meant that assets that are better suited to a museum than a melee have been acquired, the M113 personnel carrier being one such example. As affairs stood a few months ago, Kiev was both broke and broken, having neither the money nor the means to prevent Russia from heading westward. The kit from the West has temporarily stemmed the tide, yet with second-rate equipment being destroyed as fast as it is, the time is now nigh where a shortage of ground assets will causing serious problems for the Ukrainian high command.

Modern Marvels but Pathetic Prospects

The last time Nazis were in Europe, Wunderwaffenfailed to make much impact. Eighty years later, it’s the same thing all over again

Not everything that Western nations have sent eastwards has been defective or decrepit however. Berlin sent fourteen of its modern PzH 2000 howitzers, these having performed exceptionally well when used by the Bundeswehr in Germany. Once used in real battlefield conditions however, they have proved to be as problematic as they are potent, some components wearing out fast, yet no replacements being available. As much as Kiev wants military assets, it does not need guns that are proven to be wanting in the heat of battle. As matters stand today, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are using both Soviet and Western weaponry systems with correspondingly disparate munitions. This is obviously a situation that cannot continue, arms manufacturers across the West rubbing their hands in anticipation.

Voracious Vultures

With the Ukraine now being de facto part of NATO, the hotchpotch of systems now in use causes immense difficulties for military purchasers and planners alike. Stocks of Soviet-era munitions are now depleted, and with the US having supplied over one million NATO-standard artillery shells to Kiev this year alone, it is obvious that the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) in America is preparing for immense orders to re-equip the Ukrainian Armed Forces. In spite of Kiev’s financial position being as dire as that of its army, one can be sure that Washington will weigh the Ukraine down with even more debt in order to keep Western dreams in Eastern Europe afloat. This will not only involve incredible sums being dedicated to the assets themselves, but with personnel needing to be retrained, huge budgets will need to be allocated for a scheme of these proportions.

Decrepit and Defective

Whilst not part of this article proper, there is one important matter which is closely related to the use of aged arms. This week saw a Ukrainian S-300 missile somehow make its way over the Polish border. This may have been due to operator error, yet one cannon overlook the possibility that the rocket fired could have been in a deteriorated condition. Weaponry manufactured today that contains volatile materials is always given a use-by date, yet much of the materiel from the Soviet era did not. Irrespective of where products that use these materials are sold or used, the dangers of employing antique arms are very well known.


As the storm clouds grew last year, the Western world knew that the Ukrainian army suddenly needed to acquire immense quantities of military resources. This was equally understood by those nations who held rusting relics and fancied earning a quick buck for otherwise useless assets.

Ukrainian soldiers being trained as they were, Kiev had no real option but to be overcharged for underperforming kit. Moreover, with the Ukraine’s finances even then being as broken as its country is now, the fact that it could be obtained on credit clinched the deal.

As stocks of these dated dinosaurs dwindled as fast as they were destroyed on the battlefield, equally decrepit replacements were offered from Western stores. Desperation has seen the Ukrainian forces fielding completely obsolete personnel carriers, Vietnam War era kit that began to be replaced by the American nearly forty years ago. In spite of Kiev being fleeced however, there should also be a sense of foreboding in the West.

As more modern equipment has been fielded in the conflict, rather than demonstrating the superiority of NATO’s arsenal, serious inadequacies have become apparent. Until ten years ago, despite frequent forays into the Middle East, the entire ethos of NATO was a war in Europe. This scenario is now being played out, yet rather than being a shining example of the MIC, current NATO materiel has been shown to lack the long-term viability it would need, even if used by its original owners. Whether other apparatus would disappoint is open to question, yet the Western idea of quality over quantity simply has not made itself apparent.

Looking to the future, not only will whatever remains of the Ukraine need to rearm, this will be done under the supervision of both Western nations and the MIC. This means that as a recession potentially causes military spending and therefore arms sales to drop in the West; a Ukrainian dead duck in the water would be the goose that laid the golden egg for the Western arms manufacturers who pay the politicians…

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