Thousands of people visited a unique exhibition in Moscow’s Victory Park last week: destroyed Ukrainian military equipment brought to the Russian capital as “war trophies.” The favorites for taking selfies were an American Abrams tank and a German Leopard. Western armor arrived in Ukraine with the aura of indestructible, but Russian drones are leaving them out of combat.

It is a clear example that after two years of fighting the Russian army is no longer the one of 2022, forced to retreat after failed strategies and in need of Iranian technology to gain momentum in this new type of 21st century drone warfare. Russia has improved its army, is incorporating new weapons and is prepared to produce them as needed on the front.

To maintain the pace of the campaign in Ukraine, “the supply of weapons, military equipment and means of attack to Russian troops must be increased,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said two weeks ago at a meeting of his department. . “State contracts have been signed with industrial companies, taking into account their capacity and a maximum reduction in manufacturing times,” he explained.

Russia has learned to develop new weapons and ammunition faster than at any other time in modern history, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), the last month. As he explains, this production is this fast thanks to the supply of tools, microelectronics and optics, mainly from China.

German Foreign Minister Boris Pistorius said on German television on April 25 that Russia is producing more weapons and equipment than it needs for the war against Ukraine. And that will allow you to fill your arsenals.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky complained a month ago that while aid to Ukraine is limited, Russia still has access to “critical components it needs to produce missiles and drones.” And it regularly implores its Western partners for anti-aircraft systems to repel Russian blows.

The Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel has warned that Russian imports of Western technology, despite sanctions, have already reached pre-war levels. It obtains them, according to a report dated April 30, through its partners in China, Hong Kong, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the friendly countries of Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which facilitate trade and have increased its imports from the European Union in the last two years.

The American Abrams M1A1 tanks were apparently not as invulnerable as was thought in October 2023, when Washington confirmed the sending of a battalion of 31 of these machines to Ukraine. Its superiority to the Russian T-72 represented great hope to tilt the fight in Kyiv’s favor.

But Russian drones have found their weak point. As reported by the AP, Ukrainian forces are removing them from the front line after the destruction of at least five. According to what an American military officer told the agency, the surveillance capacity that Russia has achieved with its drones has also decreased the effectiveness of the Abrams in the open field.

A similar fate has befallen the German Leopard. Forbes reported in December that at least 11 of the 21 units sent to Ukraine have been destroyed or damaged. Now two of those useless specimens are worth Moscow to raise the patriotic sentiment of its citizens with the Victory Park exhibition.

The new drone war, which Ukraine led in the first year of the war, has turned around. Russia has put money into its military industry and its production has already surpassed that of the enemy in quantity and quality of both drones and ammunition supply.

Aware of their importance as a weapon of the future, earlier this year Putin said frontline military personnel needed more drones. And he announced that the country plans to train one million specialists in this technology before 2030. In February, during a visit to the companies of the Kalashnikov consortium, Shoigu said that starting in 2022 that corporation had opened new workshops to increase the production of drones by 60%.

But it’s not just about making kamikaze attack drones. You also have to defend yourself against them. In April, Shoigu announced the creation of a drone research and production center, one of whose objectives will be to provide Russian assault groups with small arms to “effectively destroy enemy drones.” And in Omsk, during a visit to a tank factory in the Russian military industrial complex, the minister witnessed how new models were being equipped with anti-drone jamming systems.

Russia has also managed to surpass Ukraine in tank production. The Russian Defense Ministry has announced that by 2023 it had added more than 1,500 to support the campaign. Forbes reported in December that Ukraine had only 350, most of them modifications of the Soviet-made T-72.

The economic recovery after the first blow of Western sanctions and the military recovery feed off each other. “The unilateral severing of previous economic ties by Western partners aggravated many problems, but the most difficult period has already passed,” announced last September the Russian Prime Minister, the technocrat Mikhail Mishustin, whom Putin confirmed last week in his position..

According to a note from Renaissance Capital, “Russian growth is being driven fundamentally by military spending, which feeds the manufacturing sector and causes abnormal consumer activity.” The Russian State Statistics Service put industrial growth between February 2023 and February 2024 at 8.5% and GDP growth at 7.7%.

Russia also surpasses Ukraine in recruiting fighters. As unpopular as Putin’s mandatory fall 2022 reservist mobilization was, it added 300,000 men to his campaign. And since then the number of volunteers has grown. Putin assured in his annual press conference that the Russian Armed Forces had recruited 486,000 military personnel as volunteers, a route through which he assured that soldiers continued to arrive. The Ministry of Defense said that 640,000 people serve under contract in its Armed Forces, and announced plans to raise the number of professional military personnel to 745,000 by the end of 2024.

Ukraine, on the other hand, lacks men. It had to pass a new mobilization law that came into force this month and last week Kyiv announced that it wants to recruit 20,000 inmates from its prisons.

As American intelligence has suggested, after recruiting efforts and investment, the Russian Army is today “15% larger” than it was two years ago. US Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of American forces in Europe, acknowledged in April that Russia has successfully rebuilt its military faster than Kyiv’s allies had estimated.

And it will continue at full speed for the rest of the year. At the meeting two weeks ago at the Ministry of Defense, Shoigu announced that in 2024 the Army will receive the first S-500 Prometéi surface-to-air anti-missile systems, a new generation of the original S-300 and the improved S-400 whose radius of action reaches 600 kilometers. They will also have new systems of these two versions, as well as “Buk-M3, Tor-M2U systems and new generation radar systems.”