Deep trenches, cheap drones, and a more efficient war machine are just some of the ways Russia has improved since it first invaded Ukraine

Deep trenches, cheap drones, and a more efficient war machine are just some of the ways Russia has improved since it first invaded Ukraine
A fatigued Ukrainian soldier in Izyum, Ukraine, on September 28, 2022.Scott Peterson/Getty Images
  • Russia expected a swift victory against Ukraine when it first invaded the country last February.
  • A combination of strategic mistakes and strong Ukrainian resistance dashed those hopes.

When Russia first invaded Ukraine last February, Moscow shocked much of the West and the world when the country managed to fumble an apparent military advantage.

Ukraine's top military brass has said that Russia had 10 to 15 times more artillery, while CNN reported that Russian forces outnumbered Ukraine's foot soldiers by more than two to one.

But strategic mistakes and an unexpectedly strong resistance from Ukraine dashed President Vladimir Putin's hopes of a swift victory.

A senior US defense official acknowledged last February that Russia has been frustrated with its performance. He warned, however, that Russia would reevaluate its strategy.

More than a year later, that premonition had come true: Russia shifted its defense tactics and changed the tides of the war using deep trenches, cheap drones, and a war machine producing more artillery shells than the West had anticipated, The Wall Street Journal reported.


"We have seen quite a few areas where they're adapting, and of course we're paying close attention to that," Gen. James Hecker, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told The Journal.

The result of the country's shift was made clear this summer with the glacial pace of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

Ukrainian troops struggled to break through Russia's defensive lines, plagued with barbed wire, land mines, and anti-tank ditches.

George Barros, a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, previously told Insider the slow rollout of weapons support from the West provided Russia "time to reequip or reconstitute themselves."

Russia has also adapted to Ukraine's weapons, setting up air defense systems that can shoot down missiles and drones and tools that can jam the other side's GPS signals.


While Russia takes down Ukraine's drones, the country has stockpiled cheap drones of its own from China, the Journal reported.

Ukraine managed to break through Russia's defense by the end of August, two months after it launched its counteroffensive, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

Defense experts say Russia may have made a "very costly" mistake by focusing too much on its first line of defense, making the second line more vulnerable and easier to break.

An Institute for the Study of War report also stated that Ukrainian forces recaptured two villages near the front lines, causing a "severe degradation" of Russian troops.

But Moscow's war machine continues to churn, according to the Journal.


An unnamed Western defense official told the newspaper that Russia was initially expected to produce about one million artillery shells a year. The official said that the West now believes Russia is expected to produce two million artillery shells in the next couple of years.

Putin has indicated that he was bracing for a long war in Ukraine as the death toll racks up, Reuters reported.

By mid-August, US officials roughly estimated that Russia's military casualties included 120,000 dead and up to 180,000 injured, The New York Times reported. Ukrainian deaths, in comparison, were estimated to be about 70,000, with 120,000 wounded.