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Russian military ‘almost completely reconstituted,’ US official says

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Russia has rebuilt its military after suffering enormous losses during its invasion of Ukraine, according to a U.S. State Department official.

“We have assessed over the course of the last couple of months that Russia has almost completely reconstituted militarily,” said Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security.

Campbell’s assessment seems to contradict those of the Pentagon and America’s allies in Europe.

At a meeting of countries that support Ukraine late last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that Russia had suffered more than 315,000 casualties during the war. With a drop in American aid, leading to ammunition shortages on Ukraine’s front lines, Russian forces have advanced. But those too have been costly, the Pentagon has said.

In an interview earlier this year, the chair of Lithuania’s national security committee estimated it would take Russia between five and seven years to reconstitute its forces for a full-scale war.

Still Moscow has surged defense spending since 2022 — up to 6% of national GDP in its 2024 budget. The rise is part of a larger effort by the Kremlin to move its economy, and in particular its defense industry, onto a wartime footing.

Part of its success comes from China’s support, along with that from North Korea and Iran. Both Campbell and another senior administration official, speaking with reporters this week on the condition of anonymity, said that China has helped its partner endure economic and military setbacks in the last two years.

“We’ve really seen the [People’s Republic of China] start to help to rebuild Russia’s defense industrial base, essentially backfilling the trade from European partners” that lapsed when Russia invaded, the official said.

President Joe Biden addressed this concern in a call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping Tuesday, according to a White House readout.

Moscow’s success has added pressure to the government in Kyiv, which this week lowered the draft age from 27 to 25 amid losses on the front lines. Ukraine is still hoping for a giant infusion of American aid still held up in Congress. House Speaker Mike Johnson has so far refused to call that national security supplemental for a vote, though he recently signaled one could come under certain conditions.

Without it, Ukraine’s armed forces will continue needing to ration ammunition and air defense on the front lines and around the country. Still, that doesn’t mean the front lines are verging on collapse, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff CQ Brown.

“Does it make it more complicated, more challenging for the Ukrainians without the supplemental — yes,” said Brown at an event hosted last week by the Defense Writers Group. “But they’ve been able to defend fairly well.”

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