The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Military Balance report for 2024 has unveiled alarming figures regarding Russian tank losses since the commencement of its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, shedding light on escalating tensions and a surge in global defence spending.
According to IISS analysts, Russia has suffered a staggering loss of tanks equivalent to its entire active inventory at the onset of the invasion. This revelation underscores the intensity of the conflict and the toll it has taken on Russia’s military capabilities. In response, Russia has initiated efforts to replenish its tank forces, prioritizing quantity over quality. Meanwhile, Ukraine has managed to mitigate its equipment losses through donations from Western allies, resulting in an enhancement of its arsenal.
The report also highlights a broader trend of increased defence spending worldwide, which has reached an unprecedented $2.2 trillion. This represents a significant 9% hike from the previous year, driven in part by NATO member states bolstering their budgets in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Notably, non-US NATO members have ramped up their defence spending by a substantial 32% since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
China’s expanding military capabilities are another focal point of the report. The country has demonstrated a marked increase in power projection capacity, prompting heightened cooperation among Western and Asian militaries as a counterbalance. Additionally, Iran’s influence in conflict zones is evident, with instances such as the Houthis’ utilization of Iranian-supplied anti-ship missiles.
The report underscores a deteriorating security environment marked by a proliferation of conflicts worldwide. These include the Hamas-Israel war, Azerbaijan’s takeover of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and coups in African nations like Niger and Gabon. Moreover, tensions surrounding Taiwan and the South China Sea have escalated due to China’s assertive maneuvers.
In response to these challenges, countries are reassessing their defence strategies and equipment plans. The US and Europe are significantly boosting production of missiles and ammunition, addressing longstanding gaps in defence production capacity. Meanwhile, Russia’s emphasis on military modernization is prompting some traditional buyers of Russian arms to seek alternative sources.
Bastian Giegerich, Director-General and Chief Executive of IISS, stressed the significance of the Military Balance report in the current geopolitical climate. He emphasized that while Western defence spending is on the rise and equipment revamps are underway, challenges persist, particularly concerning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s military buildup, and events in the Middle East.