Short on ammo, Ukrainian artillerymen can't fire on a hunch anymore. They have to know the Russians are there.

  • Russia is exploiting Ukraine's increasing artillery shortage as it ramps up attacks.

  • Ukraine is firing just 2,000 rounds a day compared to Russia's 10,000 shells.

  • The ammo shortage means Ukraine is being forced to prioritize its targets more carefully.

Ukraine's increasing ammunition struggles have hamstrung its war effort, forcing the country to sacrifice long-term strategy for short-term certainty.

Russia has maintained an advantage in artillery ammunition since the war began nearly two years ago. That advantage has only increased in recent months as Ukraine struggles to gain an edge against Russia's growing momentum.

Ukraine is firing just 2,000 rounds a day compared to Russia's 10,000 daily shells, thanks to the latter's seemingly endless supply of Soviet weaponry and a generous influx of North Korean ammunition. Russia has also ramped up production of future ammo while Ukraine's Western allies continue to drag their feet on supplying more assistance.

While Ukrainian leaders have emphasized their need for more supplies, the country's troubles don't mean they will "run out" of ammunition entirely, said Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Washington, DC-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Instead, Ukraine's dwindling numbers mean the country is forced to increasingly prioritize its targets.

"For artillery, that means initially not firing at suspected Russian targets, but firing only at known positions," Cancian told Business Insider.

Ukraine's current supply of ammo allows its troops to fire only at direct and confirmed threats, Cancian said, which hampers its long-term capability as the Ukrainians are forced to conserve shells for the sole purpose of holding off the Russians.

"You need artillery to suppress the enemy — not just to kill defenders — but to suppress others who may come to their aid," Simon Miles, an assistant professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy and a historian of the Soviet Union and US-Soviet relations, said.

The immediate impacts of Ukraine's ammunition problems are likely to echo and exacerbate the struggles Ukraine faced during its disappointing counter-offensive last year when it failed to move the needle in the way many Western analysts had hoped.

"Without artillery, they're not going to be able to maneuver," Miles said of Ukraine. "That means it will be a lot harder for them to be in the business of retaking territory."

Much of the focus on ammunition for both Russia and Ukraine comes from old Soviet war doctrine, which is artillery-centric, Miles said. Russia, especially, relies on overwhelming amounts of artillery to combat Ukraine's defenses.

Ukraine's problems come as Russia ramps up its attacks with increasing frequency across various positions near the front. The country restarted offensive attacks in the fall, replacing troops and stockpiles.

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