Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 12 December 2023



Russia Has Lost Almost 90% of Its Prewar Army, U.S. Intelligence Says

Dec. 12, 2023 11:40 am ET

Russia has also lost nearly two-thirds of its tank force, or 2,200 out of its 3,500 preinvasion stock, according to a congressional source. Photo: REUTERS

WASHINGTON—The war in Ukraine has devastated Russia’s preinvasion military machine, with nearly 90% of its prewar army lost to death or injury, and thousands of battle tanks destroyed, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence assessment shared with Congress.

The intelligence assessment, according to a congressional source, says that 315,000 Russian personnel have been killed or injured since the February 2022 invasion, or about 87% of Moscow’s prewar force of 360,000.

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Russia also has lost nearly two-thirds of its tank force, or 2,200 out of its 3,500 preinvasion stock, the congressional source said.

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While it is widely known that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military has sustained vast losses in Ukraine, the assessment provides new details about the extent of those setbacks.

The assessment was being made public as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington to lobby for continued U.S. military assistance. Despite a major counteroffensive this year, Kyiv has been unable to claw back large chunks of its territory occupied by Russia.

The U.S. hasn’t released recent estimates of Ukrainian casualties, nor has the government in Kyiv. But Ukraine, with a significantly smaller population than Russia, has also lost tens of thousands of troops to death and injury, officials have acknowledged.

The last time Ukraine publicly disclosed the number of troops lost was in December 2022, when an adviser to Zelensky said up to 13,000 troops had been killed.

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The numbers are believed to have climbed significantly this year as Ukraine fought to push back Russian forces.

Ukrainian soldiers involved in the counteroffensive have said many units lost a large percentage of their combat force due to the brutal nature of the fighting, as they sought to break through heavily fortified Russian positions and dislodge forces that had spent months entrenching there.

The Ukrainians paid a heavy price in operations that involved crossing fields mined by Moscow’s forces and assaulting lines of defenses built by Russia along the front lines in the east and south.

Kyiv has said the slow progress of the counteroffensive was in part due to the need to protect the lives of its troops and avoid excessive casualties. Ukrainian officials point to Russia’s high losses by comparison to prove that this strategy made sense.

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Russia has a population around 3.5 times the size of Ukraine’s, and it has released tens of thousands of inmates from its prisons so they can fight in Ukraine. Its military also has been bolstered by some 300,000 men mobilized to fight in Ukraine since September of last year.

The U.S. intelligence assessment acknowledges that Russia has been able to make up for some of the losses, citing “extraordinary measures” such as using released prisoners in the fight, the congressional source said.

Overall, it says, the war in Ukraine “has sharply set back 15 years of Russian effort to modernize its ground force.”

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