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Could the War in Ukraine Destroy the Russian Military?

Terminator Tank
Terminator. Image Credit: Russian State Media.

The Russian Military Might Not Be the Same After the Ukraine War: When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, he likely expected the conflict would make the list of “shortest wars.” While perhaps he didn’t think it would be concluded as fast as the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, which lasted just 38 minutes, his thinking was likely that it would have been on par with the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, which lasted just six days, or perhaps even the Georgian-Armenian War of 1918 that only concluded after 24 days of hard fighting.

It is unlikely that the conflict could last years, and no military pundits expect a Hundred Years War or even Thirty Years War, yet, it should be remembered that America’s war in Afghanistan only “concluded” last year after nearly two decades. However, in just four months of fighting, Russia’s losses are now greater than what the Soviet Union lost in its decade-long conflict also in Afghanistan – and even exceed U.S./coalition losses in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

According to data released by the Ukrainian military Russia has seen upwards of 35,000 troops killed, as well as 1,500 tanks and 217 combat aircraft destroyed. At least half a dozen (or more) Sukhoi Su-34 (NATO reporting name “Fullback”) fighter-bombers were among the aircraft to have been shot down. Prior to the war, the Su-34 was reported to be among one of Russia’s most cable aerial assets, but it has failed to live up to the hype.

In fact, the Kremlin’s most significant loss in the war could be that of prestige. Its troops failed to deliver the swift victory Putin envisioned, while its advanced tanks and aircraft have been destroyed en masse.

Unsustainable Rate

Even as the Ukrainian reports of Russian losses could be seen as propaganda, British intelligence reports have also described the casualty rates among Russian and pro-Russian forces as “unsustainable.” Data from the Donetsk People’s Republic, which is part of the pro-Putin self-declared autonomous Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, has admitted that more than 2,100 of its forces have been killed since operations began while nearly 9,000 have been wounded.

In addition, the Kremlin is having problems maintaining its own forces, both on the ground and in the air. The situation has gotten so bad that Russia has reportedly deployed retired pilots to operate older warplanes due to the high casualty numbers, while it has had to use contractors from the notorious Wagner Group – the de facto mercenary army that reports directly to Putin – to conduct close air support missions.

Given the troubles in the air and on the ground, Russia could soon exhaust its combat capabilities and may be forced to halt its campaign in the Donbas entirely.

“There will come a time when the tiny advances Russia is making become unsustainable in light of the costs and they will need a significant pause to regenerate capability,” a senior Western official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue, told The Washington Post on Saturday.

Moreover, Russia has had to resort to lowering its standards on things like age, health, criminal records, and other routine qualifications for service while offering substantial financial incentives for recruits.

Both Sides Suffering

Though this conflict won’t likely (or hopefully) last as long as the Thirty Years War of the 17th century, it could leave nearly a devastating mark on Ukraine and perhaps even Russia. There will be deep scars in the cities where the fighting has occurred, and the loss of young men is going to impact both nations greatly in the coming years.

Ukraine is now losing as many as 200 soldiers a day. Kyiv has also used up the bulk of its Soviet-era ammunition and is only now in the process of transitioning to Western systems, and both nations have lost scores of tanks and combat aircraft.

It is becoming a war of attrition for both sides.

“On both sides, the ability to generate and deploy reserve units to the front is likely becoming increasingly critical to the outcome of the war,” the British Defense Ministry said in its report on the conflict.

This will truly be a war with no winners and certainly can’t go on forever, yet neither is showing any signs of willingness to give in.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Invitado 2

    June 27, 2022 at 6:27 pm

    El autor no se ha dado cuenta que Rusia es un productor de armas autosuficiente y que Ucrania tiene que “exigir” dia a dia mas armas, que no produce y no tiene. Rusia recibe ingresos extra por la venta de petroleo a la misma Europa, a India y a China, de los cuales parte se detinarán a producir armamento y la municion que necesita ahora. La inteligencia inglesa y ucraniana siempre han exagerado sobre el número de víctimas del ejército ruso, no son creíbles esas cifras que el autor recalca. Las pruebas estan ahi, de lo contrario Estados Unidos ya se ubiera alzado con el titulo de la guerra que formó ahi.

    • hi

      June 28, 2022 at 4:42 pm

      callate puto

  2. speedster

    June 27, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    The Donetsk, republic wounded figures would imply the death figure can be multiplied by at least five to arrive at total dead and wounded. My understanding was previously a multiple of four, so the higher multiple implies the Russian position is worse.
    A Russian death figure of 35,000 x 5= 175,000 dead and wounded.
    Original invasion force was 140,000 and additional 82,000 were transferred in after the failed Kiev invasion, giving 222,000-175,000= 47,000. Since the original Russian army before the invasion was 280,000, that would leave 58,000 troops in Russia proper. The Russian declared 120 battle groups of 800, giving 96,000, subsequent to Kiev, and approximately 10,000 dead can be allocated to that, so 10,000 x 5= 50,000. 96,000-50,000=46,000, which is very close to the 47,000 previously mentioned.

    Simple security would preclude Russia from using the skeleton army force remaining in Russia, since it would surely require to provide security for its long borders.

  3. Kent Sorensen

    June 28, 2022 at 8:48 am

    I disagree with the statement about this being a war with no winners. If Russias offensive capability is essentially destroyed, the rest of the world will be clear winners. As far as I can see, if it had ever come to a conventional conflict on the plains of Europe between NATO and Russia, the performance of the Russians in Ukraine shows that they would have been savaged by unrestrained use of Western weaponty. To me, the piecemeal deployment to Ukraine of Western weapons, and whatever leftover Soviet equipment was sitting aroung shows that the planners of the West wants this conflict drawn out precisely to drain all of Russias reserves and essentially neuter them for many decades. It’s now known just how much Western equipment, chips etc are in the modern Russian weapon so it’s known how to slow down their rearnament for many decades, the CNC machines in their weapons factories are from the West, they have lost the native industrial base to manufacture advanced equipment. As long as this conflict is allowed to continue until the Russian reserves are fully exhausted, the World will win, Ukraine will be rebuild better and stronger, the dead will be buried and mourned and we will be better off.

    • hi

      June 28, 2022 at 4:44 pm

      True!

    • Steven

      July 27, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      Very smart!

  4. Stefan Stackhouse

    June 28, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    The weather and ground will be turning bad in just a couple of months. The Russian plan is evidently to advance as far in the Donbas as they can, hold the line at Kherson, and then hunker down through the winter while they regroup and rebuild for a renewed offensive the following year. This won’t be the first time such a game plan has played out in that part of the world.

  5. Fluffy Dog

    July 27, 2022 at 10:04 am

    “Ukraine is now losing as many as 200 soldiers a day.”
    That is the number that was mentioned in June when the Russians have not yet run out of supplies, and the Ukrainians had not received HIIMARS yet. That number was temporary, and claiming it as an average is a bad analysis at best.

    “Kyiv has also used up the bulk of its Soviet-era ammunition and is only now in the process of transitioning to Western systems”
    True, almost. The Ukrainians still have some supplies for the Soviet weapons, but the key is the transition to Western tech. If the transition continues, then we have Russian ability to sustain artillery diminished considerably while the Ukrainian ability to destroy the Russian logistics chain and attack will gradually increase. That is, Russian ability to fight is descendant while Ukrainian is ascendant.

    The war *has destroyed* the Russian military. The theft, the incompetence, and the lack of indigenous high tech for both manufacturing and the weapons themselves are obvious and they are not going away. And, of course, the prestige of Russia as a military power in the world…

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