The Horror of the Ukraine War: The Russian casualty figures reported by the Ukrainian military have likely been “greatly exaggerated,” yet according to CIA Director William Burns, the numbers are still staggering. While speaking at the Aspen Security Forum this week, Burns said current estimates are that Russia has seen 15,000 troops killed while another 45,000 have been wounded.
Those numbers are significantly lower than the Ukrainian estimates, which had suggested that more than 20,000 Russian soldiers had been killed by April.
“There’s no perfect number,” the CIA chief added. “I think the latest estimates from the U.S. intelligence community would be something in the vicinity of 15,000 killed and maybe three times that wounded, so a quite significant set of losses. And the Ukrainians have suffered as well, probably a little less than that. But significant casualties.”
Russia has not made public the actual figure of casualties in its war, and the only update on March 25 declared that 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed one month into the invasion.
The human toll of the war can’t be underestimated, and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated last week that Russia’s unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine has already resulted in 5,024 civilian deaths and 6,520 civilians injured.
Kyiv has been far less public about its military losses, yet during the height of Russia’s Donbas offensive in June, Ukrainian officials said that their forces were losing up to 200 troops every day.
Greatest Combat Losses Since World War II Thanks to Ukraine War
Even with the low-end estimates, Russia has now seen the most significant losses of military personnel since the Second World War. To put this in perspective, the number of United States troops who died fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had passed 7,000 at the end of 2019.
In addition, the Soviet Union lost nearly 15,000 men in its decade-long war in Afghanistan – with 9,500 killed in combat and 4,000 from wounds, while another 1,000 died from disease and accidents. Russia’s casualties in Ukraine have already surpassed those figures in just five months of fighting.
However, this is hardly a reason for those supporting the government in Kyiv to celebrate. It is still a tragedy that so many lives are being lost in what is truly a senseless conflict, but Burns also warned that Russia has learned from its failures at the beginning of the war.
“The Russians and the Russian military have adapted,” Burns explained. “One of my recent conversations with one of my Ukrainian counterparts, he pointed out that the dumb Russians are all dead.”
That could include upwards of a dozen Russian general officers, although the total number remains disputed. Four have been confirmed to have been killed including Lt. General Yakov Rezantsev, commander of the 49th Combined Arms Army. The scale of losses of such high-ranking officers is also unprecedented since the Second World War – but maybe they were the “dumb” ones.
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.