CIA Director William Burns said on Wednesday that Russia had suffered significant losses in its invasion of Ukraine, with estimated losses of 15,000 troops killed and 45,000 wounded according to the latest U.S. intelligence assessments.
Burns spoke at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado and said, “The latest estimates from the U.S. intelligence community would be something in the vicinity of 15,000 (Russian forces) killed and maybe three times that wounded. So a quite significant set of losses.
Ukrainians have suffered, as well — probably a little less than that, but … significant casualties.”
Burns conducted an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that the numbers are “always a range” adding that “there is no perfect number.”
The Russians have kept their official losses a secret and have not updated their official death total of 1,351 troops since March 25. Public support for the “special military operation” remains high, but if the actual cost of the invasion were to come to light, then the support for the war could drop.
Burns noted that after a disastrous start to the war in trying to overrun the entire country quickly, the Russians have adapted and, in doing so, are conducting a more “comfortable way of war,” adding that this new offensive allows them to use long-range weapons and avoid continued significant casualties after the heavy losses they suffered earlier in the invasion.
“The Russians and the Russian military have adapted,” Burns said. “One of my recent conversations with one of my Ukrainian counterparts, he pointed out that the dumb Russians are all dead.”
No Evidence of Putin’s Poor Health
Burns said that despite many reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been suffering from ill health, possibly cancer, as well as being possibly mentally unstable, there is no evidence or intelligence to support either allegation.
Burns even joked to the audience, “There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health, and as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy,” adding that it was “not a formal intelligence judgment.”
While reports earlier in the war speculated that Putin was acting erratic and irrational, his actions were in keeping with how he has always operated, Burns said. The former U.S. ambassador to Moscow has been dealing with Putin for more than two decades and said that Putin is a “big believer in control, intimidation, and getting even.
“He is convinced that his destiny as Russia’s leader is to restore Russia as a great power. He believes the key to doing that is to recreate a sphere of influence in Russia’s neighborhood, and he cannot do that without controlling Ukraine.”
Russia’s Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov also dismissed Western reports of poor health as fake.
“In recent months, Ukrainian, American, and British so-called information ‘specialists’ have thrown around various fakes about the health of the president. But it is nothing but fakes,” Peskov told reporters earlier on Thursday.
Russian Objectives Change to More Than the Donbas
With the Russian invasion now close to entering its fifth month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow’s goals go beyond securing the Donbas in Ukraine’s east, adding that “the geography is different.”
“It is far from being only DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Luhansk People’s Republic); it is also Kherson region, Zaporizhzhia region, and a number of other territories, and this process continues. It continues steadily and persistently,” Lavrov said during a Wednesday interview with RIA Novosti.
Lavrov said that the long-range weapons that the U.S. is supplying Ukraine with will continue to move the line west, as Russia claims its actions are the protection of its borders while persisting with the Nazi myth as justification for the war.
“We cannot allow any weapons in the part of Ukraine controlled by Zelensky or whoever will replace him that pose a direct threat to our territory or the territory of the republics that declared independence or those that wish to determine their future independently,” Lavrov said.
“The President was very clear, as you quoted: denazification and demilitarization in the sense that there should be no threat to our security, no military threat from Ukraine’s territory, and this objective remains,” Lavrov said.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.