The war in Ukraine continues to be a bloody stalemate with little progress on either side besides a salvo of attacks and counterattacks.
Kyiv is pushing hard in southern Ukraine, while Moscow is on the counterattack in the Donbas in the direction of Avdiivka.
But the result of this bloody back-and-forth is mountains of casualties. Russia, in particular, continues to take extremely heavy losses in what has become a war of attrition.
A strategy of casualties
More than 20 months into the war, the Russian forces have officially suffered more than 300,000 casualties, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
The West has been assessing Moscow’s casualties are over 300,000 men killed, wounded, and captured for weeks now. But until today, Kyiv was claiming to have inflicted less than 300,000 casualties to the Russian military and pro-Russian separatist forces.
To put the number in perspective, the Kremlin’s initial invasion force numbered around 190,000 troops. Moscow is in line to lose twice its invasion force by the spring. And yet, there seems to be little concern on the part of the Russian military leadership.
Under the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the silent agreement of the Russian people, the Russian military has shown a willingness to absorb an immense number of casualties to achieve its goals on the ground.
Indeed, the Russian strategy is now one of attrition and defense. The Kremlin understands that with the West’s support, Ukraine won’t lose this war. So, Moscow’s strategic objectives have shifted from taking Kyiv and overthrowing Ukrainian leadership to maintaining control over Crimea and parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.
But for that strategy to succeed, the Russian forces must take tens of thousands of losses and hold their ground until Kyiv comes to the negotiating table.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
The numbers of casualties on the ground are telling.
On day 615 of the Kremlin’s “special military operation,” the Russian military and pro-Russian separatist forces lost over 850 men killed, wounded, or captured, as well as over 100 heavy weapon systems, drones, and tactical and support vehicles.
After several weeks of relatively low casualties, the Russian forces have suffered extremely heavy losses in October as a result of the counterattacks in the direction of Avdiivka.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 300,810 Russian troops, destroyed 325 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 324 attack and transport helicopters, 5,211 tanks, 7,227 artillery pieces, 9,804 armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, 844 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 21 warships, submarines, boats, and cutters, 9,590 vehicles, and fuel tanks, 562 anti-aircraft batteries, 5,440 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 1,016 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,546 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
The Ukrainians are taking significant casualties as well, and Kyiv doesn’t have the same flexibility as Moscow in absorbing endless losses. To compensate for that disadvantage, Ukraine needs more and better weapon systems.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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