Truth is the First Casualty

Ukraine reports Russia’s losses, but not its own.

12,000 Russian troops have now died fighting in Ukraine, while 300 tanks have been destroyed along with more than 1,000 armoured vehicles, 48 planes, 80 helicopters and three boats.

That’s after 12 days of combat. Let’s compare the enemy-reported losses to the self-reported losses from some famous historical battles:

  • Normandy: 87 days. 20,668 US KIA. 2,000 tanks destroyed.
  • Tarawa: 3 days. 1,009 US KIA.
  • Iwo Jima: 35 days. 6,862 US KIA. 137 tanks destroyed.
  • Battle of the Bulge: 40 days. 19,246 US KIA. 733 tanks destroyed.

So, if the Ukrainians are to be believed, they are killing 3.45x more Russian soldiers per day, in an invasion that is advancing faster than Desert Storm, the Six-Days War, or Operation Barbarossa, than the US military lost in four of its bloodiest battles of World War II.

My estimate of Russian losses after 12 days is 2,850 KIA, 9,250 wounded, and 220 tanks lost.

This is considerably higher than the 1,100 KIA I would have estimated due to the Russians utilizing their second-line troops and refraining from making efficient use of their artillery and air power. But the Russian generals are clearly saving their first-line troops and equipment for a potential future engagement with NATO forces, while taking advantage of the situation to blood and level-up the second-line soldiers. And, to Vladimir Putin’s credit, he has decided to accept a higher rate of Russian military casualties in order to reduce the number of Ukrainian civilian casualties by at least an order of magnitude.

You may wish to note that my first estimate was 250 to 500 KIA at a time when the Ukranians were reporting 9,000 KIA. The Russians subsequently reported 498 KIA for that period. The reason I set the range too low was because at the time I calculated the estimate, I did not know that the Russians were relying upon second-line troops or that they would eschew artillery and air support for the first five days of the operation.

The lesson, as always, is this: the past is prelude.