In a shocking statement that has now been withdrawn, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote that Ukraine has lost 100,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians in the Ukraine war.
This conforms to comments made by US Joint Chief of Staff head General Mark Milley, who in a speech at a conference hosted by New York’s Economic Club said that more than 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war and that the number of troop casualties is probably the “same” for Ukraine’s army.
Ukraine’s heavy casualties are a signal that Washington’s de facto war with Russia is in trouble. President Joe Biden has to change direction or face a national security crisis that could end his presidency.
Ukraine may look as if it were winning. The truth is the opposite because Ukraine is running out of manpower it cannot replace. It is losing by attrition on the battlefield and, with the Russians systematically destroying its infrastructure, millions of Ukrainians have fled abroad. It is unlikely the country could recover even if the war should end tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Russia’s manpower problems are less severe. Moscow has been replenishing its supply of front-line troops through an unpopular conscription program at home that has now been extended to the territories in Ukraine that it occupies.
Russia’s proxy army, the Wagner Group, also has been significantly enlarged from 8,000 last April to nearly 40,000 now. Many Wagner Group fighters have been recruited from Russian prisons and some have been brought in from other countries, especially the Middle East and Africa.
Ukrainian estimates the number of Wagner Group casualties at between 800 and 1,000; others put them at 3,000.
Among the most stunning bits of information that have recently surfaced, reports in Poland say that around 1,200 Polish “volunteers” have been killed in Ukraine. These appear to have been drawn from Poland’s active land army, which consists of three main divisions.
The Polish army is composed of 61,200 soldiers and support personnel. It is unlikely Poland will commit many more troops given the high casualties and the risk that Russia will strike Poland in retaliation.
The most recent estimate of the Ukraine land army’s fighting strength is 198,000 troops. Given the alarmingly high casualty rates, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is facing a genuine crisis if the war drags on much longer.
Russia has recently focused on destroying Ukraine’s critical infrastructure and Ukrainian command posts, and equally on liquidating to the degree possible Ukraine’s high-value weapons, particularly precision rocket systems such as HIMARS, air defense units and Ukrainian artillery.
The battlefield casualties on the Ukrainian side appear to be largely the result of Russian heavy artillery that is being coordinated by Russian drones, most of them variants of the Orlan-10.
Russia has also made progress by improving its command and control and leadership in the field. The Russians pulled back strategically from Kherson in order to preserve manpower and organize better defensive positions.
Read the rest at Asia Times.
Stephen Bryen is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.