Attrition: Two Years of Russian Losses in Ukraine


February 22, 2024: Overall Russian combat losses from February 24, 2022, to February 15, 2024, are estimated as follows:

Personnel: Around 399,090

Tanks: 6,442

IFV (Infantry Fighting Armored Vehicles): 12,090

Artillery systems: 9,620

MLRS (Multiple launch rocket systems): 984

Anti-aircraft warfare systems: 671

Aircraft: 332

Helicopters: 325

UAV operational-tactical level: 7,404

Cruise missiles: 1,882

Warships/boats: 25

Submarines: 1

Vehicles and fuel tankers: 12,691

Special equipment: 1,524

Russia had spent two decades before the Ukraine Invasion rebuilding their armed forces after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This decline in Russian military power was a painful process. Between 1992 and 2003 the Russian military lost over half its manpower. That left 1.1 million troops commanded by 1,400 generals and admirals, or one for every 830 soldiers or sailors. About 140,000 were contract soldiers who agreed to serve longer periods as higher paid professional soldiers. The military also has 730,000 civilian employees. In 2003 another 36,800 officers and career enlisted troops lost their jobs. In 2003 the Russian army only had 321,000 troops, which was fewer than what the American army had. This was something that had never happened since the United States was established in 1776.

In 2003 the Russian Air Force, including air defense forces, had 148,600 troops and the navy had 171,500. Russia still relied on conscripts for most of their manpower, and these young troops serve only two years. This was reduced to one year in 2008. Much time and effort has to be dedicated to training new conscripts to replace those who have left, and the conscripts serving one year received little training because it was not worth the effort and cost. On the plus side all these conscripts entered the inactive reserve forces for about twenty years.

The Missile, Space and Airborne forces are still around, but they are no longer independent services. These troops now belong to the army, navy, and air force, although they are still considered national strategic forces.

But there are many other forces in Russian government service who carry weapons. The interior ministry has 186,000 security troops, many of them organized into light infantry units, the Federal Bodyguard Service has 11,500 personnel, most of them armed. The border patrol has 165,000 armed men, and some women. The penitentiary system has 251,000 uniformed personnel serving as guards.

In 2003 the Russian government had 3.2 million people who went to work wearing a military style uniform. But most of these were not considered soldiers. For example, the Federal Fire Fighting Service has 73,000 uniformed personnel, as does the Federal Railroad Force with 48,000 personnel. The FSB secret police has 66,200 employees who, while they usually work in civilian clothes, have a military uniform they wear from time to time. The FSB replaced the Soviet-era KGB and performed duties similar to what the American FBI and CIA carry out. The Russian government also has 4.5 million civilians on the payroll.

Britain became the world’s dominant naval power after the War of the Spanish Succession ended in 1714. That was 310 years ago, so we are ten years into the fourth century of Anglo-American naval dominance. The 1718-1720 War of the Quadruple Alliance merely confirmed British naval dominance established years earlier.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to the second largest fleet in the world rapidly decaying in the 1990s. Russia lost about 80 percent of its naval power. It's still the second largest fleet in the world, but the U.S. Navy now has over half the naval combat power in the world, and even more of the kinds of ships that can be sent anywhere on the planet. We are now in the fourth century of either Britain or the United States as the dominant naval power in the world.

When the Cold War ended in 1991, all navies shrank, even the U.S. Navy. But those of the European nations were reduced the most. In the Pacific, Japan, South Korea, and China continued to expand their fleets. So did India. But the U.S. naval forces in the Pacific are still the major player in that region.

European Nations are still dominated by a credible Russian threat. Despite the 80 percent decline in the Russian military in the 1990s, this still left them with the most powerful combat force in Europe. That's largely because in the 1990s most European nations also dramatically cut their military spending, and manpower. Russia was much less of a military threat to Europe than the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. This is because Russian ground forces now largely consist of paramilitary troops and army combat units that are no longer trained for offensive warfare.

Russia can still invade neighbors, as it did in Georgia during 2008. Russia required one mechanized infantry division, and another division worth of local militias and paramilitary troops to attack the tiny Caucasus state of Georgia. After invading Georgia, Russian reorganized its military once more and in 2014 used some of those troops to seize Crimea and portions of two eastern Ukrainian provinces. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine was the first full-size Russian use of force since World War Two and included attacks from Russian occupied Donbas towards Crimea. This succeeded in connecting Donbas with Crimea.

The Russian force used to invade Ukraine was largely destroyed after two years of fighting. Most of the Russian equipment losses took place during the first few months of the invasion. Russia did not expect NATO to provide Ukraine with massive military support and that prevented Russia from defeating Ukraine and absorbing it back into Russia. Since then, Russia has been mobilizing additional forces to retain portions of Ukraine it controls and to continue efforts to conquer more of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir still insists that his plan is to eventually destroy Ukraine and make it part of the Russian empire. Putin has announced that once he has defeated and absorbed Ukraine, he will go after other countries that used to be part of the Russian empire. The most recent version of that empire was the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. Putin wants to revive that empire, even though some parts of the Soviet Union joined NATO once they became independent. This is what Ukraine wants to do. Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine by the Russian need to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. Putin sees NATO, which is a defensive alliance, as a threat to Russia, or at least the Russian plan to rebuild the Russian Empire.

None of the other parts of the Russian Empire want to be absorbed back into Russia and preventing Russia from doing that to Ukraine will discourage but not stop Russian efforts to rebuild its empire. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been quite open about this, although a growing number of Russians would rather skip the empire building and pay more attention to rebuilding the Russian economy. Because of Putin’s aggression, Russia has been hit with extensive economic sanctions and these are hurting the Russian economy and lowering living standards for most Russians.

The rest of the world is not ignoring what Russia is trying to do in Ukraine. Russia cannot ignore this concern because the Middle Eastern opposition has nothing to do with NATO. The Middle East Nations are still dominated by Israel. The third ranking nation, Iran, is more powerful because of the large number of men in uniform. Their weapons and equipment are in poor shape and largely obsolete. Because of Israel's dominating land combat power, several Middle Eastern nations spent a lot of money on ballistic missiles. The Syrian missile forces and for that matter, all the rest of its armed forces, were destroyed by two decades of civil war. That left only Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, with rockets and missiles that could reach Israel and do some damage. Hezbollah’s rocket & missile threat to Israel is much greater than Iran’s unless Iran can put nuclear weapons on its missiles. Unfortunately for Iran, Hezbollah has been a very disobedient proxy due to its fear of being destroyed by Israel ground and air forces, while Israel developed defenses against ballistic missiles and tested them in the Mediterranean Sea. The tests were successful and now these defenses face any Iranian attack. If Iran does use its ballistic missiles against, Israel has its own ballistic missiles that can reach Iran. Israel also has nuclear weapons, including warheads for its Jericho ballistic missiles that can reach Iran and have already put several Israeli surveillance satellites into orbit. Iran has nothing to fear from Israel unless they threaten Israel, which the Iranians have done. Before the current religious dictatorship took control of Iran in the 1980s, Iran and Israel were allies and trading partners. Many Iranians would like to see that status restored. It will take another revolution in Iran for that to happen and that revolution is starting to show up in Iran. Currently Russia, North Korea and Iran are allies and trading partners.

Western Hemisphere nations are still dominated by the United States. Because of decades of combat, and recent upgrades in training and equipment, the number two power in the Americas is Colombia. Brazil is close behind, because it is the largest nation in South America, and has a large and well equipped military.

East Asian nations are, as usual, dominated by China. But number two is South Korea, which has greatly increased its combat power over the last three decades, as its booming economy enabled it to equip the troops with the most modern weapons. Meanwhile, it's nemesis for the past half century, North Korea, has declined because of a collapsing economy and inept socialist dictatorship. Japan’s navy and air force are the second largest of the East Asian powers and almost as powerful, on paper, as China’s, if not better due to Chinese corruption crippling its armed forces just as corruption unexpectedly crippled Russian forces invading Ukraine.

African nations have a strange lineup. The two top military powers, Ethiopia, and Eritrea fought each other between 1998 and 2000 then again in 2020. The number three power is South Africa, which is the best equipped, trained and led on the continent and has remained at peace, occasionally contributing some forces to peacekeeping operations in Africa.

South Asian nations are, as always, dominated by India. Pakistan is a distant second. That is something that has not changed since modern India and Pakistan were created when Britain granted freedom to its Indian colony, which included Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.




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