While much of the world rallies around Ukraine in the current war with Russia, and the number of innocent citizens who have been forced to flee their homes or prepare to lose their lives, not much has been said about the Russian soldiers who are doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding. Perhaps that’s because more than 7,000 Russian soldiers have so far been killed in just 20 days of fighting—a number which, as The New York Times reports, contradicts the unwavering veneer of strength that Putin regularly attempts to project.
That 7,000-plus number, by the way, is a conservative estimate. To put that number into better context, The New York Times notes that during 36-day Battle of Iwo Jima—one of the bloodiest battles of World War II—just under 7,000 Marines were killed. Similarly, the current Russian soldier death toll is higher than the number of American troops killed over the last 20 years in both the Iran and Afghanistan wars combined.
But these numbers say something beyond the total loss of life. As The New York Times writes:
It is a staggering number amassed in just three weeks of fighting, American officials say, with implications for the combat effectiveness of Russian units, including soldiers in tank formations. Pentagon officials say a 10 percent casualty rate, including dead and wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks.
With more than 150,000 Russian troops now involved in the war in Ukraine, Russian casualties, when including the estimated 14,000 to 21,000 injured, are near that level. And the Russian military has also lost at least three generals in the fight, according to Ukrainian, NATO and Russian officials.
In Ukraine, it’s more than just the armed forces fighting to regain control of their country. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a two-day battle in Voznesensk, Ukraine—in which citizens volunteered to take on Russian forces alongside their own military, and successfully defended their territory—was “one of the most comprehensive routs President Vladimir Putin’s forces have suffered since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine.”
These kind of monumental defeats can have a severe psychological impact on soldiers, dangerously reducing the determination and will of those fighting. Even some of Russia’s most notable state-run media pundits are protesting the war.
“Losses like this affect morale and unit cohesion, especially since these soldiers don’t understand why they’re fighting,” Evelyn Farkas, a senior Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine under President Obama, told The New York Times. “Your overall situational awareness decreases. Someone’s got to drive, someone’s got to shoot.”
Then again, Russian troops are likely only being fed the information Putin wants them to hear via the state media to which they have access. At the moment, the mention of any casualties is rare and, as per usual, the propaganda pundits are painting a far rosier picture of the success of Russia’s “operation” in Ukraine (calling it an “invasion” or “war” in Russia is a no-no).
(Via The New York Times)