Russia Unable to Fight Another War After Catastrophic Military Losses

On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the US wanted to see Russia so “weakened” that it won’t be able to support another war like the one it initiated in Ukraine.

Now, analysts suggest Moscow might have already reached that point.

In an article published on Wednesday, analysts told The Times they believe Russia already burned through so much of its military strength in the past two months of war that it could be “years” before the Kremlin is able to order another such invasion of a neighboring country.

Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Washington think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the British newspaper that, according to estimates, Russia might have already lost the equivalent of two years of tank production, one year’s supply of aircraft and likely several year’s worth of missile production since the beginning of the invasion on February 24.

Russian military Vladimir Putin
Analysts believe that Russia has lost so much of its military equipment since the beginning of the war in Ukraine on February 24 that it will take the country “years” to restore its inventory. Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to officers as he attends Russia’s large-scale Center-2015 military exercises at Donguzsky Range on September 19, 2015 in Orenburg, Russia.
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

According to the investigative website Bellingcat, Russia is estimated to have lost 70 percent of the precision missiles in its inventory – costly, highly valuable military equipment.

Ukrainian authorities claim even bigger losses among the Russian army, saying that the Russian military has lost a total of 939 tanks, 185 planes, 155 helicopters, 421 artillery units and eight ships since the beginning of the war, according to the latest estimates.

These numbers are likely inflated, and yet independent estimates still report significant losses for Russian troops.

Oryx, a website that has been documenting equipment losses, has collected photo and video evidence of 3,222 vehicles and pieces of military equipment lost by Vladimir Putin‘s forces in Ukraine in the last two months.

London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and Santa Monica-based political think tank RAND estimated that Russia had a total of some 2,700 tanks at the beginning of the war in February. Oryx estimates that Russia has so far lost 571 tanks in Ukraine, on top of 4 naval ships, 38 helicopters, 26 aircraft and hundreds of armored vehicles.

Such losses forced Russia to draw its troops back from the area surrounding Kyiv last month and redirect offensive to the Donbas region, which is now the declared target of the Russian campaign in Ukraine.

The military setbacks suffered by Russia in the past almost nine weeks of war are matched by unexpectedly high troop losses among the ranks of Moscow’s soldiers in Ukraine. BORN estimates that Russia might have lost between 7,000 and 15,000 soldiers – a quarter of its initial ground combat force estimated at 140,000, as Cancian writes.

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A woman walks past destroyed Russian military vehicles close to the central train station that was used as a Russian base on March 30 in Trostyanets, Ukraine. Oryx estimates Russia has lost over 500 tanks in Ukraine.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Russia admitted to huge losses among its troops, although it’s believed that the real number of total deaths has not been shared with the public in Russia. In an interview with Sky News on April 7, Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Russia had suffered “significant losses of troops,” adding that it was “a huge tragedy for us.”

But in its latest update, Moscow reported the loss of less than 1,500 soldiers in Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities report the number of deaths among Russian troops to be much higher than either NATO estimates and Russia’s reports: last week, Ukrainian Land Forces claimed over 21,000 Russian troops had lost their lives during the conflict.

Between military equipment and troop losses, it’s unlikely that Russia would be able to restore its original inventory as quickly as Ukraine, which is being resupplied by its Western allies, The Times points out.

IISS military analyst Henry Boyd told The Times that Russia could replenish its inventory by drawing upon reserves of Soviet-era tanks, but it’s possible that troops would be unable to use such dated equipment, and reactivating such equipment would equal a drop in quality of Russia’s military power.

At the same time, Western sanctions are likely slowing down production of new military equipment, impeding Russia from having access to necessary components.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.

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