Likely a group of generals will agree among themselves that Putin must be made aware of battlefield circumstances before the army breaks from continuing casualties, physical exhaustion, dwindling supplies and munitions, and sinking morale. Bringing that message forward may be the push that convinces Putin to get serious about negotiations.
In four weeks of combat, Russia may have lost 25 percent of its initial attacking force. These casualties are not on the scale of World War II but are large compared with the relatively small size of the Russian military today. Although reinforcements and replacements can offset some of these casualties, the loss of trained troops will impair military operations and eventually have a political effect, writes Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Russian losses to date are high. NATO estimates that Russia has lost between 7,000 and 15,000 soldiers. Wounded who cannot rapidly return to duty generally number about twice the number of dead. That would mean that Russia has lost between 21,000 and 45,000 troops in four weeks of conflict. To put that into perspective, Russia reported 14,400 killed through 10 years of war in Afghanistan.
The initial invasion force numbered about 190,000 troops. However, that included militias in the Donbas and security forces (Rosgvardiya) for occupation. Ground combat troops numbered about 140,000. Thus, Russia may have lost about a quarter of its initial combat force.
Russia has moved reinforcements and replacements into Ukraine to compensate for these losses, which will offset them to some degree. However, these reinforcements and replacements likely lack the training and experience of the early deployers, especially elite units like paratroopers. The loss of skilled troops and leaders will be felt in the conduct of tactical operations.
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