More Russian Casualties in Ukraine Than U.S. Troops in Revolutionary War

A Pentagon official has given a "ballpark" figure of Russia's casualties since it started the war in Ukraine on February 24, in a sign of the high cost of Vladimir Putin's invasion of his own forces.

Colin Kahl, the Department of Defense undersecretary for policy, said at a briefing on Monday: "It's safe to suggest that the Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months," adding, "That is a combination of killed in action and wounded in action and that number might be a little lower, a little higher, but I think that's kind of in the ballpark."

He described the number of Russian casualties as "remarkable" given that Russia's forces have "achieved none of Vladimir Putin's objectives" since invading Ukraine.

If Kahl's figures are confirmed, this would mean that in only six months, Russia would have suffered more casualties than the United States did during the Revolutionary War, which was fought over eight years, between April 19, 1775, to September 3, 1783.

Ukrainian soldiers with tank
The Pentagon said on August 8, 2022, that Russia has suffered more than 70,000 casualties since the start of the war in Ukraine. Above, Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region on July 20, 2022, near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces. ANATOLII STEPANOV/Getty Images

The total number of U.S. casualties in the conflict that secured American independence from Great Britain is estimated to be around 66,000, according to historian John Shy's 1976 book, A People Numerous and Armed: Reflections on the Military Struggle for American Independence. These include the wounded, as well as combat and non-combat deaths, which also comprised of those who died of disease.

Kahl's latest estimate is a significant jump from other recent U.S. government assessments. In July, CIA Director Bill Burns said the Russians had suffered about 60,000 casualties, including 15,000 troops killed in action. This suggests that if Kahl is correct, Ukraine managed to inflict more than 10,000 casualties on the Russians in the last month.

During this time, Kyiv has lauded the delivery of new multiple rocket systems from the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Among the weapons are the U.S-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) which have made a big contribution to Ukraine's war effort by targeting Russian command centers and ammunition depots.

The number of Russian casualties in the war has not been independently verified. In its latest estimate on Wednesday, Ukraine's military estimates that 42,800 Russian troops had been killed in combat, although this is nearly triple what Western officials have stated. Moscow has not updated its death toll released at the end of March which stood at 1,351.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian defense ministry for comment.

However, military experts have said that the Kremlin was not suffering enough troop losses to impact its ability to hold terrain, even as Ukraine undertakes a counteroffensive on Kherson in the southwest of the country.

Meanwhile, Russia's casualty estimate is likely to include Russian paramilitary and volunteer forces, like the mercenary Wagner Group, according to Rob Lee, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

"Otherwise, the Russian military could not withstand that kind of casualty rate and still be fighting," he told Foreign Policy.

Kahl also said on Monday that the Ukrainian side had suffered severe casualty numbers in what he described as the "most intense conventional conflict in Europe since the Second World War."

"But the Ukrainians have a lot of advantages, not the least of which is their will to fight," he added.