WASHINGTON – Russian forces have suffered “significantly well over 100,000” casualties and endured “a huge amount” of suffering since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began nearly 11 months ago, the top US general said Friday.
“The numbers of casualties in war are always suspect,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters in Germany. “But I would tell you that the Russian casualties, the last time I reported out publicly [in November] I said it was well over 100,000. I would say it’s significantly well over 100,000 now.”
Milley did not estimate Ukraine’s military losses, but in November he suggested that Ukraine had lost roughly the same amount of forces as Russia.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s armed forces released a tally stating that 116,950 Russian troops had been “eliminated.” If true, that would mean more Russian forces have died in combat during in Ukraine than the number of American forces who died of all causes during World War I.
Milley also predicted Friday that Europe’s largest conflict since the Second World War would end in mediation as both sides struggle to come to grips with manpower losses.
“This is a very, very bloody war, and there’s significant casualties on both sides,” he said. “This is why I say that I think that sooner or later this is going to have to get to the negotiating table at some point in order to bring this to a conclusion.”
However, the general added that would only happen “when the end state – which is a free sovereign, independent Ukraine with its territory intact is met.”
“When that day comes, then people sit down and negotiate an end to this, but there’s been a huge amount of suffering on both sides.”
Despite Russia’s losses, Moscow likely still has close to the strength of its original invasion force to hand after Russian President Vladimir Putin embarked on a massive recruitment drive late last year.
“The Russians did a call up … [a] mobilization of 300,000. I think they were able to get maybe 250,000 – something in that range,” Milley said. “So they’re replacing their losses in terms of manpower, but they have suffered a huge amount.”
Senior US defense officials are predicting a brutal spring of fighting as Russia plots a renewed offensive after the war’s first anniversary on Feb. 24.
However, Milley believed Ukraine would keep up its tough fight as Kyiv has successfully launched several counter-offenses across the country.
“I don’t want to predict one way or the other but the Ukrainian forces so far have executed at least two – and perhaps even more than that – very successful offensive operations,” he said. “One up around Kharkiv … and over into the Russian lines to the east of Kharkiv and then they’ve run a very successful operation down in Kherson.”
The latest $2.5 billion US security assistance package announced Thursday is designed to help Ukraine combat the predicted Russian offensive. It includes 90 Stryker combat vehicles and 59 Bradley Fighting Vehicles for infantry, as well as National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems munitions, eight Avenger air defense systems and various additional combat vehicles, missiles and ammunition.
With that aid, plus additional donations by allied countries – including the United Kingdom’s dispatch of 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks – Milley said he believed Ukraine is not only prepared to fight off Russian attacks, but to launch its own operations to take back Ukrainian land now under Russian control.
“I do think it’s very very possible for the Ukrainians to run a significant tactical or even operational level offensive operation to liberate as much Ukrainian territory as possible,” he said.
“President Putin could end this war today – he started it, it’s his war of choice,” Milley added. “It’s turning into an absolute catastrophe for Russia: massive amounts of casualties, lots of other damage to the Russian military, etc. So he should end this war right now, right today.”