Following numerous estimations and reports by the United Nations, Ukrainian media, and Western news outlets, NATO has now estimated that around 40,000 Russian troops have either been killed, wounded, missing, taken as prisoners by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
According to a senior NATO official, who requested that he remain anonymous, around 7,000 to 15,000 of these troops have died on the battlefield following significant troubles and challenges the invading forces had encountered during the four-week-old war that started on February 24. It is unknown whether these numbers also include Chechen fighters and foreign mercenaries hired by Russia.
These estimations were reportedly collated from open-source data, the Ukrainian government, and information coming out of Russia. This is the first and only public estimate of Russian casualties by NATO. The Pentagon had previously refused to put a number of casualties from the Ukrainian and Russian sides as the information coming from the ground is questionable and difficult to verify. However, Western intelligence had put the number of casualties last week at 10,000 people as a reasonable estimate.
“I’m not going to characterize what the ranges are that we’re looking at because they’re just very broad, and we continue to have low confidence in those estimates because we’re not on the ground and can’t see you know what’s really going on on a day to day basis,” said an unnamed US official last week.
The same official had reported that the Russian forces were suffering from cases of frostbite and that soldiers were experiencing such low morale that they walked into the woods and abandoned their vehicles. While not independently verified, these claims matched up with online videos of Russian soldiers allegedly looting Ukrainian soldiers’ corpses for their boots. This low morale and challenges with food supply had led the Ukrainian forces to recapture integral cities and areas to avoid being completely surrounded by the Russians. While daytime temperatures in Ukraine are above freezing, at night the temperature falls again into sub-freezing ranges. Hypothermia is also a factor as it can affect you in temps as high as the low 50s
Interestingly, this 10,000 casualty estimate was very close to what was published by the pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda estimates. They claimed that around 9,861 Russian soldiers were killed by the Ukrainian forces, and another 16,153 were wounded. They later stated that their website was hacked and that they were not the ones who posted these figures. It is also very close to Ukrainian media estimates, which put the number of dead Russian soldiers at 15,300.
This number was reportedly drawn from what the NATO military officer says to be a “standard calculation,” where a theory posits that an army suffers three wounded soldiers for every soldier killed on the other side in a war. However, despite this scientific guess, the exact number of Russian casualties is still very much unknown. That estimate can vary greatly depending on the ability of an army to promptly treat and evacuate their wounded.
NATO Forces on “Heightened Alert”
Following non-stop Russian bombings in Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s calls for more weapons, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that hundreds of thousands of Allied troops are now at “heightened readiness” across the NATO countries to enhance the capacity of NATO’s eastern flank.
NATO's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance will send four new 'battle groups' to its eastern member states, in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. #UkraineRussia pic.twitter.com/hWNF11MzmH
— euronews (@euronews) March 23, 2022
“There are now hundreds of thousands of Allied troops at heightened readiness across the Alliance. One hundred thousand US troops in Europe and 40,000 forces under direct NATO command, mostly in the eastern part of the Alliance. All backed by major air and naval power. Including five carrier strike groups in the High North and in the Mediterranean,” he announced.
This comes before the NATO summit to be held in Brussels, which President Biden will be personally attending. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will also be addressing the alliance during the summit. Stoltenberg said that the NATO leaders would be deciding on further measures during the meeting.
“Tomorrow, NATO leaders will reaffirm our support to Ukraine. Ukraine has the right to self-defense under the UN Charter. And we are helping Ukrainians to uphold this fundamental right.”
Following this statement, Stoltenberg said that he expects NATO to send more military support to Ukraine, to work together to provide the country with anti-tank and air defense systems, drones, fuel, ammunition, and financial aid. Furthermore, additional support for cybersecurity and equipment to protect against chemical, biological, and nuclear threats were also expected to be discussed at the summit. Western intelligence said that Russia had been posturing to use chemical weapons in Ukraine to regain invasion momentum.
He also announced the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups to be stationed in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.
“The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, along with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland,” he said. “This means that we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups all along the eastern flank from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”
“Hundreds of thousands of NATO troops on heightened alert, roughly 100,000 US troops in Europe now; many of them in eastern part of the Alliance, and that is significantly more than before the crisis,” he explained.
Despite the support of NATO, he also reiterated that the alliance has a responsibility not to let the war escalate beyond Ukraine and have NATO as an official combatant against Russia.
“We are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the war does not escalate beyond Ukraine and become a conflict between NATO and Russia,” Stoltenberg reiterated. “This would cause even more death and even more destruction.”
NATO Sec-Gen Stoltenberg calls out China "Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of independent nations to choose their own path. China has provided Russia with political support including with spreading blatant lies and misinformation." @jensstoltenberg #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/h1WjQDrmI1
— ThomasHCole (@ThomasHCole) March 23, 2022
Lastly, the Secretary-General also expects that the role of China in addressing the conflict in Ukraine will be discussed during the meeting. Beijing had been both neutral and pro-Russian toward the issue due to its flourishing relations with Moscow. It can be remembered that China was one of the members that abstained from voting on condemning Russia of its invasion of Ukraine during the emergency United Nations General Assembly meeting. They were also approached by Russia to provide MREs to Russian troops, which both countries had denied.
“I expect leaders will call on China to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council. Refrain from supporting Russia’s war effort. And join the rest of the world in calling for an immediate, peaceful end to this war,” he said. “We also call on Belarus to end its complicity in Putin’s invasion.”