The numbers reported from Ukraine on the casualties inflicted on Russian Officers seem pretty staggering when taken at face value.

2 lieutenant generals,

8 major generals,

44 colonels,

98 lieutenant colonels,

193 majors,

279 captains,

471 senior lieutenants,

235 lieutenants.

That amounts to some 1,402 casualties among officers in the war against Ukraine so far.  Subtracting this number from the latest estimates of Russian combat casualties we get 73,328 enlisted personnel killed in action.  The actual number may be much higher as it doesn’t count the number of wounded who were evacuated and later died of their injuries or those killed by their own side for attempting to desert. It may also overlook casualties atomized by direct hits from artillery or missile strikes on their positions or vehicles.


These recent Russian conscripts look like they are costumed as extras in a WWII movie. Their gear and kit are 1950s vintage equipment. The Russians throw nothing away apparently. Even their Kirza boots are vintage USSR-type synthetic leather and not very good in cold, wet weather at reducing trench foot as they retain moisture.


That casualty rate may tell us something important about the absence of effective leadership in the Russian army.

During the conflict in Vietnam, which spanned a decade, the casualty rate among US officers was much higher in the total number even as overall casualties were much lower. The total number of US military personnel who were killed in action or died in country of non-combat deaths was 58,318. Of these casualties, 7,877 were officers both commissioned and warrant. 50

The total number of American personnel who were KIA or died non-hostile deaths were enlisted personnel with a casualty number of 50,441. The total number of officer casualties, commissioned and warrant, is 7,877.

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465 naval aviators

248 Marine Corps aviators

2012 Army helicopter pilots

1,674 Air Force officers(No stats I could find differentiated pilots from non-flying officers

Pilot losses among Russian officers is far less because the Russian air force has not really committed large numbers of aircraft to the fight in Ukraine and the war is only 6 months old, compared to the decade-long conflict in Vietnam which saw more than 5 million combat sorties flown against communist forces.

The remaining losses among US officers in Vietnam are about 4,378 dead, along with 50,441 enlisted men.

Now, look at the Russian losses in comparison, 1,402 officer losses with 71,926.

You see the glaring difference there, don’t you?

In Vietnam, US officers were more than 13% of the total casualties.

In Ukraine, Russian officers are just under 2% of the total casualties.

In the US military NCOs carry much of the burden of leading troops in combat at the company, platoon, and squad levels.  In the Russian army, NCOs or non-commissioned officers are typically not leading units but have earned rank as specialists in a technical field that serve beyond the typical 2-year term of conscription in the Russian army, but they don’t generally serve in leadership roles.  In Russia, a lieutenant performs the leadership, planning, training, and disciplinary roles of both the U.S. officer as a platoon leader and platoon sergeant at the same time.  He has no second in command. If he is killed or wounded in action, there is no clear replacement for him in the chain of command.

As a result of this arrangement, Russia’s losses among their officers should be much higher given they are the direct commander of a combat unit in the field.  If Russian officers were actually leading their men as closely as US officers do with the assistance of NCOs, those losses ought to be closer to 9,350 dead Russian officers.


This photo taken by Ukrainian Armed Forces shows the extent of the looting done by Russian soldiers. It is a plastic container of gold and silver fillings and caps removed from the presumably dead bodies of soldiers and civilians.



These numbers on their face indicate that Russian officers are not leading their men from the front or they would have much higher casualties.  I have seen numerous transcripts of intercepted calls by Russian soldiers complaining that their officers are nowhere to be found when fighting is going on. Photos of positions occupied by Russian troops typically look like garbage dumps of discarded trash everywhere. The absence of effective leadership in any army will result in the breakdown of discipline and order among the troops. The numerous reports of Russian troops running amok, raping, looting, and destroying civilian property further suggest that a significant cause of the failure of the Russian army in the field is due to the absence of not just a cadre of senior NCOs leading combat units at the levels of squads and platoons, but also the absence of their officers to share the risks and hardships of combat with their men.