Ukraine: The Numbers in February 2023

Ukraine: The Numbers in February 2023. By Jim Dunnigan. It’s been difficult to find sources on how big the armies in Ukraine are, but Dunnigan is a long time student of the military with good sources.

Russia:

Just before the invasion began, the Russian military had 700,000 personnel on duty. The ground forces had about 400,000 men while the navy and air force each had about 150,000. About a third of air force personnel were paratroopers or air mobile infantry. The navy had about 12,000 marines, who guarded naval bases in peacetime. …

Shortly after Putin’s “we are at war” speech [18 Jan 2023] the American military finally accepted Ukrainian estimates of Russian losses. While the Ukrainians believe Russia has lost 180,000 troops in Ukraine, the Americans will only acknowledge 100,000 as well enough documented to accept. The Ukrainians also point that their “troops lost” total does not mean only dead, but those no longer serving in the Russian military because they were captured or deserted. Ukraine considers the deserters a real plus for Ukrainian success because the deserters will often return home or get in touch and provide a more accurate account of what is really happening in Ukraine. …

That means that heavy Russian losses since the invasion began, and failure to mobilize many replacements, reduced the army to about 250,000 personnel….

Ukraine:

Ukraine had 250,000 active-duty troops in early 2022 and within months had half a million more in the form of volunteers and conscripts. Normally Ukrainian troops receive a lot more training than their Russian counterparts but in the first months of the war, untrained Ukrainians were used to halt the invasion. Since then, Ukrainian troops get more training and are led by experienced officers and NCOs in combat. Ukrainian troops don’t suffer from supply shortages and suffer relatively fewer casualties than the Russians. …

Ratio:

Ukraine’s ground forces now outnumber the Russian army by about three to one, and Russia’s total ground forces by about two to one. Not just in Ukraine, but in all of Russia and Ukraine. …

Despite its bigger population, Russia has problems raising and training more troops:

[Putin] declared several partial mobilizations that were unsuccessful because so many Russian men did not want to fight in Ukraine. Putin tried to cope with that reluctance but was unsuccessful. A month ago, he increased the legal maximum number of its active-duty military personnel from 1,013,628 to 1,150,628 personnel. The million-man force was never achieved and Putin soon discovered that this increase was an empty gesture. …

Most of the trained and experienced junior officers were killed or disabled during the first months of the war and replacements take months to train to minimal standards. Peacetime officer training takes years and now there is a shortage of trainers for troops and officers because most of the existing ones were sent to Ukraine as replacements for the catastrophic losses the Ukrainians were inflicting. …

Ouch:

Russia’s pre-war ground forces have been effectively destroyed and the losses impossible to completely replace, both because so few Russians are willing to serve in the military and because junior officers take years to train.

Unlike in World War Two, promoting a lot of soldiers to officer rank did not turn these men into trained and experienced officers. Every able-bodied man in the Soviet Union was conscripted in the Great Patriotic War, which produced a true cross-section of Soviet society including the able, intelligent and educated. The ones of those who survived long enough became capable combat-experienced veterans quite suitable for immediate promotion as junior and even field-grade officers. Such high-quality manpower is quite absent from the modern Russian army, which contains too many physically or mentally unfit men. And there is still the problem of the missing professional NCOs. …

The Russian seizure of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014 … was a wakeup call for Ukrainians and, with the help of trainers and military advisors from NATO countries, the Ukrainian military underwent much-needed reforms from 2015 to 2021. This led to the Ukrainian ability to quickly defeat the 2022 Russian invasion and inflict the heaviest military losses Russia had experienced since World War II.

Russian media is saying that Russia has half a million troops poised to attack Ukraine, and that the Ukrainian losses of 400,000 have exhausted the Ukrainian army.

Despite their possible numerical superiority, the Ukrainians cannot attack well because they lack tanks and aircraft. Infantry and artillery are great for defending, but attacking prepared positions really requires amour and much more firepower.

Time will tell.