Ukraine Is Lying About Casualty Ratios To Justify Holding Of Bakhmut

Saturday, 11 March 2023Moon of Alabama

I follow and like Adam Tooze. His Chartbooks have always good materials. This recent one on the Silicon Valley Bank crash is also fine.

But I was somewhat disturbed by a recent tweet of his:

Adam Tooze @adam_tooze – 20:11 UTC · Mar 9, 2023

“Some experts worry Ukraine may be expending high-quality troops and equipment to kill mere Russian prison recruits as “cannon fodder”.” Wow the language around the attritional battle at Bakhmut is getting grotesque! 7:1 ratio not good enough for you?

Link: Military briefing: Ukraine’s battle of diminishing returns for Bakhmut

Was that satire?

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA – 20:14 UTC Mar 9, 2023
Replying to @adam_tooze

7:1 to whose advantage?

He did not respond. But no, it was not satire. The linked Financial Times piece, reprinted in the Irish Times, actually quotes the Ukrainian national security chief Oleksiy Danilov as saying that the kill ratio was one to seven in Ukraine’s favor.

The whole passage is nuts:

US and European officials estimate 200,000 Russian troops have been killed or seriously injured since February last year, and Ukraine about half that.

One western official said Russia had suffered “between 20,000 and 30,000 casualties over the past six months”, adding that most of them were mercenaries fighting for the Wagner private military company. Wagner’s operations have been largely focused on Bakhmut.

Nato officials estimate one Ukrainian had been killed or injured for every five Russians. Ukrainian national security chief Oleksiy Danilov last week estimated the ratio was “one to seven in our favour”.

This makes no sense. Had 200,000 Russian’s be killed or seriously wounded in the war while 20,000 to 30,000 of those were killed or wounded in the past six month then the first six month of the war would have cost the Russian side 175,000 losses. That’s more than the total numbers that were, until the recent mobilization, involved in the whole campaign. Those numbers must have been pulled from hot air.

Danilov casualty ratio is likewise obvious nonsense.

The Medical Department of the U.S. Army has a book about CAUSATIVE AGENTS OF BATTLE CASUALTIES IN WORLD WAR II. It is quoted here:

A report on the causative agents of battle casualties in World War II showed the comparative incidence of casualties from different types of weapons for several theaters. Compilers of the report believed that, while the more detailed subdivisions within their three major classes were open to question, their findings on the percent of total casualties due to small arms, artillery and mortars, and “miscellaneous” were reasonably accurate. From these they drew the following conclusions:

1. Small arms fire accounted for between 14 and 31 percent of the total casualties, depending upon the theater of action: The Mediterranean theater, 14.0 percent; the European theater, 23.4 percent; and the Pacific theaters, 30.7 percent.

2. Artillery and mortar fire together accounted for 65 percent of the total casualties in the European and Mediterranean theaters, 64.0 and 69.1, respectively. In the Pacific, they accounted for 47.0 percent.

The Encyclopedia Britannica likewise notes for World War I:

The greatest number of casualties and wounds were inflicted by artillery, followed by small arms, and then by poison gas.

When I was in officer school the number estimated for a big war in Europe was 75% of casualties due to artillery and aerial bombing.

Data from the European Commission, quoted by El Pais, says that Russia has a 10:1 advantage in artillery:

According to data from the European Commission to which EL PAÍS has had access, Russia fires between 40,000 and 50,000 artillery shells per day, compared to 5,000-6,000 Ukrainian forces expend. The Estonian government, which has been one of largest contributors to Kyiv’s war effort, puts the average use of artillery at between 20,000 and 60,000 Russian shells per day, and 2,000 to 7,000 Ukrainian rounds, according to a document sent to EU Member States by Tallinn, to which this newspaper has had access.

The Russian forces fire ten times the number of shells the Ukrainians can fire. In a modern war artillery fire causes 65+% of all casualties. It is thus impossible that Ukraine is losing less soldiers than the Russians.

The total ratio may well be 7 to 1 but it will certainly be to the advantage of the Russian forces side.

But minimizing the losses Ukraine has in Bakhmut seems to be a current propaganda scheme. A recent Newsweek piece quotes similar nonsense.

This propaganda seems to be designed to justify the Ukrainian decision to hang on to the city as long as possible:

Moscow’s troops are on the cusp of taking the city in the eastern Donetsk region fought over for months, of which they reportedly control half. Amid rumors of a Ukrainian retreat Western officials suggested would do Kyiv no harm, President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted his troops would stay to prevent Russian forces from moving on “to other towns.”

Already in January the U.S. was pressing the Ukraine to forget about Bakhmut and to move to a more mobile campaign:

In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl, said the US wants to help Ukraine shift away from the sort of pitched battle of attrition playing out in Bakhmut and focus instead on a style of mechanized maneuver warfare that uses rapid, unanticipated movements against Russia, sources familiar with their discussion said.

The hundreds of armored vehicles the US and European countries have provided to Ukraine in recent weeks, including 14 British tanks, are meant to help Ukraine make that shift, officials said.

In his latest summary Dima of the Military Summary Channel reported that the Ukrainian side will soon try a counterattack to cut the Russian ring around Bakhmut and to draw the Russian side into a decisive general battle.

I see, like Dima, little chance that such an attempt could be successful. The force ratio to achieve something like that is simply not there.

But if the Ukraine wants to do that, against ‘western’ advice, it needs some justifications. The lies about casualty ratios in favor of Ukraine seem designed to give those.

2 thoughts on “Ukraine Is Lying About Casualty Ratios To Justify Holding Of Bakhmut

  1. WillD says:

    Casualty ratios aren’t the only things Ukraine is lying about. Here’s a couple more – the numbers of Russian missiles it shoots down, and the so-called ‘human wave’ tactics it claims the Russians are using.

    Just like the utter implausibility of the recent US Nordstream claim of 6 people in a small yacht story, I don’t think Ukraine, or its western sponsors, care whether anyone really believes them or not. The main objective seems to be to give people ‘hope’ and to encourage its sponsors to keep the weapons and money coming.

    The propaganda bug has become a raging pandemic, with most western countries abandoning all attempts to be convincing or even remotely factual. Overt, blatant, and even outrageous lies are becoming commonplace. And the western leaders and mainstream media are resorting to personal attacks, hate speech and extreme Russophobia. Sheer madness!

    Liked by 1 person

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