Ukraine has been a disaster for Russia's troubled army, but the deadlock is shifting things in Moscow's favor, US intelligence says

  • Russia's army has suffered tremendous casualties and equipment losses in Ukraine.

  • But a battlefield deadlock is shifting things in Moscow's favor, a new US intelligence report said.

  • The report warned that Russia "remains a resilient and capable adversary."

Russia's military has suffered serious damage in the Ukraine war, but after more than two years of hard fighting, the deadlock on the battlefield is shifting the momentum in Moscow's favor, according to a newly released US intelligence assessment.

The war has "incurred major, lasting costs for Russia," members of the US intelligence community wrote in an annual threat assessment, which was originally published in early February but released to the public on Monday.

In the latest assessment, the US notes that Moscow's campaign not only "failed to attain" the subjugation of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought when he initiated a full-scale invasion, but it also united the West behind Kyiv, support for which materialized through security assistance and economic aid.

The US said that Russia has suffered more losses in Ukraine than at any point since World War II, pegging the country's high casualties at "roughly" 300,000. This figure, which is based on information available as of late-January, is much lower than more recent Western estimates.

Ukrainian soldiers fire missiles from a Grad PC3B at Russian positions on March 5, 2024.
Ukrainian soldiers fire missiles from a Grad PC3B at Russian positions on March 5, 2024.Photo by Jose Colon/Anadolu via Getty Images

Britain's defense ministry said earlier this month that more than 355,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in Ukraine and that February saw Moscow suffer its highest casualty rate of any month during the war, averaging nearly 1,000 losses each day.

"The Russian military has and will continue to face issues of attrition, personnel shortages, and morale challenges," the US intel report said, but "its reliance on mines, prepared defensive positions, and indirect fires has helped it blunt Ukraine's offensives in 2023." There's been only limited movement over the past year.

"Nonetheless, this deadlock plays to Russia's strategic military advantages and is increasingly shifting the momentum in Moscow's favor," the report continued. "Russia's defense industry is significantly ramping up production of a panoply of long-range strike weapons, artillery munitions, and other capabilities that will allow it to sustain a long high-intensity war if necessary."

"Meanwhile, Moscow has made continual incremental battlefield gains since late 2023, and is benefitting from uncertainties about the future of Western military assistance," the report added.

A destroyed Russian tan on a road in the foreground with a Ukrainian serviceman rides a tractor pulling a military vehicle behind it, all beneath a grey sky
A destroyed Russian tank is seen as Ukrainian serviceman rides a tractor and tows a Russian military vehicle near the village of Dolyna in Ukraine's Kharkiv region in September 2023.REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Last month, Russia captured the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after a bloody months-long campaign that came at a severe cost to Moscow, which expended a high amount of personnel and armored vehicles in the fight. The win has been characterized as Putin's biggest victory since the fall of Bakhmut last spring.

War experts and British intelligence have said that Russia is building off the momentum of capturing Avdiivka and has advanced deeper into eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, taking advantage of the battlefield landscape by moving forward before Kyiv can build new defenses.

A top White House official told reporters last week that Russia had captured several towns and villages west of Avdiivka and said Ukraine is having trouble holding its defensive lines due to a lack of military support from the US.

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut on March 5, 2024.
Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery in the direction of Bakhmut on March 5, 2024.Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images

Although US intelligence asserts that Russia will have to endure "a multi-year recovery after suffering extensive equipment and personnel losses" in Ukraine, the report predicts that Moscow will ultimately be able to overcome its current deficiencies though other means.

One area of focus is the rebuilding of its ground forces. The US said Russia's successful military recruiting and increased defense spending will eventually leave it with a larger military than what it currently has, though it may not necessarily be a better one.

But as it works to improve its more traditional conventional forces, Moscow will be more dependent on nuclear and space-related capabilities to provide strategic deterrence.

"Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has resulted in enormous damage at home and abroad," the report said, warning that "Russia remains a resilient and capable adversary across a wide range of domains and seeks to project and defend its interests globally and to undermine the United States and the West."

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