Turns out the New York Times, based upon citations of unnamed U.S. officials, is providing the following estimates of losses:
1. Russia: up to 120,000 killed and 170,000 to 180,000 wounded.
2. Ukraine: close to 70,000 killed with 100,000 to 120,000 wounded.
I have lots of heartburn with these figures.
First… wounded-to-killed ratios:
The wounded-to-killed ratio for WWII was 3:1. The wounded-to-killed ratio for Soviets troops at the Battle of Kursk (1943) was around 2.5:1 (2.48-to-1). Specifically, in the Voronezh Front from 4-11 July it was 2.29-to-1 and from 12-18 July 1943 it was 2.68-to-1. For the opposing Germans it was 5.11-to-1 and 4.54-to-1 respectively. See Kursk, page 1374 (not too many people can say “see page 1374 of my book”).
Since World War II, wounded-to-killed ratios have risen to 5-to-1 or higher. It was 10-to-1 for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan (and 13-to-1 for the USMC). The Donets People’s Republic (DPR) reported a wounded-to-killed ratio for 2022 of 4-to-1 (4.16-to-1).
So, they have for the Russians a wounded-to-killed of 1.5-to-1. Really? Read my book War by Numbers, Chapter 15, and then come back with some intellectually valid estimates. These are not!
They have the wounded-to-killed ratios for the Ukrainians at between 1.42 or 1.71 to one. Same ballpark as the Russians. Yet the Soviet Union has a wounded-to-killed ratio at Kursk in 1943 of 2.5-to-1. Are you saying that medical care and evacuation in the Russian and Ukrainian armies now are considerably worse that of the Soviet Union in 1943, when they did not have penicillin? The argument is absurd.
Second… Russian killed:
The only systematic reporting of Russian killed that I am aware is the BBC/Medizona reports by name of people killed. As of 11 August, this was a total of 30,003. These figures are gathered from a mix of obituaries, newspaper reports, formal death certificates, contacts with the families, reviewing graveyards and gravestones, and I gather a number of catch-as-catch-can methods. I have not reviewed their data collections efforts in detail. From my correspondence with them, they believe they are accounting for about half of the dead. This seems like a reasonable assumption, although it is an assumption. This would mean that total Russian dead from the war is perhaps 60,000 or more killed. Not sure how we get from there to 120,000.
Third… Ukrainian killed:
The reporting we have on Ukrainian dead is worse than what we have for Russian dead. Now, I am sure the Ukrainians have a better count, but they have not provided any reporting in a very long time (since summer of last year). My sense is that Ukrainian dead is probably less than Russian dead at this point. Maybe 75% of Russian dead, although this is a guesstimate based upon no solid data. So, their estimate of 70,000 Ukrainains versus 120,000 Russian dead sort of matches. It is 58% of the Russian dead or a casualty exchange ratio of 1.71-to-1. I really don’t buy into that. Ukrainian definitely took some casualties in the Kherson operations August-October 2022, possibly more than the Russians. They are on the offensive now against prepared positions. If they have significant artillery superior it is possible they could have a 2-to-1 exchange ratio, but Russia does have some active artillery, as the 47th Mech Bde videos in June showed. So, I do question the 1.71-to-1 exchange ratio.
So, if Russian killed are 60,000, then Ukrainian killed could be 45,000 or higher. I am still guessing that the wounded-to-killed ratio is 4-to-1 or higher. So maybe for Russian 60K killed and 240K wound for 300K casualties (which actually does match the totals in the New York Times article). For Ukraine maybe 45K killed (or more) and at least 180K wounded for a total of 225K casualties or higher.
Of course, these are estimates based upon little actual data. But, while it is hard to tell what the correct estimate is, it is pretty easy to tell if there is an issue with an estimate if they cannot provide a reasonable wounded-to-killed ratio. If they can’t provide a reasonable interpretation of that fairly well documented relationship (again see War by Numbers or Dupuy’s Attrition), then it does make one wonder what can be trusted in such an estimate.
P.S. If you take the estimate of 120K Russian killed and assume 4-to-1 wounded, then you end up with 600,000 casualties which is hard to explain in an army that has only deployed 300,000+ to Ukraine. It does appear that people keep dicking with the wounded-to-killed figures so they can report more killed without producing outrageously high total casualty figures.