Mar 8, 2022 - World

U.S. estimates 2,000 to 4,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine war

The U.S. assesses with "low confidence" that between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops have been killed over the course of Vladimir Putin's 12-day war in Ukraine, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier testified Tuesday.

Why it matters: The estimated number of casualties is "far in excess" of what Russia anticipated or has publicly acknowledged, according to U.S. intelligence officials. Putin has still not achieved his initial goal — seizing Kyiv within two days — and may turn to more brutal tactics in the coming days and weeks.

The big picture: Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified at Congress' annual worldwide threats hearing that Russia "underestimated the strength of Ukraine's resistance and the degree of internal military challenges," which include "an ill-constructed plan" and issues with morale and logistics.

  • The U.S. intelligence community also assesses that Putin did not anticipate the rapid and united global response to the invasion, especially from Europe and the flood of private companies that have pulled out of Russia.
  • What remains "unclear" is whether Russia will continue to pursue a "maximalist plan to capture all or most of Ukraine," which will require more resources and be especially challenging given the likelihood of a "persistent and significant insurgency," Haines said.

By the numbers: Away from the congressional hearing, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters that approximately 5% of Russia's weapons and vehicles have been destroyed or "rendered inoperable" during the war.

What to watch: Despite the setbacks, the U.S. believes Putin is unlikely to be deterred and may escalate his assault on heavily populated civilian areas.

  • "He's likely to double down and grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties," CIA Director Bill Burns testified, describing Putin as "angry and frustrated."
  • The situation in Kyiv could become desperate as Russia ramps up its assault, Berrier warned. The U.S. assesses the capital has about two weeks of supplies left.
  • Burns stressed, however, that Putin "has no sustainable political end game in the face of what is going to continue to be fierce resistance from Ukrainians," and that the CIA feels it's unlikely he can install a stable puppet regime in Kyiv.

Between the lines: Burns said that China's leadership appears "unsettled" by the brutality of Russia's invasion, as well as by the degree to which the U.S. and EU have been united at a time when Beijing believed it was driving a wedge in the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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