Mystics & Statistics

Definition of Limited War

Just for the record, here is the definition of a “limited war” from The Dictionary of Military Terms, by Trevor N. Dupuy, Curt Johnson and Grace P. Hayes (1986). page 137.

Limited war – 1) A war looked upon by one or more of its contestants as not involving its own sovereignty or most vital interests, and as being limited in at least one respect, as, for example, to a particular geographic area, to the employment of certain resources, or to the number of contestants. 2) A war considered by a detached observer as relatively limited in some key respect, especially with regard to political objectives. 

This is still the best dictionary of military terms out there. Vastly superior to what is published by the Pentagon.  

The Russo-Ukrainian War is still a limited war

It may not feel that way to a lot of the participants, but the Russo-Ukrainian War is still a limited war. It is not like WWI or WWII and is not likely the opening shots in WWIII. It is a limited war over limited territorial objectives. For Ukraine, it is nominally a war for national survival, but it is not for Russia.

The economic commitment of two sides is limited. In 2023, Russia committed only 4.1% of its economy to defense spending. I gather it is now about 7% for 2024. Ukraine in 2023 was committing a stated 37% to defense. In a full scale war you would expect to see 25% or more. For the Ukrainian allies, it is a lot less. In all cases, their percent of aid to Ukraine is less than 1% (Estonia provided 1.4% of its GDP in 2022). In most cases, it is well less than 1%. Their actual total defense spending of our NATO allies varies between 1.2 and 3%, with the U.S. spending 3.47% on defense in 2022. The latest U.S. aid package of $61 billion was 0.2 percent of our economy (our GDP is almost 29 Trillion). To put it in dollars and sense terms, if your income was $60,000 a year, it would be like contributing $127 to Ukraine.

And then there is mobilization. The Russian Armed Forces are 1,320,000 or 0.9% of their population of 146 million. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are 1,250,000+ or 3.7% of their population of 33 million. These are not particularly high mobilization figures for Russia and not maximized mobilization for Ukraine. For example, Ukraine is not drafting people under 25. I remember we were sending a lot of 18-year olds to Vietnam (and my older brother did get his draft number). For the record, the U.S. Armed Forces is 1,328,000 or 0.4% of our population of 334 million.

Now the actual size of the forces deployed forward are much smaller. We are estimating 450-617K for the Russians and 300-400K for the Ukrainians.

Although it was clear that the Russian objectives in 2022 were to eliminate Zelenskyy and occupy Kyiv, they have considerably reduced their objectives (thanks to failure of their operations in 2022 and the stiff defense put up by the Ukrainians). Now their objectives are four provinces (Lugansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson) in addition to continuing to hold onto Crimea and Sevastopol. Of those four provinces, Russian currently controls almost all of one and the majority of the territory in the other three. It does not control the capital city or the majority of the population in two of those three provinces. It claims all four and have officially annexed them. Russia has stated that turning over control of these four provinces are the conditions for peace. It will be a while before we see peace there.

Finally, losses are not at WWI and WWII levels. Ukrainian combat killed is at least 30,000 and probably at least twice that.  Russian killed is at least 60,000 and probably higher. Ukrainian civilian deaths are at least 10,000 and probably higher. Total military deaths in WWI were over 9 million. Total military deaths killed in WWII was over 24 million and civilian deaths maybe 49 million. Total killed in Korea was 2-3 million of which 33,686 were U.S. killed and 7,586 were U.S. missing (almost certainly all were killed). Total killed in the Vietnam War was 1 to 2 million, of which 58,281 were U.S. killed and 1,584 are still missing in action. These last two are considered limited wars. 

So yes, the Russo-Ukrainian War is a limited war. It is also a war of national survival for Ukraine, for if they negotiate at a loss (i.e. surrender Lugansk or Donetsk provinces, or conduct a cease fire in place), then there is a high probability that this will not be the last Russo-Ukrainian War. 

People keep referencing us on the 3-to-1 Rule

Several people in their articles have referenced a 3-to-1 rule and then reference us as the source. The latest example is in a German article on Taiwan: Storming Taiwan by force of arms? | Telepolis

Of course, we are the people who are saying the 3-to-1 rule is really not correct. They obviously do not read that far.

This is the reference they use: The Source of the U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule – The Dupuy Institute. My final sentence in that article is “Are we training the next generation of George B. McCellans?”


Various links related to the 3-to-1 rule:

Trevor Dupuy and the 3-1 Rule – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule – The Dupuy Institute

The 3-to-1 Rule in Histories – The Dupuy Institute

The 3-to-1 Rule in Recent History Books – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule versus 243 Battles 1600-1900 – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule versus 49 U.S. Civil War battles – The Dupuy Institute

The U.S. Army Three-to-One Rule versus the 752 Case Division-level Data Base 1904-1991 – The Dupuy Institute

Summation of Force Ratio Posts – The Dupuy Institute

JSTOR, Trevor Dupuy, Combat Data and the 3:1 Rule – The Dupuy Institute

The 3:1 Ratio – The Dupuy Institute

Army- and Division-level force ratio posts – The Dupuy Institute

The 3-to-1 rule and the War in Ukraine – The Dupuy Institute

We have been talking about this for a while. It appears that some people are not listening.




Density of Deployment in Ukraine

It appears that both sides have deployed between 300,000 to 617,000 troops in this war. Putin claimed 617,000 deployed in mid-December. To quote “The front line is over 2,000 kilometers long, there are 617,000 people in the conflict zone.” See: Putin Says Over 600K Russian Servicemen in Ukraine – The Moscow Times. Ukraine shortly afterwards stated it was 450,00. I tend to lean towards the lower figures. As Russian advances over the last six months have been fairly limited, I am guessing that Ukraniain deployment is at least 300,000. It is probably closer to 400,00. They have put out a few figures noticeably higher than this, but if this was the case (and they were deployed forward), then we probably would not be seeing many advances by the Russians. So most likely the deployed figures for both sides are between 300,000 to 450,000. Let’s just use the figure 450,000 for the sake of simplicity.

The effective front line of Ukraine is around 700 kilometers. See: The front is really not 1,200 kilometers long – rev. 1 – The Dupuy Institute. Ukraine obviously has to maintain troops in mobile positions from Chernihiv to Sumy, but there are probably forces still being stood up and trained, with their defense being supplemented by National Guard and Territorial Defense Forces, to be stood up as needed.  There is also the area opposite of the Khakhovka Reservoir, which is only light held by both sides. Then there is the area from the Dnipro River down to Kherson. This is an inactive front, because of the logistics issues caused by the river. While this does have to be held by forces on both sides, they basically have done no major operations since November 2022.  That will almost certainly be the case going forward. So, the active front is only around 700 kilometers (435 miles) 

S0, 450,000 divided by 700 km equals 643 troops per kilometer. This would be 429 per kilometer if there were only 300,000 troops. Obviously, they are not equally distributed across those 700 kilometers, but they really can’t leave large parts of the line seriously undermanned.

So, how does this compare to the last war in Ukraine (1941-1944)? 

During World War II, on the Western Front, the troops were often deployed to a density of 2,000 troops per kilometer of front line. On the Eastern Front in World War II, it was often over 1,000 troops per kilometer. Now we do have a division-level database of 752 cases. Of those, 267 are from the Eastern Front 1943-1945.  Let’s take a look at some examples from that:

For example, before the start of the Battle of Kursk the density of the front was (@ 1800, 4 July 1943):

  • 57th ID: 684 vs 683
  • 255th ID: 467 vs 495
  • 48th PzC (-): 2,458 vs 651
  • 11th PzD+: 1,976 vs 1,038
  • LSSAH GzGrD: 3,763 vs 1,261
  • DR SS PzGrD: 5,207 vs 899
  • T SS PzGrD: 2,416 vs 940
  • 6th PzD+: 2,282 vs 1,168
  • 19th PzD+: 6,086 vs 3,104
  • 7th PzD+: 2,766 vs 558
  • 106th ID: 2,419 vs 511
  • 320th ID: 2,572 vs 540

Just before the Battle of Prokhorovka we have the densities at (@1800, 11 July 1943):

  •  57th ID: 395 vs 483
  • 255th ID: 482 vs 399
  • 332nd ID+: 504 vs 463
  • 48th PZC (-): 1,694 vs 1,353
  • 11th PzD+: 1,669 vs 3,373
  • 167th ID: 725 vs 917
  • T SS PzGrD: 1,371 vs 782
  • LSSAH PzGrD: 2,904 vs 1,692
  • DR SS PrGrD: 1,851 vs 1,291
  • 168th ID: 1,430 vs 282
  • 19th PzD: 1,084 vs 195
  • 6th PzD: 2,077 vs 1,348
  • 7th PzD: 3,701 vs 1,743
  • 198th ID: 1,779 vs 669
  • 106th ID: 1,690 vs 1,658
  • 320th ID: 1,302 vs 1,032

Now, we do have engagements from the fighting around Kharkov in February, March and August of 1943. Some sample cases (again keying of the German unit:

15 February 1943:

  • GD ID: 888 vs 1,143
  • DR SS: 800 vs 1,794

12 March 1943:

  • LSSAH D: 753 vs 473
  • DR SS D: 2,205 vs 450
  • T SS D: 306 vs 2
  • 11th PzD: 914 vs 498

22 August 1943:

  • 106th ID: 1,341 vs 875
  • 320th ID: 1,007 vs 1,210

Now World War I was a lot more dense, especially on the western front. For example:

  • Br 8th Division, 1 July 1916: 8,071 vs 2000 (Battle of the Somme)
  • Dr. Fourth Army (-), 14 July 1916: 10,000 vs 3,333 (Somme)
  • U.S. 4th Bde (+), 6 June 1918: 2,145 vs 1,463 (Belleau Wood)
  • U.S. 3rd Bde, 1 July 1918: 7,118 vs 5,754
  • U.S. 2nd Bde (+), 12 September 1918: 11,007 vs 1,742.
  • U.S. 2nd Div (+), 3 October 1918: 4,063 vs 2,031
  • U.S. 36th Div, 8 October 1918: 4,500 vs 2,500

During the Arab-Israeli Wars we see a lower deployment density, for example, in the 16 engagements in our division-level database from the 1967 war, the densities (for offense) range from 813 to 3,567 men per kilometer (with four exceptions, Mitla Pass, Zaoura-Kala, Jerin and Kabtiya). In the 1973 war we have 32 division-level engagements.  The densities (for offense) range from 444 to 4,900. There are no outliers.

In the 1991 Gulf War, we also see a lower deployment density. In the 15 engagements in our division-level database we have the densities ranging from 89 to 1,200 men per kilometer.

Keep in mind this is a single dimension measurement of a two-dimensional construct. The units also deploy in depth. So, there is not one man standing there every two meters, any more than with a WWII density of 2,000 there are people standing shoulder-to-shoulder across the front line. The minority of troops deployed are shooters.

The main point is that the density is around a fourth of the typical density on the Western Front in WWII. And again, that is in one dimension.

I will leave this blog post without a conclusion, as I am not sure what it should be. For now, this is just an observation.

The front is really not 1,200 kilometers long – rev. 1

Doing a little revision to a previous blog post: The front is really not 1,200 kilometers long – The Dupuy Institute

Lot’s of people throw out the figure that the front line is 1,200 kilometers long. Not really. The length of the border of Ukraine (pre-2014) with Russia is 1,974 kilometers (1,227 miles). This is the land border. The length of the border with Belarus (which I do not think is going to re-enter this contest) is 891 kilometers (554 miles). The entire coastline of Ukraine is 3,783 kilometers (2,351 miles).  I think this last figure includes Crimea.

(courtesy of @War_Mapper)

But, they really are not fighting from Chernihiv to Sumy and have not done so since April 2022. This is a large portion of that 1,200 kilometer figure. They do share a border with Russia so Ukraine obviously has to protect these areas, but there really has not been any fighting in these areas for over two years. We do not expect that will change.

Second, they really cannot do major operations along the Dnipro River from Kherson up to the Kakhovka Reservoir. There was, in the best of times only three bridges across this river, and I gather that number is three less now. This creates supply issues and with all the drones, missiles and air support, hard to see how this is corrected. No one has yet to do any major military operations across the Kakhovka Reservoir. This takes a significant chunk of miles off any active front.

Therefore, for all practical purposes the active front runs from the western border of Kharkiv province over to Kupyansk, down through the Donbas and then through Zaporizhzhia Oblast to the Kakhovka Reservoir. This is about 700 kilometers, vice 1,200.

Here are the measurements we currently have for the front line trace (someone, please check us):

Distance along Kharkiv Oblast border (To Kupyansk): 252.6 kilometers
From Kupyansk to Bakhmut: 153.09 kilometers
From Bakhmut to Vuhledar: 133.64 kilometers
From Vuhledar to Reservoir: 160.97 kilometers
Total = 700.03 kilometers

One kilometer is 0.62 miles. Therefore an active front of roughly 700 kilometers or around 435 miles.

Aces at Kursk should be out in early July

According to Pen & Sword, the printers should be delivering Aces at Kursk next Friday (the 5th of July) to their warehouse, and so the stock should be booked in the week commencing 8th July, all being well.

Right now, Amazon UK is showing its release date as 30 Jan. 2024.  Amazon US is showing the release date as 25 July 2024. Waiting for this to be updated but I gather the UK release date is on or shortly after 8 July 2024. U.S. release date will be later (don’t know how much later). 

Hunting Falcon is also in process and will be released this summer.

Sorry for the delays, these are things not under my control.

Also see:

Aces at Kursk – Chapter Listing – The Dupuy Institute

Aces at Kursk – Summation – The Dupuy Institute



Final Schedule for HADSS 2024

The Historical Analysis for Defence and Security Symposium (HADSS) is scheduled for 8-11 July at the University of York. The final schedule for the conference is here:


Description of the conference is here Historical Analysis for Defence and Security Symposium | ICMS – International Centre for Mathematical Sciences

York seems like a really cool city. I will be at the conference (and presenting). It does appear that registration is closed and they have capped attendance at 45 people.

Our third Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC) is on 8-10 October near Washington, D.C. We are still looking for more presenters and attendees:  

Next Revised Schedule for the Third Historical Analysis Annual Conference (HAAC), 8 – 10 October 2024 – The Dupuy Institute

Day 846 – So how goes the war?

First, no major Russian offensive has appeared. At this point, half way through June, I do not think we are going to see a summer offensive. It is a stagnated war, with the armies nibbling at various parts of the line, but nothing really major happening. Russia is still on the offensive, but their advances to the north of Kharkiv never got past Vovchansk. That front has been static for a week. Russia continues taking some little bits of not-very-significant terrain in the Donbas.

According to @War_Mapper, Russia occupies 17.57% of Ukraine, including Crimea. For the month of May they gained 201 square kilometers of territory. On 1 June the Russian Defense Minister stated that since the start of 2024, they have taken 880 square kilometers. ISW has assessed that it is actually only 752 square kilometers. Fairfax County (where I live) is 1,050 square kilometers. So it is like if they took 71-84% of the Fairfax County in five months, adding in 19% of Fairfax County in the last month. This is not the story of a great military campaign. To put it in national terms, it is as if they took up to 14% of the state of Delaware in the first five months of this year.

It is clear that Russia has hunkered down and is waiting for time, attrition, and U.S. national elections to change the situation politically, and then they can negotiate at an advantage. Putin already thrown out his negotiating terms, which includes that Ukraine cedes four provinces and Crimea and Sevastopol. He holds almost 100% of Lugansk province, and around 60-75% of the other three. In two of these provinces, Ukraine holds the capital cities and majority of the population. So, obviously this is a non-starter for negotiations, but this is kind of how the Soviet Union/Russia has traditionally negotiated. At this point, this war is about land.

There certainly won’t be any negotiated settlement until after November. One of the two main candidates in the U.S. presidential election clearly does not support Ukraine. So this has to play out. After that, there still may not be any serious negotiations. Russia has what it wants for now. They are not likely to compromise. Ukraine does not want to surrender their territory, so they are not likely to compromise. So the war will continue, probably through 2025 and perhaps longer.

Anyhow, my previous relevant post on this subject: There may not be a major Russian spring/summer offensive – The Dupuy Institute