Category Russia

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. 

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.

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

The end of the flat tax in Russia

Russia is one of those few places on the planet that implemented a flat-tax system, a darling idea of the American neo-conservative movement in the 1980s that never really did pass the smell test (forgive me for getting a little political). But, by one of the accidents of nature, several U.S. conservative economic advisors got the ear of the people managing and mismanaging the Russian economy in the 1990s and convinced them to establish a flat tax there. This was before Putin was in charge.

As the Russian economy grew through the booming oil and gas industries, Russian tax revenues from those sources boomed, to the point where over half of the government income came from the revenues from the oil and gas industry. Therefore, they were able to maintain their 13% flax tax system throughout Putin’s regime. This was odd, but it has been the case there for around three decades. It was one of the 26 countries/entities (including Transnistria and South Ossetia) on the planet able to live with a flat tax (which includes Ukraine (19.5%) and four NATO countries: Bulgaria (10%), Romania (10%), Hungary (15%) and Estonia (20%)).

This is no longer the case. In 2021 they imposed a slightly higher tax rate of 15% on those making more than 5 million rubles a year. (1 dollar = 89 rubles, $56K a year). They kept the flat tax rate at 13% for the rest. This was before there was a war in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine did mess up the Russian government budget, as they were collecting less money from the oil industry because of sanctions and sometimes lower oil prices, while their own expenditures grew. This has finally caused the system to crack, resulting in them raising taxes. See: Russia Is Preparing New Tax Hikes. Here’s Why. – The Moscow Times

This well done article provides for the following tax rates:

  • less the 2.4 million a year – taxes at 13%
  • 2.4 million to 5 million rubles — taxed at 15%
  • 5 million to 20 million rubles — taxed at 18%
  • 20 million to 50 million rubles — taxed at 20%
  • 50 million rubles or higher — taxed at 22%

The average annual income in Russia is around 900,000 rubles a year ($9,960). 50 million rubles is an annual income of around 562,000 dollars.  This is still considerably lower than U.S. tax rates.

Most Russians are not affected by this tax increase. They expect around 2 million people, or about 3% of their population, will be affected by this tax increase. The majority of those higher income earners live in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the majority of the people in those two central cities do not support Putin. So, political impact has been (deliberately) minimized.

The Russian corporate tax rate is rising from 20% to 25%. The current U.S. corporate tax rate is 21%.

Anyhow, it is worth reading the entire article. 

 

Putin releases captured figures

Update on the number of captured: “At a meeting in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Putin told the heads of several international news agencies that there are 1,348 Russian troops and officers in captivity in Ukraine compared to the 6,465 Ukrainians in Russian detention.” See: Putin makes rare claim on Ukraine war casualties (msn.com)

Now, I find these figures to be entirely believable. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed as of 30 June 2022 to be holding 6,000 Ukrainians soldiers in captivity. This was partly confirmed in July 2022 when the Ukrainian missing person commissioner stated on TV that more than 7,000 people were missing, including soldiers, National Guardsmen, border guards and intelligence officers. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy stated on 19 September that the Russians held more prisoners than Ukraine did (see: The Battle for Kyiv, page 185). There were maybe 2,439 that surrendered at Mariupol in late May 2022. There have been other people captured in the two years since then. The prisoner exchanges have traded at least 2,800 Russians soldiers and civilians for 3,001 Ukrainians soldiers and 145 civilians. Plus there were some Ukrainians who died while captivity. Anyhow, it all seems to add up, although it could be on the high side, and the figure of 6,465 probably includes some civilians.

On the other hand, his assertion that he has lost in combat only one Russian for five Ukrainians is absurd. It is as absurd as some of the bizarrely lopsided casualties claims that Ukraine is exchanging casualties at a 3-to-1 to 5-to-1 ratio in their favor. 

The Russian march tables for Kyiv

What has been released by Ukrainian intelligence is the Russian march tables for the forces coming down from Belarus and down to Kyiv. It was only the first page, so was not complete.

The units are listed down the left and the locations they are supposed to be at are listed across the top. The times are all the numbers on the chart.

Now, a few things can be derived from this.

First, it gives us a partial order of battle. They list 19 units on this chart, and we gather there is a second page that lists the rest. Listed are the 5th Guards Tank Brigade and the 76th Air Assault Division.

Second, that order of battle does not include the third battalion of any of the air assault regiments. So they list 1/104th, 2/104th, 1/234th, 2/234th, 1/237th and 2/237th… but no 3rd battalion for any of these regiments. This is because, we believe the 3rd battalion were manned by conscripts and according to Russian law, they cannot be deployed outside of Russia. Therefore, they are not. We believe that this is the case for all air assault units. This is partly the reason why these air assault forces have not played a larger role in this campaign. An air assault division does not have an armor battalion, so if their third battalion in each regiment remains at home, then a division at best fields six maneuver battalions. A number of the divisions (98th and 106th) have only two regiments. Therefore, they field only 4 maneuver battalions. Most Ukrainian brigades field at least 4 maneuver battalions.

Third, it is clear from their planning that they intended to be on the outskirts of Kyiv the afternoon of the 24th in force in three separate locations.

Fourth, this is not what happened. They did all get to their final destinations, but almost 24 hours later. So, their carefully calculated march tables turned out to be too fast by a factor of two, meaning it took them two days to get to their objectives when they were planning on one.

Fifth, this, of course, is a classic case of Clausewitzian friction in action.

Sixth, the fact that it took them two days, when they were planning on one, gave the Ukrainians time to organize a defense.

Seventh, once their got to their destinations, they really did not do much after that, because the routes were now well defended.

One does wonder if the “Ukrainians” got hold of this march order before or after the 24th of February.

Eighth, this does raise an issue related to the captured of Hostomel airport. Some accounts have claimed that the Ukrainians had seized the entire airport in the counterattack and then held it. Yet, these forces continue on their march as if that never happened. Furthermore, some of these forces were marching right by the airport. If the Ukrainians had seized the airport, then you think some of these forces would have been diverted. It does not appear that they were. Therefore, we concluded that Ukraine did not seize and hold Hostomel Airport for any extended period of time. They clearly counter attacked there, but the extent of that attack is not really known. It was probably not as successful as some have claimed.

As I note in my book (page 104) “Between 2000 and 2200 Kyiv time [24 February 2022], it was reported that the Ukrainians had retaken the airport, but this may not have been entirely the case. It does appear that they made some progress in closing with the Russian defenders and neutralizing the airstrip. By 1400 the next day, Russia declared that it had control of the airport. The airport and the neighboring town of Hostomel (population 17,534) now appeared to be in Russian hands.”

Ninth: March route was between 186 to 223 kilometers.

Tenth: The number of vehicles was 495. Imagine that in a line. These are long columns winding their way down two-line highways. There were additional units to these.

A translation of this table is provided here. It was translated by Sasho Todorov, who originally brought this chart to my attention: Transcribed Time Table 5th Tank Bde and 76th VDV Div

Related posts:

The Russian First Tank Army Report from 24 February – 15 March 2022 – The Dupuy Institute

Tank Losses and Crew Casualties in the Russo-Ukrainian War – The Dupuy Institute

Russia withdraws from Kharkiv province?

It appears that Ukraine has retaken parts of Kharkiv province: Zelenskiy Confirms Ukrainian Forces Regain Control Over Kharkiv Border Amid Russian Offensive (msn.com). The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelelskyy, announced on Friday (24 May) that Ukraine had retaken control over the border areas. Russia is still claiming to control half of Vovchansk, which is 3 miles (5 km) inside the Ukrainian border. 

Map of Vovchansk area (courtesy of @War_Mapper).

My conclusion is that this Kharkiv attack was a diversion. Not sure I believe the claims of high Russian losses.

There is still fighting around Kupiansk and in the Pokrovsk sector (in the center of front in the Donbas region, to the west of Bakhmut, Donetsk and Avdiivka). See: General Staff: Most Combat Engagements Recorded In Pokrovsk Sector (menafn.com) and Ukrainian defenders hit 16 clusters of Russian military personnel – General Staff (msn.com). There is fighting around Ocehretyne, which is less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) NW of Avdiivka (which is just NW of Donetsk).

(courtesy of @War_Mapper).

I am beginning to think I might actually be right about this: There may not be a major Russian spring/summer offensive – The Dupuy Institute

There is a Rusi article on the subject that I am not sure of: In Ukraine, Russia is Beginning to Compound Advantages | Royal United Services Institute (rusi.org)

First, where does the figure of 510,000 troops come from?

Then the is the issue of the length of the front. They are saying 1,200 kilometers. That is really not a properly representative figure. If Kharkiv province is back of list of contested areas west of Kupyansk, then we are really looking at a front from Kupyansk to Kakhovka Reservoir of maybe 400-500 kilometers (250 – 300 miles). This is the action front. Vovchansk is around 80 kilometers from Kupyansk. See: The front is really not 1,200 kilometers long – The Dupuy Institute

In the end nibbling is not the same as a major offensive.