Journalists and think tanks are tracking the war in Ukraine with varying degrees of expertise. In addition to open-source intelligence (watching the press and social media and trying to validate items) and commercial satellite imagery, they are using the press releases of various governments.

This leads to things like the ISW quoting the WSJ quoting an unnamed NATO official that Russia has lost 40,000 out of their 190,000 deployed troops (killed, wounded, prisoners). ISW then writes that those 190,000 are the majority of the deployable battalion tactical groups available to Russia.

There are some reports of the Russian National Guard internal security forces being deployed, but I can make no sense of the numbers. Are the deployed numbers of the National Guard significant (presumably not included in the 190,000 estimate above) and have they suffered significant losses (on top of the 40,000 estimate above)?


2 Answers 2


Russian ground forces have 280k soldiers.

Any army has a large proportion of teeth-to-tail i.e. you have training troops, home logistics, base security, troops that are critical elsewhere, etc...

The US could not field 190k/280k front line troops. Russia may tend to privilege front line power compared to logistics, but nevertheless those 190k troops must represent most of their available troops, minus calling up conscript reservists.

40k casualties? Possible, seems high, but who knows, really. Thing is, that level of attrition, even on a highly motivated army, would really start to hit morale and combat effectiveness. Troops almost never fight to the last man.

The Russian army is carrying out a war they weren't told to be expecting, for unclear reasons, and they are attacking rather than defending their home territory.

That level of loss, if it is really taking place, must be impacting their direct combat capability to a very high extent. Troops manning artillery or in entrenched positions would be less affected, but offensive operations would be hard to keep up.

Note also that this effect applies regardless of which forces constitute those 190k. If they include National Guard units then those units are also degraded. Or airborne, or whatever. What's left is not the pure numbers obtained by subtracting the losses from the initial forces.

The 190k do include soldiers from other branches, such as the air force or the navy ships operating in the Black Sea. Still, there can't be too much gas left in the tank at this point.

Extra branches

The National Guard: 340k

But I don't think they are that comparable to say the US National Guard, as they include things like riot police and crowd control. As a whole, they don't seem necessarily equipped, trained or motivated to operate in combat operation, though they could take over security in controlled areas. They're also Putin's personal guard in some ways so their use abroad also takes them away from home, managing protesters for example.

Russian Marine Infantry: 12k

There was a question about Russian Marines on SE.History IIRC and why they were so much smaller than their US counterpart. They're not going to move the needle all that much either.

Airborne: 45k

Special forces : listed by wiki as classified

Spetsnaz, an umbrella term for special forces, but a subset of the branch above, is estimated as at most 17k by one resource.


I can't really speculate on what bringing up the conscript reservists would change to the numbers, but some things need to be kept in mind:

  • conscripts, especially reservists, are less combat-effective
  • they come at a real political cost to Putin, especially as they are legally not supposed to be used abroad. That's true for serving conscripts in any case.
  • they are some months away from being usable in Ukraine.

Bottom line - probably most already committed:

150-190k is a huge proportion of what I expect would be available as ground combat troops. I am not saying there is nothing left, but don't make the calculation of 190k/800k (total Russian armed forces) means that Russia is only 25-30% committed.

The US "only" put in 100-ish k into Iraq for example, with a much bigger army (US armed forces were about 1.4M at the time). And look at the paltry numbers the EU aims to get with a rapid reaction force: 60k (2003 numbers).

p.s. to give an idea of KIA vs wounded for the US they are about 1-10.

In the first 6.5 years of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), U.S. military casualties exceeded 3,400 hostile deaths, 800 nonhostile deaths (due to disease, nonbattle injury, and other causes), and over 31,000 troops wounded in action.

So the 500 Russian deaths admitted to several weeks back could by themselves easily mean 2000-3000 wounded, of various severity.

  • 1
    Yes, there are also claims of deserters. Everyone is guessing at things, but on the general idea: what was committed is a sizable proportion of Russian army power. Regardless of the losses. Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 18:43
  • My question was about the number of National Guard troops which to bolster the regular army in rear-area security roles (presumably). That would change the 190k/280k baseline. Also, Airborne, SOF and Marines are not technically ground forces for the Russians.
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 18:55
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    @Schmuddi It's an order of magnitude idea showing how much combat troops a Western army can put out from given overall national forces. And I certainly don't want to bring in anything recent because right now everyone is talking of NATO/EU forces to put in reserves "just in case". Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 19:34
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    I'm sure the higher estimates would include things like conscripts leaving when they discovered things weren't as they were told. I'm sure estimates, years from now, will cover a huge range. Nice job tracking down estimates of troop availability. +1 Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 20:46
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    The 1-10 KIA v wounded, for the US, is probably indicative of a high survival rate for the wounded. I don't think this is typical for other countries.
    – wrod
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 22:25

I cannot find any specific number about Rosgvardia deployments in Ukraine, or their loses.

But as a qualitative answer, there have been Rosgvardia columns ambushed and they lost most of their vehicles involved on such occasions, because they are unsuitable to fight back against ambushes. Example near Kharkiv of a column consisting mostly of armored trucks (which have no external weapon systems). The regular army BTGs generally deploy infantry in at least in MT-LBs (or better BTRs, BMPs). So, yes, 2nd line internal security troops have been deployed and killed in Ukraine. But separate estimates for losses among these specifically are hard to find.

It seems that many of such troops that previously were under the MVD such as OMON, Vityaz, and SOBR groups, and which did take part in military operations before (at least counter-insurgency) in Chechnya etc., were transferred under Rosgvardia authority, after it was formed. Various OMON and SOBR units were apparently also involved in the early fighting around Kyiv.

Counting the 190,000 troops that were positioned around Ukraine (at the start of the invastion) as being all BTGs is probably a mistake though. According to the NYT that figure included the armed Russian separatists from Donbass.

Feb. 19, 2022

The United States now believes that Russia has as many as 190,000 troops in or near Ukraine, nearly twice as many as there were in January, according to an assessment made public on Friday by Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

That was a significantly higher number than the 150,000 troops President Biden referred to earlier this week, and the 100,000 in January.

But American officials said the new number includes some forces that were not previously counted — most notably Russian forces in Crimea, as well as separatist forces led by Russian military officers in the Donbas region, a portion of eastern Ukraine they have controlled since 2014. The officials did not provide a breakdown of these forces.

The new number also includes some additional forces that have moved into Belarus, according to American officials briefed on the intelligence. And the combat forces have increased, according to a defense official. There are now between 120 and 125 battalion tactical groups, up from 83 earlier in February.

Counting Russian forces is an imprecise science. The size of Russian battalions can vary, depending on their role.

It's hard to know how many of those were separatists given the above, but Wikipedia puts the total armed forces of the separatists at some 44,000. Also a BTG has 600-800 men, or at most 1,000, depending which source you want to believe. So, 125 BTGs would still be like 125,000 troops at the most, with the rest being from other formations.

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