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HomeDEFENCEWill Russia win the battle, lose the war?

Will Russia win the battle, lose the war?

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“People may go to war when they will, but cannot always withdraw when they like,” observed Nicholas Machiavelli — the father of modern political philosophy and political science as well as an authority on military affairs and author of a treatise called The Art of War

Machiavelli is credited to have developed the philosophy of “limited warfare”— which states that war is an extension of politics, when diplomacy fails.

“Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please,” he elaborated in his book on Florence’s history.

This observation holds true in the context of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War – said to be the longest conventional war since World War II.

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Napoleon’s invasion of Russia is a good example of what it means to win all the battles but lose the war. Napoleon had the most powerful army in Europe which defeated the other armies in the Battle of Austerlitz and managed to inflict five times more casualties upon the enemies. Some observers predicted this as a symbol of Napoleon’s decisive victory, but this proved to be their greatest mistake. As Napoleon advanced deeper into Russian territory, his supplies started declining and his army lost the will to fight. Many of his soldiers died due to extreme cold, hunger, or disease. Hence, though Napoleon had the upper hand, it was a stalemate. Napoleon’s army kept losing even more troops and was unable to carry out the final assault, allowing the Russians to quit and withdraw from the battle.

Another example of this kind of defeat and victory is that of Pyrrhus the king of Epirus, (modern day Albania) who was considered a great military leader in his time. Pyrrhus had a very well quipped and strong army when he invaded Italy in 4th century BC. 

Pyrrhus fought in all three battles against the Romans and won all of them, but with huge losses. After the third victory, Pyrrhus understood, that the war was much too costly for him and consuming a huge amount of money and other resources, without any worthwhile gains. He realized, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined”. So he decided to go home with what was left of his army.

This has happened a number of times in history.

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A similar situation cropped up during World War 1 when Bulgaria won all battles and defeated Serbia, Romania, and Russia. But by late 1918 all their allies gave up. The Bulgarians realized that they certainly could not hope to win the war alone and hence decided to withdraw.

Some of the lessons learnt from the current Russo-Ukrainian War are:

  1. Logic and reason are the first casualties of war
  2. You have to live to fight another day
  3. If you start a war, you might bite off more than you can chew and find it difficult to withdraw as and when you like without paying the price for your actions.  

At the time when Russia began the invasion of Ukraine on 23-24 February, many people thought it would end quickly because of Russia’s military strength.

At the time when the war began, the masterminds in Russia were overconfident and seriously believed that the Russian-speaking Ukrainians would throw roses on Russian tanks and shower petals on its soldiers. This has proved to be their biggest miscalculation.

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Putin’s dream behind the invasion was to restore Russia’s pristine glory but has in fact invited international political and economic sanctions. Likewise, Putin promised to reunite the Russians and Ukrainians – whom he considered to be one people (similar heritage, culture, and language); but has ended up making the Ukrainians hate Russia for ruining their country and their homes.

The net result is that Ukraine is not losing this war, while Russia is not winning the war. Russia seems to have lost the war simply by not winning it. The manner in which the Ukrainians have managed to stand up and firmly oppose much stronger and better equipped Russian troops– is itself nothing less than a victory for them.

Speaking to the members of Congress in February, the Chairman of the United States Army Joint Chiefs Mark Milley predicted that Kyiv could fall within 72 hours of the Russian invasion. But the Russian armed forces proved to be much more incompetent, and Ukraine’s army more capable — than he anticipated.

Obviously, Russia’s war in Ukraine lacks punch and is not going on the way it should have.

The Russian army had three times more artillery and 10 times more aircraft still the Ukrainians managed to stop Russia from encircling their capital and inflict an abnormally large number of casualties on the Russian forces.

Also Read:

Russia-Ukraine conflict- expect the unexpected

It might take decades to rebuild Ukraine

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces (left) & Russian Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu (Right)

Russia has reportedly removed a number of top commanders including General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces for failures in Ukraine. Russia’s Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu, one of the popular figures in the initial phase of war, suddenly suffered a ‘heart attack‘ and is not to be seen anymore. This apart, about 20 generals have allegedly been arrested for corruption in defense deals. 

The Russian military has lost a third of its forces, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry.

According to The New York Times, more than 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in the war. However, according to a Ukrainian General Staff statement at least 30,000 Russian soldiers have so far been killed during the war in Ukraine. 

As per the statement, Ukrainian forces have destroyed 207 planes, 174 helicopters, 1,330 tanks, 3,258 armored vehicles, 628 artilleries, 203 rocket launchers, and 93 air-defense systems since the start of the war. In addition to this Russia has lost 2,226 vehicles, 13 ships and light boats, and 503 unmanned aerial vehicles along with 116 cruise missiles, the statement added.

Even if the true damage is only half of all this, it is a big loss – worth billions of dollars considering the fact that each Russian Amarta tank costs $8m, while the Kamov Ka-52M helicopter costs about $15m. The ship-launched Kaliber cruise missiles cost around $1.5m each, while the Iskanders ballistic missile used by Russian ground forces cost around $10m per missile.

In addition to the above, Russia claims to have captured 572 Ukrainian soldiers by 2 March 2022, while Ukraine claims that 562 Russian soldiers were taken prisoners as of 20 March.

Statistics compiled by the US Defense Department reveal that over 7,000 Russian soldiers were killed in the first three weeks of fighting—more than three times the total US service personnel who died in 20 years of fighting in Afghanistan. A recent US intelligence assessment found that Russia lost over 10 percent of its initial invasion force due to a combination of factors like battlefield deaths, injuries, capture, illness, and desertion.

Leon Trotsky, once said: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” As the Russian economy slumps, its people are discovering the truth of this maxim.

Ukraine too has suffered irreparably, heavy losses – in terms of trained soldiers, tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft, and almost all its warships. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy admitted that Ukraine is losing between 60 and 100 service members daily. “The situation is very difficult, we’re losing 60-100 soldiers per day as killed in action and something around 500 people as wounded in action,” he said.

But then Ukraine at least has allies who are sending billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and equipment. Ukraine also has a short and robust supply lines as compared to Russia’s long and fragile supply lines. Most importantly, Ukraine has millions of motivated men and women willing to enlist and fight for their country unlike Russia, which is reportedly hiring mercenaries to fight the war on its behalf.

But probably the biggest and most irreparable damage caused by this war is the number of high ranking commanders and generals killed in combat. These include Lt. Gen. Andrei Mordvichev, commander of the 8th Guards Combined Arms Army, Lt. Gen. Yakov Rezantsev, commander of Russia’s 49th Combined Arms Army, Maj. Gen. Andrey Sukhovetsky, deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army, Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, Chief of Staff of the 41st Combined Arms Army, Maj. Gen. Andrei Kolesnikov, commander of the 29th Combined Arms Army, Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev, commander of the 150th Rifle Division, Maj. Gen. Vladimir Petrovich Frolov Deputy Commander of the 8th Guards Army, Maj. Gen. Andrei Simonov, the deputy commander of the Electronic Warfare Troops of the Russian Armed Forces and Captain Anton Kuprin- the Captain of Russian Ship Moskva, which sank on 14 April.

According to the Institute for the Study of War a non-profit, public policy research organization:

“Mounting casualties among Russian junior officers will likely further degrade Russian capabilities and lead to further morale breakdowns. The UK Ministry of Defense stated on May 30 that Russian forces have suffered devastating losses amongst mid and junior ranking officers. The UK MoD reported that battalion and brigade level officers continue to deploy forwards and into harm’s way—rather than commanding from rear areas and delegating to lower-ranking officers—due to senior Russian officers holding them to an “uncompromising level of responsibility” for their units. The British Defense Ministry further reported that junior officers are in charge of low-level tactical operations due to a lack of professionalism and modernization within the Russian Armed Forces and that the continued losses of these junior officers will complicate command and control efforts, particularly in Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) cobbled together from the survivors of multiple other units… (this) continued demoralization and poor command and control among Russian forces could present Ukrainian forces opportunities to conduct prudent counteroffensives, particularly as the Russian military continues to pour resources into the battle of Severodonetsk at the cost of other lines of effort.”

Also Read: Corruption in Russian military and Putin’s future strategy 

Political analysts say that one of the main reasons why the war in Ukraine has failed to achieve its objective is because of lack of cohesive effort. The initial plan for the invasion was reportedly kept a closely guarded secret by Putin and a handful of his top military and intelligence advisers who were convinced that this would be a ‘special military operation’ and would be over in a few days – in not hours.

The net result was that the Russians weren’t prepared to conquer Ukraine- Europe’s second-largest country in terms of area.

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Neeraj Mahajan
Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.


  1. No race or creed can be united through aggression especially if they love their country. Russia never had such premonitions except in areas dominated by Russian ethnicity like Donbas and Crimea. In this war I agree there will not be any winners. A total devastation of a country and humanity at what cost. A sad reflection on mind sets of nations. US has emerged as the biggest villain


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