Russia has lost roughly 3% to 5% of its tanks, aircraft, artillery and other military assets inside Ukraine — compared to Ukrainian losses of roughly 10% of its capabilities, according to two US officials familiar with the latest intelligence.
US and western officials caution that those ratios are difficult to calculate and likely to change — not only because both sides continue to incur losses as the week-old war grinds on, but also because both Russian and Ukrainian forces are being resupplied.
But the stark imbalance underscores grim assessments from US and western officials that despite a stiffer-than-expected resistance by Ukraine that has kept major cities out of Russian hands, it is still likely to be overwhelmed as Russia launches an intensified and less discriminate phase of its assault.
And even despite western assistance, US officials say Ukraine is still vastly outgunned by Russia. Moscow has initially leaned heavily on its more modern precision cruise missiles, according to a source familiar with the intelligence, heavily degrading Ukraine’s military infrastructure. Meanwhile, Ukraine has continued to burn through its supply of shoulder-fired Javelin missiles.
“I've spoken to Biden many times, and I've told them many times that Ukraine will resist and fight stronger than anyone else but on our own against Russia we won't manage it,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN’s Matthew Chance in an interview on Tuesday.
Ukraine “need[s] the classic bits of kit now. They need bullets, they need bandages. They're going to need fuel. They're going to need ammunition, in addition to the humanitarian support to help with medical assistance, sustaining hospitals, both for combat wounded, and for civilians that are being hurt,” said a senior western intelligence official.
“And they're going to need a lot in ammunition and weapons resupply, because the Russian force is both numerically and qualitatively superior,” this person said.
Almost 6,000 Russian soldiers have died during the first six days of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Zelensky claimed Wednesday morning. The senior western intelligence official said Wednesday morning that the western figure is similar — roughly 5,800 — but cautioned that “my number is from yesterday.”
US officials believe that Russia is now changing tactics, according to one American official. While Moscow started off with a more modern combined arms approach — one that also appeared to eschew targeting civilian infrastructure — it has now shifted to what this official called a strategy of “slow annihilation.” Officials anticipate continued heavy weapons bombardment and the possibility that “tens of thousands” of troops will march on major Ukrainian cities, this person said.
Another western official also said that there is a sense that the conflict may be shifting to a grinding war of attrition — not the flash campaign that both Russian President Vladimir Putin and US intelligence had suspected would cause the fall of Kyiv in a matter of days.