With the recent anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, let’s examine a small data set that tells a larger story and supports the Clausewitzian Theory, that defense is a stronger form of war, even though it serves a negative objective.
Since February 24, 2002, Russia has launched a multi-pronged invasion of sovereign Ukraine. Russia’s force while superior in numbers entered a quagmire and failed to reach its objective of reaching and seizing Kiev. On nearly every metric Russia has sustained greater losses than Ukraine. To demonstrate this, I have decided to take a large body of information, based on “Russia’s attack on Europe,” by Oryx. The data portal measures a multitude of daily losses. To tell a large story by telling a small story I will focus on measuring just losses of tanks.
While the loss of soldiers is closely guarded by both regimes, equipment losses are open source and well tracked through photographic and satellite information. This report supports two separate but related theories.
- Theory one: A smaller force can use asymmetric warfare to counter a larger force through strategy, preparation and understanding of the terrain.
- Calusewitian Theory: Defense is the stronger form of war, even Though it serves a negative objective.
At the start of the invasion Russia had superior numbers of tanks to Ukraine. By applying asymmetric tactics Ukraine denied Russia access to Ukrainian territories by destroying bridges and disrupting supply lines. Russia’s armor assets were seen on drone footage in columns on the side of roads waiting for engineering assets to bodies of water to carry out attacks. Many convoys during this period were eliminated by Ukrainian attack drones and other inexpensive systems including, land mines, artillery, and anti-tank weapons.
By using pivot tables I was able to concentrate my efforts on my objective of just calculating tank losses by each nation. As recent as 3/27/ 2023, it was noted that total Russian tank losses were 438,361while Ukrainian tank losses were 111,313, Russia’s losses of tanks were nearly four times higher than Ukrainian losses.
While a four-fold loss is easy to comprehend, for some the numbers are best told through visuals. To visualize the comparison, I created a bar graph. To accomplish this, I broke down the large body of info using a simple pivot table and uploaded it into Tableau.
The data supports the theories found in both Asymmetric warfare advantage as well as the Clausewitzian theory that places the advantage to the defender. What Russia thought would be a Blitzkrieg type attack turned out to be a graveyard for Russian equipment. Advancing on reinforced defenses relies on speed, surprise and violence of action, something Russia did not possess in its tactics.
One element not captured in the data and perhaps unquantifiable is a peoples’ willingness to defend their country versus an undisciplined, ill equipped invading force. But one thing is for sure, Russia has sustained greater losses than Ukraine in nearly every category on losses of valuable equipment.