Russia has a 'high tolerance' for losses after losing 100s of aircraft, 1000s of tanks, and more than 300,000 men in Ukraine, NATO chief says

Russian vehicles in a field smoke with a big explosion
A still from footage filmed near Avdiivka and released on Sunday shows hits on Russian vehicles.110th Separate Mechanized Brigade
  • Russia's losses in Ukraine include more than 300,000 casualties, NATO's chief said.

  • Since the invasion, Russia has become "weaker politically, militarily, and economically," he said.

  • But Jens Stoltenberg warned that this doesn't mean Russia will stop.

Russia has a "high tolerance for casualties" after losing a substantial amount of aircraft, tanks, and troops in Ukraine, the head of NATO said on Wednesday, adding that the country is suffering economically and politically, but still can't be underestimated.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the Western military alliance, outlined how Russia had changed since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

"As Ukraine has moved forward, Russia has fallen backward. It is now weaker politically, militarily, and economically," he said.

Russia's military "has lost a substantial part of its conventional forces. Hundreds of aircraft. Thousands of tanks. And more than 300,000 casualties," Stoltenberg said.

He also said that Russia was losing its influence with the countries near it, including in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and is becoming much more dependent on China.

"Year by year, Moscow is mortgaging its future to Beijing," he said.

Stoltenberg added that, economically, Russia is also under pressure. "Oil and gas revenues are dropping. Russian banking assets are under sanctions. Over 1,000 foreign companies have stopped or scaled down their operations in the country. And 1.3 million people left Russia last year," he said.

"All of this underlines Putin's strategic mistake in invading Ukraine," he said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Stoltenberg warned against thinking that Russia would stop its invasion as a result of all this, stating that "we must not underestimate Russia."

"Russia's economy is on a war footing," he added. "Putin has a high tolerance for casualties. And Russian aims in Ukraine have not changed."

Russia expected to conquer Ukraine in a matter of days, but was instead pushed back to the east, where it has been fighting a grinding war against Ukrainian forces.

Others have also warned that Putin looks unlikely to give up on his war efforts unless he can find a way that can be positioned as a Russian win.

This could include getting some territory from Ukraine, something Ukraine said it is not willing to accept and that's unlikely to actually stop Russia.

A Ukrainian negotiator said this month that Russia had offered to stop its invasion in spring 2022 if Ukraine abandoned its goal of joining NATO, but that there was a lack of trust in Russia's sincerity.

Experts agree with Stoltenberg's assessments of Russia.

Experts told Business Insider that Russia's relationships with some of its closest allies have become strained since it launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Its military, from its navy to its ground forces and elite airborne troops, has also been steadily degraded according to numerous experts and Western intelligence.

A Kremlin spokesperson said earlier this month that Russia was on the brink of economic collapse last year.

Putin's plan, according to many observers, is probably to continue to push through despite losses while waiting for Ukraine and its allies to become exhausted.

Ukraine is increasingly worried that its allies, including the US and EU countries, are getting tired. Next year's US presidential election is also a source of concern.

But foreign ministers of NATO countries said on Wednesday that they will continue to support Ukraine "for as long as it takes."

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