Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Casualties won’t topple Putin

By Timothy Frye

10 Apr 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

Western governments report that Russian losses in the war against Ukraine are approaching 200,000. But why does the Russian public appear largely unmoved? Timothy Frye's insightful analysis in FP.

Western governments report that Russian losses in the war against Ukraine are approaching a staggering 200,000 killed or wounded, with roughly 40,000 dead. These figures are almost three times greater than the death toll Moscow saw in 10 years of war in Afghanistan. These massive losses, however, have led to little public protest in Russia. Why?

Media coverage of casualties during the Vietnam War steadily eroded support for the war in the United States. By contrast, the Russian government and state media rarely mention the scale of the casualties, and we do not know what the Russian public knows about these losses. But hiding losses of this magnitude will only get harder. Wounded soldiers are returning home and telling tales of life and death at the front, and those killed in action have friends and families. As more people learn about the size of losses, support for the war will be harder to sustain.

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