Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

A Report Card on the War in Ukraine

| Feb. 22, 2023

If year two of the war were a carbon copy of the first, Russia would control almost one-third of Ukraine next February.

By now, it is clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has been a grave strategic error. As Napoleon Bonaparte’s former minister of police said of the French leader’s foolish execution of a rival duke, his actions could be described as “worse than a crime … a blunder.” Yet even as Putin’s war has undermined Russia on the geopolitical stage, we should not overlook the fact that Russia has succeeded in severely weakening Ukraine on the ground.

This week, the Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force, which I lead, is releasing a Report Card summarizing where things stand on the battlefield at the end of the first year of Russia’s war. As the Report Card documents, when we measure key indicators including territorial gains and losses, deaths of combatants and civilians, destruction of infrastructure, and economic impact, the brute facts are hard to ignore.

At the battlefield level, if one can remember only three numbers, they are: one-fifth, one-third, and 40 percent.

Since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Russian troops have seized an additional 11 percent of Ukraine’s territory. When combined with land seized from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, that means Russia now controls almost one-fifth of the country. The Ukrainian economy has been crushed, its GDP declining by more than one-third. Ukraine is now dependent on the United States and Western Europe not only for weekly deliveries of weapons and ammunition but also for monthly subsidies to pay its soldiers, officials, and pensioners. Forty percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed or occupied.

The Report Card includes a dozen further indicators that shed light on the outcomes and cost of one year of war in Ukraine. These include one of Kyiv’s most closely held secrets: Ukrainian casualties. Western press coverage of the war has offered little reporting on this issue, but reliable U.S. government estimates count more than 130,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed or severely wounded—approximately the same number Russia has lost from a population more than three times larger than Ukraine’s. In addition, Russian forces have killed more than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians, committed an array of atrocities, and forced nearly 1 in 3 Ukrainian citizens to flee their homes. Today, 8 million Ukrainians are international refugees.

Russia-Ukraine War Report Card, Harvard's Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force.

Russia-Ukraine War Report Card, Harvard's Belfer Russia-Ukraine War Task Force.

About This Analysis & Opinions

A Report Card on the War in Ukraine
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham.“A Report Card on the War in Ukraine.” Foreign Policy, February 22, 2023.