Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis mocked the Russian military’s progress in Ukraine in a speech before the Seoul Forum for International Affairs on Friday.
In his remarks reported by CNN, Mattis said Russia’s military performance in Ukraine has been “pathetic” and called the ongoing invasion “the immoral, the tactically incompetent, operationally stupid and strategically foolish effort.”
Mattis described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a man acting out of fear and anger, who has rejected U.S. efforts to integrate Russia into the “community of nations.”
“The tragedy of our time is that Putin is a creature straight out of Dostoevsky,” Mattis said, referring to the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. “[Putin] goes to bed every night angry, he goes to bed every night fearful, he goes to bed every night thinking that Russia is surrounded by nightmares and this has guided him.”
It’s difficult to confirm precise tallies of troops and military equipment lost throughout the Russia-Ukraine war, and each side rarely provides figures for their own losses. According to the latest Ukrainian estimates, Russia has lost more than 36,000 troops in the fighting in Ukraine since the end of February. In mid-June the U.S. estimated around 16,000 Russian soldiers had been killed, CNN reported.
Oryx, an organization that has worked to collect photographic evidence of the actual combat losses in Ukraine has documented 4,573 pieces of Russian equipment lost, including 2,781 vehicles damaged, 98 damaged, 327 abandoned and 1,367 captured.
Ukrainian battlefield successes have come with the help of military equipment from the U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. The U.S. has also reportedly supplied intelligence to the Ukrainian side to help them attack key targets, such as the headquarters of Russian military and a Russian warship.
Several high-ranking Russian officers have also been killed in the fighting in Ukraine, including multiple generals.
When asked what lessons military strategists could take from Russia’s ongoing campaign in Ukraine, Mattis said, “One is don’t have incompetent generals in charge of your operations.”
Mattis, a retired four-star U.S. Marine general, also claimed Russia has faced increased geopolitical isolation since it launched its invasion of Ukraine.
“We have a saying in America,” Mattis said. “We say that nations with allies thrive, nations without allies wither and we’re watching Russia wither before our eyes right now.”
The U.S. and other countries have issued dozens of new sanctions against Russian officials since the invasion of Ukraine began.