Deaths, defections, and desertions in Russian military are 'much higher' than we realize: Retired general
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C) shakes hands with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko before their meeting with European leaders on Ukraine's crisis, on October 17, 2014 (AFP)

On CNN Thursday, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling suggested that the Russian military deaths and defections NATO is publicly reporting could just be the tip of the iceberg in the invasion of Ukraine.

"The U.S. and allies estimate thousands of Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine so far," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "The highest estimate is 7-10,000 in three weeks of fighting. What does that say about Russia's ability to wage this war?"

"Well, what I'd say, Wolf, first of all is, I think those numbers are exceedingly conservative," said Hertling. "I think there are casualties, not only that are killed in action but Russians who have surrendered who have deserted their equipment, is much higher than that."

RELATED: Russians are 'terrified' Ukraine is receiving drones that could turn the tide of the war: GOP congressman

"Not, you know, focusing on a body counts or anything like that," added Hertling. "But we're seeing a campaign where the Russian military was not prepared to conduct this kind of a conventional operation. Their soldiers have run away from the fight and the only thing left is some of the horrific and inhuman ways that Russia is using artillery and missile and rocket strikes to terrorize the civilians of the great nation of Ukraine."

Watch below:

Mark Hertling says Russian deaths and defections are higher than we know

NOW WATCH: Ted Lieu hilariously shames GOP's failure to discipline members who attended white nationalist conference

Ted Lieu shames GOP's failure to discipline members who attended white nationalist conference