Amid the threat of a Russian invasion, what is the capacity of the Ukrainian army?

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Ukraine’s military might has improved since Russian-backed rebels took control of the eastern part of the country in 2014 – but Russia still eclipses it by comparison.

More than 90,000 Russian troops have been deployed by Moscow along its border with Ukraine, a country whose pro-Western policies have unleashed Vladimir Putin’s ire. In an April article, the Russian leader signaled that Moscow would not allow Kiev to be part of the Western Alliance – be it the European Union or NATO.

While Kiev – which was also the capital of Russia’s first state since the 9th century – relies on the support of the U.S.-led Western alliance, Moscow seems to have little doubt about the success of any kind of invasion.

Despite being armed by Western countries since 2014, when pro-Russian rebels took control of eastern Ukraine from central government forces, there is little that Kiev can do to change the situation. political status in the heavily Russian-speaking part of the country.

Russia and its surrogates have already invaded parts of Ukraine. (Fatih Uzun / TRTWorld)

However, this does not mean that the Ukrainians do not have military capabilities. But in everything from the number of tanks to the strength of the air force and active military personnel, Russia is eclipsing Ukraine.

Here is a brief overview of Ukraine’s weapons as well as its workforce.

Ukraine’s military might

Kiev has nearly 255,000 active soldiers alongside 900,000 reservists, which is a high number for a country the size of Ukraine (just over 44 million inhabitants). But Russia’s total strength, including reservists, exceeds three million, more than that of the United States, the most powerful armed force in the world.

Ukraine has a lot of tanks and is ranked 13th in the world with 2,430. In terms of armored vehicles, Kiev also ranks first, occupying seventh in the world with 11,435. Kiev’s artillery power is also formidable. with 2,040 batteries. But compared to Russia, which has the largest tank repertoire in the world and being the third largest artillery power, that’s not much.

But Matthew Bryza, the former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, a diplomat who knows Russia and its ties to former Soviet republics like Ukraine very well, believes that “the Ukrainian army has turned out to be a very fighting force. effective since 2014 ”.

“He acquired all kinds of new military technology, weapons and of course Turkish drones but also anti-tank javelin missiles from the United States. The Ukrainian army simply gained experience on the ground, showing great worth and effectiveness on the battlefield, ”he said. TRT World.

The Ukrainian army has become a better force since Russian-backed rebels claimed eastern Ukraine in Kiev.  But he cannot resist a full-fledged Russian invasion according to experts.

The Ukrainian army has become a better force since Russian-backed rebels claimed eastern Ukraine in Kiev. But he cannot resist a full-fledged Russian invasion according to experts. (Serhiy Takhmazov / Reuters)

In 2019, Kiev acquired Turkish drones, which showed their military prowess on various battlefields, from Libya to Syria and more recently in the Azerbaijani region of Karabakh disputed between Baku and Yerevan.

Also last month, Ukraine’s parliament ratified the country’s crucial deal with Turkey, guaranteeing Turkish military aid to Kiev. Turkey will assist the Ukrainian army as it assisted the Azerbaijani armed forces in their successful fight against the Armenian occupation forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

But in a potential conflict between Russia and Ukraine, experts believe Turkey will not be involved as it was when Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war.

While Bryza believes the Ukrainian army has improved since 2014, he still believes that “Ukraine can never defeat a full Russian invasion.” But a possible Russian invasion will cost Moscow dearly in financial and military terms, Bryza said. As a result, the Russians would not resort to such a costly adventure against Ukraine, he believes.

Gregory Simons, associate professor at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University, believes it will be a handicap for Russia and that they will have “nothing to gain” from it. He notes that Russia will be condemned as an aggressor on the grounds that it is not attacked by Ukraine.

Do the Ukrainians want to fight?

Simons also believes that military capabilities only make sense when a nation and its military are willing to fight a possible invasion with a united front. Ukrainians cannot “fight a good fight” against the Russians because of divisions in society, according to Simons.

Accounts differ as to who Ukrainians are because of the country’s complicated history. Parts of present-day Ukraine were once under the Former Austro-Hungarian Empire, while others were ruled by the Former Russian Empire and Poland respectively.

Even during World War II, some ancestors of present-day Ukrainians fought alongside Nazi Germany against the Soviets while others appeared to remain loyal to Moscow. This past still hangs over the country as some strongly pro-Western neo-Nazi groups swear to fight Russia, even helping to form militias like the Azov Battalion.

Members of the Azov Battalion are seen during a military activity.  Members of the battalion are known for their staunch anti-Russian views.

Members of the Azov Battalion are seen during a military activity. Members of the battalion are known for their staunch anti-Russian views. (Efrem Lukatsky / Archives AP)

Now, strangely enough, the United States and its allies could find themselves in the awkward position of supporting far-right Ukrainian militias against Putin’s Russia to save their ally from aggression from Moscow.

While “ideologically motivated” groups such as the Azovs might want to fight the Russians, average Ukrainians are “skeptical” of a fight with Moscow, observes Simons. Having been a part of Ukrainian society as a whole, many Ukrainian soldiers will also have doubts about the fight, he said. TRT World.

The Western bloc wants to believe that with a lot of arms and manpower, the Ukrainians will not easily surrender to the Russians. But Simons points out that “if the soldiers don’t have the will to fight,” it won’t make much of a difference.

He gives as an example the failure of the anti-Communist South Vietnamese government backed by the United States. Despite having a lot of soldiers and military equipment, Saigon could not resist the Vietnamese communist forces. He also gives the most recent example of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.

He also draws attention to “a growing rift” between Volodymyr Zelensky’s government and the average Ukrainian citizen, most of whom Ukrainian soldiers come from.

In terms of resistance to Russia, Ukraine’s problems are not limited to questions of national identity. Moscow is not only a country culturally close to Kiev due to the historical ties between the two predominantly Slavic nations with a common Orthodox Christian faith, but also a difficult foe, who did not lose many wars in the two last centuries.

Neither Napoleon’s Imperial Army nor Hitler’s Nazi forces were able to defeat Moscow. But the US-backed Afghan Mujahedin fought against Moscow in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union ruled the vast lands of Russia and ultimately had to withdraw from the country.

Some Western analysts predict that even if the Russians manage to defeat Kiev, Ukrainian anti-Russian militias dominated by far-right elements could wage a bloody guerrilla war against invading Russian forces, inflicting heavy casualties.

Simons sees a lot of “presumptive thinking” in these predictions. “Maybe it could be,” he said. But he thinks that compared to the conditions of WWII, a lot has changed in today’s Ukraine, where young people may not find enough motivation to fight Russia.

But Bryza disagrees with Simons on the Ukrainian will to fight. “Of course, the Ukrainians don’t want to have to fight with the Russian army. But if Russia invades, they will certainly fight, ”said the former US diplomat.

“They will fight hard and effectively. They will impose heavy losses on the Russian forces and Putin understands that. ”

Source: TRT World


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