The stalemate in Crimea has not escalated to military-versus-military violence, at least in part because Ukrainian leaders must recognize that against Russia it has few military options.
In 2008, the Republic of Georgia took military action against separatist elements formally within its own borders. The Russian army then directly engaged in the fighting alongside the separatists, and it turned out badly for Georgia: its forces were crushed.
It has not been a big step for commentators to draw parallels with the current situation in Crimea. But while the Ukrainian military is far better equipped and trained than Georgia’s, security experts say the Ukrainian armed forces are falling short of Russia.
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“This is really not a competition. The size of the Russian forces is just too big, and the Ukrainians must know that,” said Peter Felstead, editor-in-chief of Jane’s Defense Weekly, a publication focused on global military issues, equipment and strategy.
Russian armored personnel carriers were heading for Simferopol in Crimea, Ukraine.
Bulent Doruk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Russia carried out a series of bloodless takeovers of Ukrainian military facilities on Monday, seizing a naval missile base, air base, military hospital and other facilities, according to a report by The New York Times.
The Ukrainian navy is vastly outnumbered in Crimea itself by the Russian navy, which operates its Black Sea fleet outside the province. Ukraine has 19 warships there, but the Russians have at least double the number in the Black Sea region and 10 times more ready within a few days of travel.
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The disparity in military attack aircraft is even more in Russia’s favor: 5 to 1. Russian pilots also have more experience and more flying hours than their Ukrainian counterparts.
Both air forces have similar planes, primarily MiG fighters and Sukhois, both of which have a reputation for being fast in the air, capable of performing complicated maneuvers and carrying deadly payloads for air combat. air and air-to-ground.
Russia’s military budget eclipses Ukraine’s, Felstead told CNBC. “Russia spends over $ 70 billion a year on its military, Ukraine only $ 2 billion,” he said.
He added that he believes that Russian troops deployed in Crimea are not ordinary base soldiers. “They are elite Russian forces, very motivated troops,” he said.
Russian and Ukrainian troops used to train together on the ground, in the air and at sea. This is unlikely to happen again anytime soon.
For Ukraine to have a chance of reaching a positive outcome in the Crimean conflict, Felstead said, it will have to rely more on diplomacy than on armed action to expel Russian troops from Crimea.
—By CNBC’s Jason Gewirtz.