Seasoned and better funded, the Ukrainian army is knocking on NATO’s door | World news


By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) – When the war in eastern Ukraine began in 2014, the Ukrainian army was so poorly equipped that ordinary citizens would knit socks, donate scrap metal and even finance a tank for soldiers from First line.

The government that took over after the Maidan Street protests said it only had 5,000 combat-ready ground troops and did not fight when Russian forces seized and annexed the Crimean peninsula in March of the same year.

But the annexation of Crimea and seven years of fighting against Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbass region prompted Ukraine to reshuffle its army, combining a huge increase in defense spending with aid and training. Western allies.

Growing tensions over the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s administration to put pressure on Western governments to speed up the entry of the former Soviet state into the NATO military alliance.

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While the Ukrainian army is still overtaken by Russia, the cost of Russia launching an offensive on Ukrainian territory could be considerably higher now.

“Russia will not get a quick victorious ‘war’, but the losses on both sides if the aggression escalates will be enormous,” said Mykola Sunhurovskyi, defense analyst at the Razumkov Center think tank.

State spending on security and defense has climbed to nearly 6% of gross domestic product this year and has averaged over 5% over the past three years, according to data from the Ministry of Finance, compared to 2% in 2014.

The army has nearly 250,000 soldiers, up from 168,000 in 2013.

The government acquired new equipment to gradually replace the Soviet-era arsenal on which the military relied in 2014. It acquired Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States and Turkish combat drones which aided the military. ‘Azerbaijan to defeat the Armenian forces in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. Last year.

Although the Ukrainian military has been harassed by corruption scandals in the past, the government has also implemented NATO-backed reforms to improve its eligibility for membership, such as the adoption of a draft law to reform its security services in January.

(Written by Matthias Williams, edited by Cynthia Osterman)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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