With Low-Tech, Trench Warfare, the Ukrainian army is not NATO caliber

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Above the ground, plastic sheeting flaps in the freezing wind. With separatist trenches nearby, in a line of trees across a snowy field, the only truly safe place is underground.

Nothing in the unit suggests a connection to NATO other than the name, Lima, which is the NATO phonetic alphabet designation for the letter L. As part of a redesign as part of the Ukraine’s aspiration to join the alliance, military units were renamed according to NATO standards.

The conflict is fought primarily with rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and artillery systems dating from the 1970s or earlier. The United States has been selling Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine since 2018, but they are primarily intended to fend off a large Russian attack, not for frontline use. Turkey provides another of the country’s newest weapons, the Bayraktar TB2 armed drone, but the Ukrainian military has admitted to using it only once in combat, last October.

Still, military analysts say the force is in much better shape than in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and fomented war in the east. The United States provided $2.7 billion in military assistance in the years that followed. In recent weeks, he has allowed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to send US-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, and Britain has provided anti-tank guided missiles.

And the Ukrainian army is seasoned. About 400,000 Ukrainian soldiers, including about 13,000 women, rotated along the eastern front, providing a pool of veteran fighters who could be called upon in the event of war. On Tuesday, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an order declare one’s intention to add 100,000 soldiers to the Ukrainian army over three years and to increase soldiers’ salaries.

But the multiple rotations have also taken their toll, said soldiers in the position, aged 25 to 59. Pvt. Volodymyr Murdza, 53, is halfway through his second three-year contract. His son is also serving in the war and his wife worries terribly, he says. “She calls and says, ‘I’m worried because you’re not calling me,'” Private Murdza said. “And I say, ‘Honey, sunshine, I’m calling as soon as I can.'”

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