News / Europe

Is Ukraine Military Ready to Thwart Russian Invasion?

Ukrainian soldiers stand guard beside an armored personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 7, 2014.
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard beside an armored personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, May 7, 2014.
The tensions in eastern Ukraine have put the spotlight on the nation’s military and security forces.
 
They face enormous challenges trying to regain control of areas held by heavily-armed pro-Russian separatists.
 
Analysts back up what several polls of Ukrainians show: there is little faith the troops are up to the task.
 
Western estimates say the Ukrainian Defense Ministry controls between 70,000 to 130,000 men under arms.
 
But Stephen Blank, an expert at the American Foreign Policy Council, said Ukraine’s armed forces are struggling.
 
“The command and control at the top has been very shaky,” he said. “There have been several defense ministers and heads of various forces since the new government came into power.”
 
“Second, their intelligence services have been penetrated for a long time by Russians,” Blank said. “Third, they have been undercapitalized, victimized by corruption and poor leadership for years.”
 
Keir Giles, head of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Oxford, England, said Ukraine has been trying to modernize its armed forces.
 
“But it is a great deal less ambitious and less well-funded than the equivalent in Russia,” he said. “So Ukrainians are still operating the kinds of equipment which are no longer in service with the spearhead of the Russian forces.
 
“These are older types [of military hardware], they have an older manning system,” Giles said. “Much less has changed for the Ukrainian military since the end of the Soviet Union than it has for Russia since the Georgia War.”
 
Russia’s efforts
 
Experts say Russia’s effort to modernize its military was prompted by the poor showing in Moscow’s five-day war in 2008 with Georgia over two separatist regions.
 
One reform was to make the Russian military more mobile, better geared for rapid response and for local conflicts.
 
The result of those reforms were on display during Russia’s recent annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
 
Experts say Ukraine is still tied to having a large Soviet-style army.
 
Giles said another problem facing the Ukrainian military is the uncertain loyalty of many its members.
 
“We shouldn’t believe all of the stories that we’ve seen coming out of eastern Ukraine about defections,” he said. “But it’s still the case that many of the senior levels of the Ukrainian armed forces served together with their Russian counterparts in the Soviet armed forces.
 
“And it’s still the case that many of the Ukrainian servicemen that we have encountered in the days before this crisis emerged, described themselves quite openly as being Russian,” Giles said.
 
Pro-Russian separatists control about a dozen towns and cities in eastern Ukraine.
 
In addition, an estimated 40,000 Russian troops - seen as the spearhead of a potential invasion force - have been deployed on the Ukrainian border.
 
Giles - and others - say the Ukrainian military is not ready to thwart a Russian invasion, if it happens.
 
“Certainly in terms of capability, the Russian armed forces are far better equipped and better organized at present than the Ukrainian equivalent,” he said. “However, there are caveats to that.
 
“Many of the people who look at the sustainability and logistics of the Russian armed forces, still believe that they are no longer in a position to fight an extended campaign, which is of course a risk if they overextend themselves into Ukraine,” Giles said. “So any operation in Ukraine would have to be as quick or as unopposed as the armed conflict in Georgia or the operation in Crimea.”
 
Experts say if Russia invades eastern Ukraine, it runs the risk of a protracted war, especially if the Ukrainians engage in guerrilla warfare.
 
And that, analysts say, is not a scenario favored by Moscow because an indirect fight may be the Ukraine military’s greatest strength.
 
Error rendering Soundcloud.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Not Again from: Canada
May 07, 2014 11:42 PM
The only thing that may stop the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, is a strong and ever escalating set of sanctions; coupled with the depolyment of significant NATO forces to the countries neighbouring Russia; especially those NATO countries with a significant Russian ethnic component.

In Response

by: alexfot555 from: Greece
May 09, 2014 3:14 PM
A strong and ever escalating set of sanctions will cause a significant dent to EU's economies.The European political-economic complex is cynical and pragmatic above all.


by: Wiktor Protsenko from: Kyiv
May 07, 2014 3:44 PM
In its unannounced war against Ukraine, Russia relies on covert operations which fall squarely within the definition of "international terrorism" under 18 U.S.C. § 2331.
This activity is being conducted on large scale and over prolonged time period, despite condemnation by the USA, G-7, NATO, EU and UN.
Please sign the petition urging the White House to officially designate Russia as "State sponsor of terrorism” - http://wh.gov/lwuL9
Such status of country would outlaw business of American companies with Russia. Even considering of the petition by Senate and President of USA creating great inconvenience Russian authorities.

In Response

by: nvr from: USA
May 08, 2014 1:46 AM
The German newspaper Bild just reported that the CIA, FBI and Special Forces advisers have been in Ukraine for sometime working with the organizers of the coup. After the visit by the head of our CIA, the government of Ukraine began its military attack against the Ukrainian protesters in the East.

Additionally, it has been supposed that American military contractors have been employed by the government in Kiev as well, so, it appears both sides are guilty of the same violations.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid