News / Europe

Russia Shows Modern Military in Ukraine Crisis

Russian soldiers stand near a tank at a former Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, outside Simferopol, Crimea, March 27, 2014
Russian soldiers stand near a tank at a former Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, outside Simferopol, Crimea, March 27, 2014
— An estimated 40,000 Russian troops are deployed on the Ukrainian border, poised to invade if the order comes from Moscow.

These forces are part of a much larger military that has been modernizing its forces over the past several years.

Western estimates say the Russian Defense Ministry has between 800,000 and one million men under arms. These include strategic rocket forces as well as the various uniformed services: air, air defense, ground and naval. And there are various kinds of special forces, such as the Spetsnaz belonging to Russia’s military intelligence or GRU.  

Stephen Blank, an expert on the Russian military at the American Foreign Policy Council, said there are also paramilitary forces.

“The other forces belong to other ministries: the Ministry of the Interior, which are the internal forces of the MVD. The FSB has forces - that’s the intelligence [service],” said Blank. “There are border troops and then there are paramilitaries like the Cossack formations. So there are lots of people involved here, probably something like one million men total in the regular armed forces, several hundred thousand more in these auxiliaries of the MVD, FSB, Cossacks and so on.”

Russia learned lessons from 2008 war with Georgia

Ian Brzezinski, from the Atlantic Council, said the Russian government is spending a lot of money to modernize its armed forces.

“$750 billion between now and the next decade to replenish their maritime fleet, replenish their air force to bring in fifth-generation aircraft, even more sophisticated air missile defense systems. They continue to robustly test and develop new ballistic missile capabilities and they continue their modernization of their ground forces.”

Brzezinski and others say Russia’s effort to modernize its military was prompted by poor performance in Moscow’s 2008, five-day war with Georgia over two separatist regions.

“You may recall the pictures of drunk soldiers straggling in the rear, trying to catch up to the frontline troops. And the fact that the Russians had a bit of difficulty taking on the Georgians, which didn’t put on that strong a defense - and they were able to press forward simply by pure mass rather than skill.”

Russia modernizes its military

Experts say one reform was to make the Russian military more mobile, better geared for rapid response and for local conflicts, rather than with the massive Soviet-style army.

Keir Giles, head of Conflict Studies Research Center in Oxford, England, said during the Georgian war, coordination between the different armed service branches was a problem for the Russians.

“They didn’t, for example, have the kind of embedded forward air controllers with their ground units in order to actually communicate with air power. So some of the air losses in the Georgia war were actually shot down by their own side, by the Russians.”

New Russian military on display

Ian Brzezinski said the results of the reforms were on display during Russia’s annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

“You see the way they have been performing in Crimea, where you had 20,000 to 30,000 Russian troops fan across the peninsula,” he said. "Pretty slick uniforms, well-maintained equipment, and real stunningly or impressive discipline and communication silence, communications discipline. They are certainly far more capable than they were six years ago.”

Stephen Blank from the American Foreign Policy Council said Russia used its forces “in an extraordinarily disciplined, bloodless, swift way, in conjunction with information warfare against Ukraine, saturation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine with Russian propaganda, and the deployment of highly-trained, modernized combined forces on the western strategic direction, to intimidate, divert and immobilize NATO and the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Blank said members of the Russian military leadership believe that the end of the Cold War was an American special operation to take down the Soviet Union without firing a shot - and it succeeded. Blank said the Russian military tried to do the same, with success, in Crimea.

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.

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Comments page of 4
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by: Not Again from: Canada
May 05, 2014 11:21 AM
Czar Putin has demonstrated/undertaken tremendous advancements in military tactics, equipment, personal training, leadership, planning, execution, and resolve. Unfortunately, Putin has shown a backwards strategy, that will just once again start taking the World into the dark ages. Fortunately, for Putin, is that his adversaries neither have the will, the tools, nor the desire to engage in military countermeasures to curtail/stop his ambitions.

It is clear that Western Europe's deterrent level has significantly declined, and is not an impediment to Putin's authoritarian expansionist ambitions.
As in the past, when deterrence fails, in the face of obstinate ambition, wars will follow; or the opponents will cave in, and give up territory and influence. Ukraine's disabilities, will be carried by Western Europe, the EU
.
The countries bordering the Ukraine, will need to prepare themselves for the potential of millions of Ukrainian refugees, as this civil war escalates. Not one of the bordering countries can cope with the influx of large number of refugees, only Germany could cope with millions of refugees, so the bordering countries, to Ukraine, need to ensure that the refugees are delivered to Germany and further West as soon as/if the refugee crisis materializes; if they fail to rapidly transfer refugees to Germany, the bordering countries wil be destabilized and their economies ruined.

In the event that the situation, in Ukraine, goes very negative, Romania and Poland, need to already prepare themselves to deal with the required transfer of refugees, they should plan, prepare, model, and exercise the contingency transfer system, and have Ms. Merkel be ready to accept the refugees. In any case, in my opinion, it is Germany's initial reluctance to back strong sanctions, that has lead to this very bad outcome in the Ukraine, thus Germany bears many, if not most, of the burdens that will face Western Europe as this crisis escalates; in any case Germany is the only country that could carry the massive potential burden. It is not a good situation for anyone.


by: Ogre from: London
May 05, 2014 9:01 AM
I see that disinformation propaganda still works on some people


by: Me from: Slovenia
May 03, 2014 2:53 PM
NATO couldn't beat army of Yugoslavia with 700:1 ratio of forces, didn't dare to come lower than 10 000 m and we only had Nevas and Kub aad, they managed only to destroy 12 tanks out of 1500, got beaten in two ground invasions operation arow and battle of Košara. What do they hopo for with Russia ? And that Polland red line is just plain stupid. You think Russia is going to let America tople governments on Russian border and bring troops and annex countries into NATO ? Or perhaps let them kill 500 000 Russian children like you killed in Iraq ? Don't believe me ? Go to youtube and write "Madeline Albrecht about killing 500 000 Iraqi children" !

In Response

by: goldingen from: greece
May 04, 2014 2:56 PM
what happened to your 1488 tanks when Miloshevich was arrested?


by: Evgeny from: Ukraine
May 03, 2014 2:41 PM
We all remember the first war in Cheсhnya almost 20 years ago when russian army (heavy tanks, aviation, cannons and equipped troops) was defeated by the small groups of partisans. Russian command often made mastakes, therefore a lot of soldiers and inhabitatnts were killed. Similar situation was during WWII. But not only Russians "won" this war (as zaban from india May 02, 2014 5:22 AM said) . They couldn't have won alone without assistance of other nations. Ukrainian nation made a huge contribution for the victory too. And after 1945 communist regime fought against Ukrainian Insurgent Army in the west for ten years. Communists (like fascistes) killed or deported millions of ukrainian people before and after WWII. Now I think Putin's regime is evil too. I hope that russian oil-gas economy will be destroyed in nearest future. It'd be better for Putin to take care about russian population in countriside. Ukrainians villages have better look then russian small towns - that's true. (Sorry for my English)


by: Malcolm from: Ohio
May 02, 2014 10:46 PM
Poland is the red line and Putin won't mess with them. The Polish Army is much better trained, equipped and led than the Russians and would have no problem holding back the pitiful Russian military. Easy to bully the Ukrainians around but Putin is not stupid enough to go any further.

In Response

by: ASDF from: Cambridgeshire
May 26, 2014 12:06 AM
Russia which has more soldiers than Poland, spends more than Poland per capita, trains on a regular basis due to vastly increased funding, has far better equipment (why don't you compare the number of countries that buy Russian equipment to those that buy Polish equipment?) and has demonstrated proven tactical competence from 2008 in Georgia and operational competence from 2014 in Crimea, can't beat the Polish army?

Perhaps you are not aware that Russian equipment in some
critical areas surpass the quality and design of US equipment. For instance, Russia manufactures better antitank missiles, vastly superior air defense systems, and its Su-27 series has beaten US F-15 and F-16 aircraft in wargames hands down.

Besides, as someone has pointed out, Russia could theoretically atomize Poland with a couple of ballistic missiles.

Your post is skewed and biased. An objective analysis of Russian military abilities would debunk your nonsense. There is a reason Georgian soldiers in 2008 routed before the counterattacking Russian army. They didn't even stand to fight.

In Response

by: Carlos from: Houston
May 03, 2014 2:46 PM
Six years ago I would have agreed with you.

Not today.

In Response

by: melwin from: India
May 03, 2014 10:38 AM
Just 2 nuclear missile are enough for polish garrison.


by: AAR from: Global
May 02, 2014 3:44 PM
WWII shows that once those tanks start moving....it's hard to get them to stop...who is to say that Putin's tanks and rocket launchers stop in Ukraine? What about futher West or further North? Naked aggression must be opposed firmly....Crimea is not Russian...check the history...Putin the dictator when he falls the people of the world will get a view of his palaces and the stolen wealth of Russia...Ukraine must be free to choose their fate......Ukraine has waited for many years to do so......Ukraines time has come finally.....The stage is Ukraines.....let them decide if they want to be east or west or none of the above....as Great Ukraine and it's brave fighters always have been at the crossroads of East vs West....


by: melwin from: India
May 02, 2014 12:07 PM
Ukraine itself preparing the roads for Russian invasion and America will watch it hopeless.

In Response

by: Natalia from: Russia
May 03, 2014 2:05 AM
Do you think the US economy looks better? Not at all. The US economy is slowing down and cannot keep up with other such as China, India. Russia will surely take strong measures against the US and you will see the USA economy will fall soon.

In Response

by: cleo201499 from: US
May 02, 2014 12:43 PM
Hopeless? Hmm... So far, Russia looks quite hopeless economically. In case you've missed, here are some data on Russia's economy for the first quarter (Jan-Mar) of 2014: 1. GDP down 0.5% (pre-recession, nobody doubts it will further contract in Q2 to make it full recession). 2. All three major stock indexes down 14-21% for the year. 3. Inflation up to 7.7% annualized and grows around 1% per month. 4. Ruble at its historically lowest. 5. Capital outflow $65B. If you really want to know what's on Russian people's minds, don't watch their TV, better ask them. 62% don't care about Putin's image and Ukraine at all - inflation is their main concern.


by: Aldie from: Florida
May 02, 2014 12:51 AM
SsgtJames,..the U.S. is and will always be the greatest country/military in the world,...right!? Can you spell J-I-N-G-O-I-S-M and define it??

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
May 02, 2014 9:57 AM
The US and NATO military is the greatest the world has ever seen - (BUT?) - if they're over a thousand miles away, (and unassembled), from where they're needed, they are useless aren't they? --
"Know your enemy, and know yourself" -- Strengths and limitations? -- From the book, "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu -- the book the US military really needs to re-read?


by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
May 02, 2014 12:03 AM
Russia is a piece of bread for the US. Russia cannot even feed herself. whether you like it or not. the US is the world supper power. Russia wants to be like the US. Why Mr. Putin cannot try his nonsense to the US? We will sent Russia into the stone age. The US will turn Russia into graveyard. Melwin from India, have you seen your country? please sit quietly and look back into India my friend. Karachi is right over you. The fact of the matter is, the US is the world's superpower. So it is written, so shall it be done. God Bless America

In Response

by: jake from: michigan
May 02, 2014 9:41 AM
yea ok jak.... coming from the country who surrendered to Germany. do you realize the usa has the best special forces in the worlds? and the best/largest navy? one can not will a nuclear war, both sides will lose.

In Response

by: zaban from: india
May 02, 2014 5:22 AM
Russians won the world war 11, defeated Hitlor. Russians have theromo nuclear weapons and very good missiles to launch it like Topol M and Yar. US missile defense cant stop it from falling it in the main land. For Russians that's enough to bury the US. LONG LIVE RUSSIA. LONG LIVE PUTIN

In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
May 02, 2014 5:09 AM
Are you dreaming? China will soon overcome the USA to become the biggest economy in the world. The USA will have to leave its number one position to China, Russia and then India.

In Response

by: jak from: france
May 02, 2014 4:59 AM
Yeah ... us army soldiers are the King of fast food junk ...


by: Igor from: Russia
May 01, 2014 10:33 PM
There is will, there is way. Western sanctions will force Russia to seek much closer ties with emerging powers such as China, India....which are much greater markets for Russia's oil, gas, technology and weapons. The West never dream of intimidating Russia by force because their weapons have limitations, some cannot compare with those of Russia. But the most important thing is that the West do not know how to deal with a nuclear power.

In Response

by: cleo201499 from: US
May 02, 2014 12:49 PM
Given that today Russian economy is 7x smaller than US's and 15x smaller than US+EU, it's interesting to read all kinds of dreaming, especially given that Russian economy is down 0.5% in the first quarter of 2014. Meet the new recession in some aggressive parts of the world. And that's even before any serious sanctions have started... investors are running away with $65B (capital outflow from the Russian economy in the first quarter by official Russia's Central Bank estimate).

In Response

by: jake from: michigan
May 02, 2014 9:46 AM
um.... the usa tested the first nuke, and are the only ones to use it in battle. so yea they don't know anything about nukes. china is falling, their economy is going down because workers got smart and want better wages and working conditions.

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