Analysis by William R Collier Jr
The conventional wisdom has it that Russia has far superior military force versus the Ukrainian military. Analysis based on this usually comes with a chart showing the number of Russian troops, tanks, planes and the such versus Ukrainian numbers. For instance, there are around 700,000 Russian troops versus 160,000 Ukrainian troops.
This is deceptive on four counts.
First, in war it is the actual amount of force available at the strategic point that matters, not the amount of force available to the whole nation. If the Russians could use 100% of their military against Ukrainia (I am spelling Ukrainia as the Ukrainians are spelling it in their language) then the number of total Russian force versus total Ukrainian force would matter. But Russia has a large border and many threats, and one doubts they could muster more than 40% of this total force against the Ukrainians. That’s less than 280,000 Russians versus 160,000 Ukrainians. Still tough odds, but not impossible odds.
Second, Ukrainia has around 1 million men who have some military training and enough arms to equip at least 100,000 of them to a decent level. A new National Guard equipped and trained to deal with rear area security and home defense could muster out more than 100,000. Of course the Russians could mobilize their reserves also, but their situation regarding reserve training and equipment for those reserves is actually worse than Ukrainia’s according to some experts.
Third, the Ukrainians have been stingy with their military but their defense industries have produced much improved versions of former Russian arms, including tanks and aircraft. Ukrainian armor may be smaller in numbers but it is actually superior and more reliable. Ukrainian aircraft have kept on pace with the Russians.
Fourth, the Ukrainians would, if it comes to a fight, be much more motivated and determined. Ukrainian military units in Crimea, though hopelessly surrounded and forbidden until recently from fighting back, have not acted in a cowardly manner, not even “ethnic Russian” members of those units. Their government has acted more cowardly than they have!
A full-on war between Russia and the Ukraine would not be a walk-over for Russia, and indeed I would predict that within a month or two, or sooner, guerilla warfare in the Crimea will begin in earnest. If Russia over-rums areas in the east, the same applies- in no Ukrainian province save the Crimea are ethnic Russians a majority and one would be wrong to assume that all ethnic Russians want to join Putin’s Russia.
The narrative that Ukrainia cannot possibly fight the Russians is more “Russia Today” agit prop aimed at a gullible public and espoused by so-called “military experts” who seem to have forgotten the most fundamental realities of warfare. Certainly the odds do not favor the Ukrainians, and they should not rely on the US or the UK to honor their commitment to guarantee their sovereignty- in fact were I Ukrainian I would immediately start assembling material for nuclear weapons. But to propose that Ukrainia could not offer stiff resistance to the Russians is unrealistic.