Factbox-How Ukraine’s armed forces are adapting to those of Russia


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(Reuters) – Ukraine’s armed forces are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by Russia, but as Russia begins what could be a full-scale invasion, military experts say they would be able to mount significant resistance and inflict heavy losses.

Ukraine’s military is also better trained and equipped than in 2014, when Russia captured the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine without a fight, and is widely seen as highly motivated to defend the country’s heartland.

Here are some details about the Ukrainian army:

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS LOOK LIKE?

In terms of manpower and armaments, the arithmetic looks grim for Ukraine.

Most estimates by military experts put the number of Russian troops near the Russian-Ukrainian border at more than 100,000. Russia has also moved troops to Belarus, northern Ukraine, for military exercises.

Russia’s military is about 280,000 strong and its combined armed forces total about 900,000, while its 2,840 battle tanks are more than three times as many as Ukraine’s, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. (IISS) based in London.

Ukraine’s prime minister said a decree recently signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – on priority measures to strengthen state defense capabilities, increase the attractiveness of military service and the gradual transition to a professional army – would eventually the Ukrainian armed forces to 361,000 men.

Although Ukraine tripled its defense budget in real terms from 2010 to 2020, its total defense spending in 2020 was only $4.3 billion, one-tenth that of Russia.

Military analysts say Ukraine’s air and missile defenses are weak, making it highly vulnerable to Russian strikes on its critical infrastructure. They say Russia would also seek to use its superiority in electronic warfare to cripple its adversary’s command and control and cut off communications with units on the ground.

WHAT IS THE EXPERIENCE OF THE UKRAINIAN FORCES?

Ukrainian forces have gained combat experience in the Donbass region in the east of the country, where they have been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, and are highly motivated.

They also have short-range air defenses and anti-tank weapons, including US-supplied Javelin missiles, which would help slow any Russian advance.

Beyond the regular army, Ukraine has volunteer territorial defense units and around 900,000 reservists. Most adult males have at least basic military training, so Russia could face stubborn and prolonged resistance should it attempt to capture and hold territory.

The military challenge would be incomparably greater than in previous wars Russia has fought since the collapse of the Soviet Union, including in separatist Chechnya in the 1990s and against Georgia in 2008.

WHAT IS THE WEST DOING TO HELP THE UKRAINE ARMY?

Western countries have stepped up arms deliveries to Ukraine, but Kiev says more is needed. The United States has ruled out sending American troops to Ukraine to fight.

The United States has provided more than $2.5 billion in military assistance since 2014, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, coastal patrol boats, Humvees, sniper rifles, reconnaissance drones, radar systems, equipment night vision and radio. Other supplies could include Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, small arms and boats.

Turkey has sold several batches of Bayraktar TB2 drones to Kiev, which it has deployed against Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Britain supplied Ukraine with 2,000 short-range anti-tank missiles in January and sent British specialists to provide training. He also supplied Saxon armored vehicles.

Estonia said it was sending Javelin anti-armour missiles and Latvia and Lithuania were supplying Stinger missiles. The Czech Republic has announced its intention to donate 152 mm artillery ammunition.

Germany has ruled out arms deliveries to Ukraine but is co-funding a $6 million field hospital and providing training.

COULD RUSSIA STAGE A FULL-SCALE INVASION?

Many military analysts say this would be unlikely as it would involve a long and messy war with inevitable heavy casualties. They expect Russia to opt for crushing airstrikes and/or limited land grabs rather than all-out war, including battles for major cities.

One option would be for Russia to push south and west from the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, already controlled by pro-Russian forces, to link up with annexed Crimea and the Black Sea. It is also possible that troops in Belarus will cross the northern border into Ukraine as part of an attack.

Putin would likely face qualms from his own public about going to war with another Slavic nation, as well as intense anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine. Russia has already been sanctioned for moving troops into separatist-controlled areas of Ukraine, and will likely face much tougher troops for a full invasion.

(Reporting by Reuters and Matthias Wiliams offices in Kyiv, Writing by Mark Trevelyan, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Gerry Doyle)