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Ukrainian Military After 5 Years Of Warfare

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Ukrainian Military After 5 Years Of Warfare

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Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

The Soviet Legacy

Prior to the Maidan “Revolution of Dignity” of 2014, Ukraine’s military existed in a political backwater, suffering from benign neglect as well as corruption and other problems plaguing the Ukrainian state. Apart from downsizin, which meant the replacement of divisions by brigades, no modernization was conducted in the years of independence. While Ukraine did contribute to a variety of international missions, even sending a small contingent to Afghanistan and Iraq, these units came from various elite components of the armed forces. The rank-and-file mechanized and armored brigades simply languished under the successive Ukrainian governments.

Kiev’s bid to mobilize its military resources after 2014 has enjoyed mixed fortunes. On the one hand, Ukraine did benefit from massive stockpiles of relatively modern weapons left from the Soviet era. They meant a seemingly inexhaustible supply of weapons and spare parts to flesh out existing units and stand up new ones. In practice, however, the neglect of stored equipment and limited capacities of Ukraine’s manufacturing and repair infrastructure meant that the losses of 2014 and 2015 battles could only partly be replaced, and even then only by inferior equipment.  While Ukraine does have the ability to manufacture heavy and light armored vehicles, it cannot do so in large quantities or without continued supply of certain subsystems from Russia. Indigenously developed vehicles like the Oplot MBT or BTR-3 and -4 APCs seem mainly intended for export to earn badly needed hard currency. Domestic modifications of existing vehicles like the T-64BU Bulat MBT have been discontinued due to the combination of high costs and enduring problems. So as a result of five years of intermittent warfare Ukraine’s tank and APC fleets are smaller, older, more heterogeneous, and more worn out than they were at the beginning of conflict. The shortage of heavy equipment has forced Kiev to resort to organizing motorized brigades with hardly any armored vehicles at all.

NATO to the Rescue?

NATO’s contribution has not reversed this trend.  There is no evidence any MBTs have been supplied to Ukraine, even from former Warsaw Pact members of NATO who, like Poland and the Czech Republic, have limited themselves to deliveries of small numbers of 2S1 howitzers and BMP-1 troop carriers. Western NATO members likewise have not been showering Ukraine with modern equipment. The most notable deliveries of Western gear are the AT-105 Saxon 4×4 APCs from Great Britain, and the Javelin ATGMs from the United States, the latter of which have not seen combat and appear to be held in reserve. There have been spotty deliveries of small arms, including US copies of RPG-7, large caliber sniper rifles, Humvees, and even US-made counter-battery radars. The most important aspect of foreign aid has been in the realm of provision of munitions, both for small arms and artillery. The provision of large quantities of artillery shells Ukraine to subject the Donbass to continued bombardment for the last five years. Here the culprits are, again, the former Warsaw Pact members of NATO, with the deliveries being paid for by US military assistance to Ukraine funds.

A Praetorian Military

The fact that the Ukrainian state has de-facto lost its monopoly on violence after the events of 2014 also left a mark on Ukraine’s forces. The military has a powerful competitor in the form of National Guard which comprises some of the most ideological neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, and which amounts to a state within a state under the command of Arsen Avakov. The fact that Avakov is one of the few high-level luminaries from the Poroshenko era to survive into the Zelensky era proves something that has long been suspected, namely that he is an independent player in Ukrainian politics whose subordination to the President is only nominal. Little is known of Avakov’s ties to the West, though here the fact that Western powers have turned a blind eye on Avakov’s arming of neo-Nazis suggests they view him as an insurance policy against Zelensky or any future Ukrainian leader “going soft” on Russia. Avakov and his proxies have made it clear on more than one occasion that he would oppose “revanchism” in the form of improved relations with Russia, which makes his political preferences consistent with those of Western hardliners. Zelensky’s humiliating confrontation by Azov Regiment militants, who plainly refused to accept orders from their supposed commander-in-chief, only underscores the weakness of his position. It also means that should Ukraine’s military suffer disproportionately heavy combat losses, it would create a vacuum of power that Avakov’s National Guard would be eager to fill.

For that reason, the seven brigades of the Airmobile Forces, the elite of the Ukrainian military have seen relatively little fighting on the Donbass.  These brigades were built on the basis of Ukraine’s Airborne Forces units, with adaptations to modern warfare including provision of heavy equipment such as T-80BV tanks, BTR-3 and -4 wheeled infantry fighting vehicles replacing the Soviet-era BMDs, and of course self-propelled artillery battalions, also contain a considerably higher proportion of contract as opposed to conscript soldiers, are without any doubt the most effective units Kiev commands. They are also quite visible during parades and exercises attended by Western observers. But instead of being on the front lines, two of the seven brigades are stationed close to Kiev, while the rest are spread relatively evenly across Ukraine’s regions, even Western ones where there is little danger of fighting, suggesting their role is mainly internal security. While their ostensible military role is to serve a “fire brigade” role in the event of an LPR/DPR breakout and possibly even a direct Russian intervention, the fact only one of seven brigades is anywhere near the Donbass at any one time suggests their main task is to guard against potential seizures of power by National Guard or other militants.

The Human Factor

The political divisions, corruption, and progressive impoverishment of Ukraine have also left an impact on the armed forces. In order to send Ukrainian brigades to the Donbass to suppress what at that point were peaceful demonstrations, Maidan leaders had to resort to a major purge of the command staff, elevating relatively junior officers with proven nationalist credentials in order to ensure the military would follow orders. The early cases of units refusing to act against the Donbass activists showed that the pre-Maidan military was not mentally ready to shoot at Ukraine’s own citizens.

The problem of motivation has persisted ever since.  Far from every Ukrainian citizen shares Kiev’s political preferences or is interested in shedding blood on behalf of oligarchs. Those Ukrainians who do serve often do it because military salaries actually compare favorably to what is available in the depressed Ukrainian economy, not to mention the prospect of plunder and/or smuggling in the frontline areas, with the latter being responsible for several clashes among various Ukrainian formations seeking to control this or that smuggling route.  But since the soldiers’ motives tend in the direction of monetary gains, the morale among the frontline Ukrainian units actually on the “line of separation” remains low, with a high rate of non-combat casualties caused by alcohol abuse or careless handling of own weapons.  To offset this, Ukrainian commanders appear to have resorted to forming specialized assault units that can be relied upon to undertake difficult missions. The clashes along the line of separation during which Ukrainian forces attempted to seize positions in the “no-man’s land” separating the warring parties were carried out by such assault units usually of company strength. These clashes also showed the strengths and weaknesses of these formations. While capable of launching bold attacks, they are also highly vulnerable to attrition which ultimately forced them to abandon positions they seized.

Consequently the Ukrainian military can be roughly broken down into three tiers. At the top there are the well-equipped and trained airmobile brigades intended for use as a last resort should a crisis erupt either on the front lines or on the home front. At the bottom there is the grey, unremarkable mass of poorly motivated Ukrainian conscripts serving in poorly equipped and trained mechanized and motorized brigades who perhaps can be relied upon to hold positions on quiet sectors but likely not much else. And in between there are the select assault units among these brigades, as well as volunteer battalions of the National Guard, who can carry out spectacular localized aids but are unsuitable for sustained warfare.

No End in Sight

There is little chance the situation will change in the foreseeable future. Ukraine cannot afford a professional, all-volunteer force large enough to meet its requirements.  It also cannot afford modern weapons in large quantities. The “praetorian” factor gave Kiev an incentive to concentrate its contract soldiers and best weapons in the elite rapid reaction airmobile brigades, instead of using them in leadership positions among the ordinary mechanized and motorized brigades. While this means a rather dysfunctional military of radically differing capabilities, it is adequate to Kiev’s perception of threat. The “fire brigades” could probably handle a breakout threat by LPR/DPR forces. Russian military is unlikely to involve itself in force except in cases of dire danger to LPR/DPR posed by a major Ukrainian offensive which Kiev so far has been unwilling to launch for fear of a new round of heavy personnel and materiel losses. Last but not least, Kiev appears to be aware that the outcome of the Donbass crisis has more to do with Moscow and Washington than with Kiev’s military modernization efforts.

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  • Toronto Tonto

    Yankobitch all but destroyed whatever Ukraine had for a military , Now we see what 5 years can do , they held off Russian troops trying to get a land corridor to the stolen crimea and failed , Donbass is a ruined wasteland now and a lot of DEAD Russian terrorists got to go home BUT they were in bags , All because putin did not want to pay for the lease in crimea for his base anymore , fucking losers .

    • BMWA1

      I also blame Nigel Farage and Animal Assad

      • David Parker

        Assad is one of the few principled actual leaders in the world. He can earn an honest living as an ophthalmologist. He is the only national leader I have ever seen who drives himself in a piece of shit car an American Mexican wouldn’t drive to congratulate SAA soldiers and stands among armed soldiers of the SAA.
        Tell me any other “world leader” else who does this and survives?
        Nigel is the only political figure in Britain with a set of balls.

        • Selbstdenker

          Most of the claimed crimes Assad is accused of are made up. I lived in Damascus when he was accused of shooting at demonstrators. It was around my corner, an no shooting had happened. Only thing released was tear gas, which came to my apartment as well. But is was not as strong as the stuff they use in France.

    • occupybacon

      Indeed, they aspired to take over half of Ukraine or more back then

    • MikeH

      ‘Held off Russian troops….’

      Bwhahahaha!!

      • David Parker

        A lie repeated often and loudly enough and not refuted equally loudly and often enough, becomes a fact de jure. I think there’s that and obviously Toronto Tonguejob simply enjoys being outrageous.
        I would like to know how to keep shit like that out of the comments section.

        • MikeH

          It is easy enough to block him using the Disqus tool.

        • smertzakrov

          u could block–I do not; her self humiliating comments amuse

    • Justin

      You have no idea what youre talking about! My belief is that u hate your life and then u come here to spew what u wished happen!
      REALITY:
      * DONBASS IS NOW AUTONOMOUS AND THE WORLD DOES NOT SEE PEOPLE REJECTING A VIOLENT COUP TO BE TERRORISTS WHEN THEY ARE DEFENDING THEIR OWN HOMES
      CHAPTER 1 ARTICLE 1 OF THE UNITED NATIONS RESOLUTION (FOR WHICH UKRAINE WAS THE 2ND NATION IN THE WORLD TO SIGN) STATES THAT “PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO CHOOSE THEIR OWN POLITICAL SELF DETERMINATION WHEN UNDER THREAT”!
      (a violent coup / revolution is a political takeover! Therefore they have the right to decide (you dumb cunt)!

      READ THIS LINK U DUMB CUNT!
      https://unpo.org/article/4957

      MORE REALITY:

      * Russia OWNS Crimea
      * Russia has Nord Stream MOTHER FUCKING 2 being built
      * Russia has Turk Stream Mother fucking being built!
      * Russia won in Syria Blocking Qatar and Saudi’s pipelines
      * Qatar and Glencore bought 20% shares in Rosneft
      * Qatar and Saudi hate each other now
      * UAE and Saudi LITERALLY SUCKED PUTIN’S DICK (only a few weeks a go)
      * Israel closed down all international embassies
      Who owns the European Energy market bitch?? HUH?
      Ukraine pipelines are obsolete! Ukraine will beg for forgiveness from Russia very soon!
      * 2 million ukrainian men fled to Russia to avoid the national draft
      * From what i see Ukraine forces were slaughtered by Donbass forces
      * USA left Syria Russia welcomed as LIBERATORS in the middle east!
      * EVERYONE IS BUYING RUSSIAN WEAPON SYSTEMS (WHICH MEANS RUSSIAN PROTECTION)

      WHO WON THE WAR U DUMB CUNT?
      WHO WON??

      Everyone in the world knows for a fact that Ukrainians are “the niggers of white people”!
      “White niggers” = Ukrainians! Low life, dumb, poor and corrupt SCUM who loves NAZI’s!

      Kiev was Russia’s capital!
      Ukraine means “Borderland”! RUSSIAN BORDER LAND!
      Crimea was a a part of Russia longer than the USA has been a country!
      Russia fucking GAVE as a FUCKING GIFT CRimea to Ukraine!
      And then when u dont deserve it Russia takes it back slapping ur forces across the face!
      Coca-Cola sold cans of its soda in Ukraine with a map of Ukraine on it WITHOUT CRIMEA ON ITS MAP! AAAAAAAA hahahahahahahaha
      In America and Australia, Tourist agencies sell Tours to Crimea RUSSIA! AAAAA hahaha (not crimea ukraine)

      You lost u dumb cunt!
      Donbass people seem happy! They still get Pension, they get free Gas from Russia! Rent is very very cheap now! They have free healthcare from Russia! They won! Ukraine lost BECAUSE THEY ARE DUMB CUNTS!

      • Paul

        Lol, cheers. Well said.

      • Toronto Tonto

        Don’t forget free bullets and bombs stupid .

        • Justin

          What the fuck are u talking about?
          This is your comeback?
          Really?
          Youre a maggot White Nigger! I know u fled to Canada like many Ukrainians do! Im sure youre part Jew too!
          Youre a fucking rat!
          Fuck off! You lost!

        • Justin

          So the EU and US giving Ukraine Javelin ATM’s and training your new national guard and offering intelligence services etc etc isnt free?
          Youre an idiot!
          Eastern Ukraine is the richest part of Ukraine in terms of natural resources! You lost it! Yes they buy weapons and ammunition in exchange for coal!
          Also Patriot Russian citizens donate to their defensive cause!
          And Putin’s national popularity soared to over 80% in the polls!

          its win/ win!
          Putin is literally seen as a hero in the West (citizens of the West)!

          In reality u are crying! lets be honest!
          Dude just fuck off and find a box of tissues, your country is literally dead!
          Now a comedian is your President!

          Your country is a fucking Joke!

      • Selbstdenker

        Not to forget, that the US overthrow yanukovych with their orchestrated Maidan event. Otherwise Ukraine would have be the western ankerstone for Chinas new silk road project, and would therefore render any attemps of US to corner China and restict their logistics as obsolete. following article describes it quite well.

        https://www.stalkerzone.org/chinese-silk-road-us-overthrow-yanukovych/

    • Justin

      coca-cola in 2015 does not give a FUCK about Ukraine!
      Kerry, Pelosi, Biden were all STEALING MONEY FROM YOUR ENERGY COMPANIES because your nation is dumb!
      And coca-cola pissed on your dumb white nigger faces!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v91O4NSZ734

    • Paul

      Lol, Russia would of had no trouble securing a land corridor to Crimea if they really wanted to. Lol, you are so deluded.

    • Justin

      THERE IS VIDEO PROOF OF UKRAINIANS HANDING IT OVER TO RUSSIA!
      Now u think u stopped a corridor?
      Russia could take half of Ukraine in one day and u know it! Right up to the Dniper River!
      Russia is ALLOWING Ukraine to attack Donbass so the world will see the atrocities of Kiev forces killing women and Children! After some time, Ukraine loses this war of hearts and minds! You called these people “terrorists”! how dumb do u have to be?
      You could have voted your President out in only 12 months!
      Also, the entire nation (especially those who voted for him and didnt want to go along with your violent takeover) HAVE THE RIGHT TO SECEDE! Violent political takeovers can be disagreed too and thus under the UN Charter chapter 1 article 1 “the right to self determination”!
      But your dumb ass doesnt understand it does it?
      Well what do u think happened in Kosovo u dumb cunt!

      I live in Australia and i am telling u i saw far more dead Ukrainians than i saw dead Eastern Ukrainians! i saw Belgian, American and polish soldiers within Ukraine Forces!

      I saw Donbass Battalian and Azov Battalian not only flying Nazi Flags but also had Nazi tattoos! Do u know how i know this? BECAUSE I SAW THEIR DEAD BODIES!

      Did you know these battalians were funded by Kolomoisky? A FUCKING JEW!!!!
      A FUCKING JEW FUNDED NAZI PRO KIEV BATTALIANS!

      AND U COME HERE AND SHOW SUPPORT FOR THIS?
      FOR A JEWISH FUNDED NAZI REGIME??
      Are u fucking kidding me?

      Putin didnt need to pay the lease u dumb cunt!
      Why are u so dumb?
      Ukraine gave it for free because Putin gave them cheap gas!
      YES ITS A 100 MILLION PER YEAR UT DO U KNOW HOW MUCH UKRAINE PAID IN GAS? its an agreement based on cheap gas! Now you dont even get a discount! u pay full price!

      hahaha u think Putin took Crimea because he didnt want to pay a fee?
      ARE U FUCKING SERIOUS??

      You would have to be the dumbest cunt i know on this website!
      THE DUMBEST!

  • Hide Behind

    The political and economics within Ukraine today are in far worse shape than before US and NATO led and financed coup of 5 + years ago.
    Promised a chicken in every pot, a pot to put the chicken in, increased e.ployment from exports to Europe and under experts from US and Europe for massive infrastructure rebuilding in privatizing of social necessities, all those.promices flew as did the chickens.
    Russia gave away the Ukraine that had been with Russia for many years because
    it and the peoples had been a huge drain upon Russian and Soviet peoples economies, as had darn near every nation within Soviet Union.
    Ukraine sold themselves to US – NATO on the cheap and the only ones to prosper were the very same oligarchs whose Euro leaning bureaucrats ended up in power under an even weaker and more easily corrupted new Government.
    Why should any one other than US NATO military thinkers give a damn about Ukraine’s people?
    The ones that matter can and are already bought and paid for, and US/NATO and France do not want Ukraine to have ability to produce own weaponry, where is the profit in that?
    All military thinkers in West care about is tying up Russian military and costing Russian economic woes, and to keep Ukraine military just strong enough militarily to slow down Russia in the planned conflict of future, and as sites for US/First Strike missle emplacement.
    Ukraine monetary system is lower than lowest whale crap, and it has to export on the cheap to pay foreign financials for helping balance a truly fake value currency and economy.
    Ukraine’s oligarchs own all the resources not Ukraine Government, and it is they and foreigers who pay government Bureaucrats, both of whom profit from a constantly unstable Nation.
    Crimeas people and industry also gain value through exports and imports by using Russia’s sea port, and today their standard of living is way higher than it was when part of Ukraine.
    To control a nation it is only necessary keep what seems as chaos under control and to favor the strongest person, in Ukraines case wealthiest and militarily stronger that the central government, leaving Central government living in fear far more from internals than threats by a Russian invader.
    Ukraine peoples by and large wanted Russia out, got their wishes fulfilled , and are now but welfare wards of US/NATO and foreign Corporates.
    They crapped in own beds, let them sleep in them.

    • occupybacon

      Ukraine growth is 3 while Russia is 1.5, while Ukraine doesn’t have those natural resources. Any economy crisis in EU would help Ukraine while it will hurt Russia because Ukraine exports finite goods while Russia only energy in EU

      • grumpy_carpenter

        “Ukraine doesn’t have those natural resources.”

        Where on earth did you get that information? Ukraine doesn’t have much in the way of manufacturing …. at least nothing that the Chinese or Germans don’t make better or cheaper …. but they have TONS of natural resources. Iron, coal, sulfur, nickel, magnesium, titanium and the best farm land in Europe.

        “Ukraine growth is 3 while Russia is 1.5”

        I’m not really sure what your numbers are referring to but Russia is under sanction by the EU and USA. They aren’t supposed to be growing at all …. they should be suffering terribly …. there should be food riots and cannabalism. If they are showing ANY growth after nearly 5 years of sanctions then the sanctions are a complete failure.

        Ukraine OTOH is getting all kinds of support including gifts of cash and military hardware from the EU and USA. Their economy should be growing like crazy.

        • Toronto Tonto

          HA HA HA hey stupid they have power and water , crimea now does not LOL.

          • grumpy_carpenter

            Crimea doesn’t have power or water? Bullshit. Cite a source.

          • David Parker

            Au contraire, the lights never went out, ferries always operated, and now the Kerch Bridge has eliminated the transportation bottleneck.

          • smertzakrov

            Crimea has improved infrastructure, wages and quality of life since 2014, as anyone that has visited is fully aware

        • Tudor Miron

          That guy should keep doing what his nick name suggests – hide behind.

          • smertzakrov

            the Ukraine economy has contracted consistently since 1990

        • occupybacon

          Ohh look we are not canibals yet, sanctions failed, but please please please lift them, they are unfair!!!

      • David Parker

        Wasn’t Antonov in Ukraine? Those aircraft are still the world’s heaviest lift air cargo.

        • Tudor Miron

          Antonov was in CCCP. What’s left of it is in Ukraine but it doesn’t produce anything by now.

      • smertzakrov

        r u merely a liar or stupid?—since 2014 Ukraine has seen a reduced population of at least 6 million—they refuse to conduct a census, while Russia has increased population growth, partly due to the 3.5 million Ukrainians that sought asylum in Russia

    • Toronto Tonto

      Still better than being a Russian by far .

      • Justin

        Worst to be is a ukrainian! Russia’s feel great about themselves!
        Defeated Nazi’s, have the most land and resources in the world!
        UAE and Saudi just sucked Putin’s dick!
        Nord stream 2, turk stream! Now Syria is theirs!
        Crimea and Donbass (Russian land keeps growing hahaha!
        European energy market belongs to Russia now!
        Still doing well even with Sanctions!
        Russian’s are so proud and tough!
        Remember when Ukraine helped the Nazi’s? hahhaa
        Remember Russian soldiers walking into Crimean bases and just taking them and telling ukraine soldiers “get the fuck out bitches”!
        Russian’s are kicking ass dude!
        No debt, heaps of oil and gas, more land, more energy market!
        Israel losing embassies, qatar buying shares in Russian energy companies, qatar and Saudi hating each other!

        All this happened since 2014!
        Its been GLORIOUS FOR RUSSIA!
        And here u are, a little ukrainian who fled to Canada to be in a better country than your shit hole!
        Now u come to this site to complain!
        Remember u were given Crimea! like a gift! and taken like candy from a dumb nigger baby!
        Kiev was Russia’s capital! Remember that!
        And ukraine means “borderland”! Russia’s borderland!
        you soft, weak, genetically inferior, coward nation, white nigger, low class, poor Ukrainian cunt!

        Russia Wins!
        You lose!
        NOW REAP THE WHIRL WIND!!!
        FUCKING REAP IT!!!

        [PAIN]

    • Toronto Tonto

      A lot of the smart people living in the USSR were from or living in Ukraine . and Moscow sucked all it could out of it till the end and that’s when yankobitcht fucked off with the tail between its fag legs back to the only sad fucks that would take the corrupt fuck. guess who that was ????

      • Justin

        yeah and yatesnyuk and porashenko were so much better! hahaha

        u lost crimea, u lost donbass!
        Russia is hailed as hero’s in the middle east!
        Now we see USA used u to enrich their own politicians!
        Russia GAVE u crimea! GAVE IT TO YOU!
        It was was your one GEM that Ukraine could be proud of and now its gone without one ukrainian fighting back! VIDEO proof shows Russians literally walking into your bases and ukrainians walking out! This will be remembered forever! Military history books will write and show video of ukrainians willingly leaving their posts! Fucking cowards!
        How mnay nations have conquered Ukraine? Huh? Poland? Belarussia? Turks? How many?

        u could have voted Yanakovitch out in 12 months times u dumb fucks, instead u started a foreign backed coup and LOST land!
        Now your country is even more poor!
        Now your only gem is Odessa which is full of drug addicted kids selling their ass to european pedofiles! Your tourist attraction is a pedofile city and a radioactive nuclear disaster! Thats your tourist attraction!

        White dumb niggers who lost land to a nation who is now hailed as hero’s in the middle east!
        you must feel like low scum right now and u know what? u should feel like scum because dumb people never learn!

  • Black Waters

    Nobody is safe from U.S imperialism nowadays.

    • Spit

      We are safe.
      How safe Nobody knows,

  • RichardD

    A very insightful and well written article.

  • Spit

    I think its over.
    I think Russia will take this

  • Dear friends, SouthFront expresses thanks for different and interesting points of view, but calls on you to avoid personal affronts. https://southfront.org/a-clash-of-visions-on-ukrainian-issue-in-comments/
    Sincerely yours,
    SF Team