Ukraine Military Poses Meager Threat to Russia


The U.S. and its NATO allies have trained with the Ukraine military and pumped millions of dollars into that country's defense, but given the size of its armed forces, Ukraine could offer little resistance should its Crimea engagement with Russia escalate into a shooting war.

Russia has about 845,000 troops as compared to Ukraine's roughly 130,000, according to the BBC, which cites figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Should a major conflict erupt, Ukraine has just fewer than 11 million men and about 11.3 million women it considers available for military service, according to the CIA Factbook on the country. That was its population of men and women between the ages of 16 and 49 as of 2010. Of that group, however, about 6.9 million men and 8.8 million women were deemed fit for service.

For Russia, the available-for-service population as of 2013 was 34.7 million men and 35.4 million -- of which 22.5 million and 23 million -- were considered fit for military service.

There is also not a good match-up in hardware.

Russia enjoys more than a two-to-one margin in tanks -- 2,500 compared to 1,110 -- while Ukraine's 17-ship navy is a tenth the size of Russia's 171-ship fleet. Russia's small Black Sea fleet, which is where it would go against Ukraine's, numbers 25 hulls.

And while Russia has 1,389 combat aircraft, Ukraine has 221, meaning Ukraine is unlikely to be able to get, or hold, air dominance.

NATO plans to conduct emergency talks on the Ukraine crisis Tuesday.

Though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it has contributed forces to multiple NATO, European and U.S.-led peacekeeping and combat operations, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ukraine deployed more than 5,000 troops to Iraq between 2003, when the war began, and it ended its mission there.

Since Ukraine assumed independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has provided various kinds of aid, including military, and Ukrainian troops have taken part in U.S. and NATO exercises under the so-called Partnership for Peace.

The exercise was made up of former Warsaw Pact countries that sought closer relations with Western Europe. The U.S. and NATO countries held their first exercise in Ukraine in 1996.

In a statement released on Monday, the 28-member organization said Poland requested the talks after concluding that what is happening in Ukraine poses a threat to it and other NATO members, according to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"We support Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Rasmussen said. "Ukraine is our neighbor, and Ukraine is a valued partner for NATO. We urge all parties to urgently continue all efforts to move away from this dangerous situation. In particular, I call on Russia to de-escalate tensions."

-- Bryant Jordan can be reach at

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