Monday, March 3, 2014

Ukraine's Military - How Much Of A Deterrent Is It?

Updated February 2015

With the continuing hostilities between Russia and Ukraine, it is interesting to see how prepared Ukraine is to defend itself, particularly when its state of military readiness is compared to that of Russia.  When reading through this posting, it is important to keep in mind that Ukraine inherited much of its materiel from the former Soviet Union.

According to Global Firepower, Ukraine's military strength ranks 21st in the world as shown on this list of the top 25 nations:

To ascertain a nation's Power Index, Global Firepower considers several key factors:

1.) Geographical factors.

2.) Use and production of natural resources.

3.) Ranking does not depend on the total number of weapons available for use.

4.) Nuclear capability is not considered.

5.) Land-locked nations are not penalized for not having naval capabilities.

6.) Current political and military leadership is not taken into account.

Here are some key statistics for both nations:

1.) Manpower 

- 160,000 front line personnel and 1,000,000 active reserve personnel.

- 15,686,055 fit for service.

By way of comparison, Russia has 766,000 active front line personnel and 2,485,000 active reserve personnel with 46,812,553 considered fit for service.

2.) Land Systems

- 4,112 tanks.

- 6,431 armoured fighting vehicles.

- 1,203 self-propelled guns.

- 1,000 towed artillery pieces.

- 626 rocket projectors including the Buk missile system, allegedly responsible for the Malaysian Air  crash, which looks like this:

By way of comparison, Russia has 15,500 tanks (the most in the world, surpassing the 8,325 American tanks by a very wide margin), 27,607 armoured fighting vehicles (again, the most in the world, surpassing the 25,782 American AFVs), 5,990 self-propelled guns (compared to only 1,934 American guns), 4,625 towed artillery pieces (compared to only 1,791 American artillery pieces) and 3,781 multiple launch rocket systems including the Buk M-1 as noted above (again, the most in the world, surpassing the 1,330 American MLRS).

3.) Air Power

- 400 total aircraft

- 93 helicopters

By way of comparison, Russia has 3,082 military aircraft, paling in comparison to 13,683 American aircraft which puts the U.S. firmly in the number one in the world by a very wide margin when measured in terms of air superiority.  Russia has 973 military helicopters, again paling in comparison to the 6,012 American helicopters which puts the U.S. in first place once again.

4.) Naval Power

- 25 military watercraft total strength.

- 7 Corvettes.

- 1 Frigate.

- 1 Submarine.

- 2 Coastal Craft.

- 4 Mine Warfare Craft.

Russia has 352 military naval ships in total, compared to 473 for the United States.  The Russian fleet includes 74 Corvettes, 4 Frigates, 63 submarines, 65 coastal craft and 34 mine warfare craft.  Note that Ukraine has no aircraft carriers compared to one remaining Russian carrier that is currently in service, the Admiral Kuznetsov, built in 1991.  The Kuznetsov was deployed to the Mediterranean in 2013 on a "training mission", however, it was felt that its relocation was due to the ongoing tensions in Syria. It is also key to note that the Russian Black Sea fleet is concentrated at Sevastopol where Russia has a renewable lease that expires in 2017. 

Ukraine's defense budget in 2013 was $4.88 billion dollars compared to $76.6 billion for Russia and $612.5 billion for the United States, putting the U.S. in number one spot by a wide margin over number two military spender, China at $126 billion.

While Global Firepower does not include nuclear weapons in its rankings, it is interesting to note that when the Soviet Union broke up, Ukraine inherited the world's third largest nuclear weapons stockpile after Russia and the United States.  On top of the nuclear materiel, about one-third of Soviet military industry was located on Ukrainian soil which employed about 40 percent of Ukraine's working age population.  Ukraine inherited approximately 1900 strategic nuclear warheads and 2500 tactical nuclear weapons including 130 SS-19 and 46 SS-24 ICBMs, each armed with ten nuclear weapons and a total of 44 strategic bombers equipped with air-launched cruise missiles.  After years of negotiation, Ukraine transferred all of its nuclear warheads to Russia by May 21, 1996 and by January 2002, all strategic bombers on Ukrainian territory had been dismantled, converted to non-military use or transferred to Russia in exchange for cancellation of Ukraine's outstanding natural gas debt.  As well, all ICBMs had been eliminated or disassembled and all ICMB missile silos had been destroyed.  In return, Ukraine received $500 million in U.S. financial assistance for nuclear dismantlement.  While Ukraine does have small deposits of uranium, it is reliant on Russian infrastructure for nuclear fuel enrichment and fabrication.

With this information in mind, unless Ukraine receives substantial military aid from an outside government or Russia feels the strain of increasing political and economic isolation, the actual battle for Ukraine will continue to be long and painful, particularly to the nation's civilian population.  One also has to wonder if Ukraine's leadership now regrets its decision to relinquish control of what could have proved to be a very effective nuclear deterrent.


  1. It is important to note that the Ukraine relinquished its nuclear arsenal only after it received security guarantees from the US, UK, and France (the Budapest memorandum on Ukraine). Countries around the world are watching this situation unfold, and they will see whether or not these countries are to be trusted when they issue a promise to back the territorial integrity of another. It is beginning to look like such a guarantee is not binding on the West for more than 15 years.

    1. Uh. II believe you will find it is Russia that has violated Ukrainians territorial integrity (to put it mildly).

      Russia were also party to the memorandum.

  2. President Putin's speech to the Federal Assembly in English

  3. "The Vineyard of the Saker"
    "How the US dream of world supremacy was buried in Crimea"

  4. It is interesting to note how far down Iran is on the list of military power.

    1. Iran has a Treaty with Russia. Russia can bring troops. The US and the NATO lose the war to Iran, if Vladimir V. Putin deems it necessary to protect Russia's interests in Iran.

    2. Air superiority>Land Also combined NATO strength is much more than enough to obliterate Russia, one on one RU has a chance vs US, but NATO, no way man.

  5. A military is only as strong as the leadership of a country, Obama hates the Wasps in the US and Europe, it is debatable whether he would do anything anywhere.