Following a naval confrontation between Russian forces and Ukrainian military ships in the Kerch Strait on Sunday afternoon, the Ukrainian armed services are now mobilizing for another possible showdown with Russia.
A big part of the Ukrainian mobilization for war involves calling up first-line reservists; some analysts commenting on the development believe this call-out may soon extend to the mobilization of second and third-line reservists.
Despite this intimidating prospect, the ranks of Ukrainian ground forces have a serious quality issue and this is that most of Ukraine’s front-line “army” is made up of ultra-nationalist and, more generally speaking, right-wing militias which lack discipline, proper conventional structure and belong to mish-mash units with a highly inconsistent (i.e. non-standard) array of supporting equipment.
That being said, Ukraine does, technically, possess a large tank fleet, but again a closer look at the fleet indicates that it is only intimidating on paper. Here it is worth noting that large parts of the tank fleet are out of service with virtually no prospect of returning to operation in the near future; even a considerable part of the “operational” tank force is in fact, unable to operate.
Then comes the question of Ukrainian air and naval power. Yet again, closer inspection reveals an effectively non-existent force in comparison to both Russian capabilities and West European standards of size and readiness.
The air force currently possesses about one-quarter of is 2013 strength and about half of these “existing” aircraft are not in an serviceable state at any one given moment. The navy effectively consists of nothing more than a glorified coastal flotilla of light attack craft in addition to, literally, one frigate.
By comparison, Russia, whose army and navy effectively professionalized in recent years, not only possesses major ground formations at full combat readiness along its southwest border (opposite Ukraine), but also possess a wealth of very powerful stand-off weapons for destroying air, sea and land targets from many hundreds (thousands in regards to some ballistic and cruise missile systems) of kilometers away with great precision.
Considering conventional wars are determined mostly by vehicle-delivered firepower alone, rather than actual infantry clashes, the chances are that Russia could destroy the already limited offensive capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces (namely its air-power) with long-range missiles without a single Russian soldier having to cross the border.
However, it appears that it will not come to that. In fact now there are opinions emerging that Poroshenko forced the scenario which led to the Kerch incident, not because he wanted to escalate with Russia, but in order to have an excuse to declaring martial law and thus bypass the March elections within a country where even original supporters of his government have become disillusioned and critical of it.
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Indeed regarding this possibility, NATO’s official lack of commentary on the incident is quite telling in its own right.