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Old 12-02-2018, 05:02 PM
Kamaski Kamaski is offline
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Is Russia capable of conquering Ukraine?

I saw a military ananlyst on Fox the other day saying that a war between Russia and Ukraine would be unlike any other in the 21st century because unlike Iraq in 2003, the Ukrainians have modern weapons and training, and have been preparing to defend themselves from their big neighbor to the east since the collapse of the ussr. Ukraine is not some backward 3rd rate Middle East power that can easily be overrun. It was said that Russia will likely take very high casualties.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:35 PM
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I saw a military ananlyst on Fox the other day saying that a war between Russia and Ukraine would be unlike any other in the 21st century because unlike Iraq in 2003, the Ukrainians have modern weapons and training, and have been preparing to defend themselves from their big neighbor to the east since the collapse of the ussr. Ukraine is not some backward 3rd rate Middle East power that can easily be overrun. It was said that Russia will likely take very high casualties.
For the last four years, Ukraine hasn't been able to defend itself against its own pro-Russia separatists, who have seized control of huge swaths of the country. This does not bode well for their ability to defend the rest of the country in the event of a war with Russia.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:36 PM
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Russia has all of the same technology as Ukraine and then some (does Ukraine have nukes?), but more manpower. Russia certainly could conquer Ukraine. It'd cost them, and they might decide that it's not worth the cost, but they could certainly do it.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:37 PM
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Easily

I’d say Russia could capture Kiev in a matter of days if they really wanted to. I doubt the Ukrainian Army would have the morale never mind the firepower to successfully repel the Russians.
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:53 PM
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Does anyone have a treaty with Ukraine so that they will get drawn into any conflict?
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Old 12-02-2018, 05:58 PM
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Does anyone have a treaty with Ukraine so that they will get drawn into any conflict?
Well, there's GUAM (not, not Guam), which at least in theory is opposed to Russia's involvement in the separatist movements in the region. The extent of the military cooperation is so far limited to "peacekeeping", though I suppose it could escalate into something bigger.
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Old 12-02-2018, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Kamaski View Post
I saw a military ananlyst on Fox the other day saying that a war between Russia and Ukraine would be unlike any other in the 21st century because unlike Iraq in 2003, the Ukrainians have modern weapons and training, and have been preparing to defend themselves from their big neighbor to the east since the collapse of the ussr. Ukraine is not some backward 3rd rate Middle East power that can easily be overrun. It was said that Russia will likely take very high casualties.
Everyone talked about Iraq being a significant military power - until it fought a war with the United States. I think a war between Ukraine and Russia would reveal a similar imbalance of military power.
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:18 PM
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Everyone talked about Iraq being a significant military power - until it fought a war with the United States. I think a war between Ukraine and Russia would reveal a similar imbalance of military power.
The difference being that nobody talks about Ukraine being a military power. Ukraine does not have a large military. At all. In 1990, Iraq could at least claim to have the fourth largest army in the world by sheer number of personnel, but in the event the actual quantity meant little. Ukraine can't even claim that.

Edit: Ukraine has improved significantly since 2014, to the point that they are numerically large by European standards but still not compared to Russia.

Ukraine does have some defensive advantages. I agree that they could inflict serious costs on Russia if they fought defensively in dense urban environments. It doesn't make a huge difference. Ukraine can't sustain or regenerate losses and their experience with Russia so far implies conventional formations could take huge losses from Russian arty and air power. I was about to write that the best-case scenario for Ukraine is that they hold out in urban centers until NATO decides whether to mobilize... But a NATO/Russia war is not a "best case" by anyone's definition.

Last edited by JB99; 12-02-2018 at 08:19 PM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Kamaski View Post
I saw a military ananlyst on Fox the other day saying that a war between Russia and Ukraine would be unlike any other in the 21st century because unlike Iraq in 2003, the Ukrainians have modern weapons and training, and have been preparing to defend themselves from their big neighbor to the east since the collapse of the ussr. Ukraine is not some backward 3rd rate Middle East power that can easily be overrun. It was said that Russia will likely take very high casualties.
My thought is that Russia is going to allow some foreign power to mediate a resolution at some point. By now they have lost strategic surprise and they are on the verge of losing tactical surprise as time moves forward into the new year. Keeping an Army at high op tempo levels is going to get expensive in fuel and maitenance. So does Russia try to emulate the US invasion of Iraq with two divisions and minimal casualties, or does it go old school soviet and go in with big boots.

If they go in, they have to win. If they get their asses kicked, even if technically winning then they may as well hang up the super power boots. That should be the Ukraines biggest punch, embarassing Putin.
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:43 PM
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How does the Ukrainian military compare with the Georgian military in 2008?
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Old 12-02-2018, 08:55 PM
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Ukraine doesn't have nukes, they gave them up.

I have to imagine they've been getting some training and materiel from the US and Europe, and the land seized by Russia in the east is also home to the more pro-Russian Ukrainians. Although I feel certain Russia would win if determined to conquer all of Ukraine, Putin also knows what happened in Chechnya and Afghanistan. In fact Ukrainians waged a low-level insurgency against the USSR under STALIN; they'd be much more trouble than Russia wants.

Yes, the Russians crushed Georgia, but Ukraine isn't Georgia.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:29 PM
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Who has the better cyber capabilities? This could be one area where asymmetry may not be as relevant.

ETA: Who is Ukraine's biggest arms supplier (esp the higher tech stuff)?

Last edited by KarlGauss; 12-02-2018 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:37 PM
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Ukraine doesn't have nukes, they gave them up.
Didn't they give them up in exchange for a guarantee that the US would ensure their sovereignty?

Last edited by Rysto; 12-02-2018 at 09:37 PM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 10:28 PM
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Didn't they give them up in exchange for a guarantee that the US would ensure their sovereignty?
There was a memorandum signed by the U.S., the U.K. and Russia in 1994 to create "security assurances" for Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan in exchange for those nations giving up their post-Soviet nuclear stockpiles. The memorandum obliges the signatories to respect the new nations' independence and borders, and to refrain from using force against them. But it doesn't oblige the U.S. to come to their defense should Russia violate the terms of the memorandum.
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Old 12-02-2018, 10:51 PM
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Who has the better cyber capabilities? This could be one area where asymmetry may not be as relevant.
You would have to think Russia, unless the U.S. is helping Ukraine, which I doubt Trump would agree to, but parts the government don't always seem to align with Trump's agenda these days.

ETA, I don't doubt Germany, the UK, France, etc. also have effective cyberwar capabilities and they are much closer to the front line.

Last edited by TSBG; 12-02-2018 at 10:52 PM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:49 PM
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Who has the better cyber capabilities? This could be one area where asymmetry may not be as relevant.
Russia. They've all but used Ukraine as a bit of a training ground on how to conduct cyber-warfare.

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ETA: Who is Ukraine's biggest arms supplier (esp the higher tech stuff)?
Ukraine itself - they're actually arms exporters. They use a mix of old( and rehabilitated/updated )Soviet gear and some of that they still build themselves. Back in the days of the USSR a chunk of the defense industry was in fact based in Ukraine. Antonov for example.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 12-02-2018 at 11:49 PM.
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Old 12-02-2018, 11:59 PM
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Russia. They've all but used Ukraine as a bit of a training ground on how to conduct cyber-warfare.



Ukraine itself - they're actually arms exporters. They use a mix of old( and rehabilitated/updated )Soviet gear and some of that they still build themselves. Back in the days of the USSR a chunk of the defense industry was in fact based in Ukraine. Antonov for example.
Great links, much appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:28 AM
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I find it ironic that the United States (the Clinton admin in particular) urged Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons after the Cold War ended in the name of global security and peacekeeping. How long did that last?

There is a picture somewhere on the internet of US Defense Secretary William Perry shaking hands with the Ukrainian defense minister at the time (circa 1995) in front of a giant SS-18 missile site (iirc there were hundreds of missile sites existed in the Ukraine). IIRC those missiles were lifted out of their silos/launchers, taken to some area and destroyed/dismanted (I think the United States may have financed the destruction of those missiles but not sure on the details......

Does anyone think that Putin would be trying to take over the Ukraine like its some geopolical pawn if those missile sites were still intact?
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Old 12-03-2018, 12:40 AM
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The difference being that nobody talks about Ukraine being a military power.
According to the OP, some military pundit on Fox is saying it.

Other than that, I agree with what you wrote.
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Old 12-03-2018, 04:16 AM
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I suspect a war of conquest would be a bigger economic challenge to Russia than a military one. And I am not saying it neccessarily would be a walkover militarily.

Oil exports are ... fairly important to the Russian economy, and how much of their pipe system goes through Ukraine?
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Old 12-03-2018, 05:31 AM
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Russia in a heart beat. The Ukraine is some of the least defendable terrain on the planet. It’s mostly in the Eastern European plain, with flat terrain. The Deniper neatly divides the country into two and unfortunately most of the population and industry are in that region, meaning you have to make a stand there. And the land to the East is open. Of course the Russians can simply outflank any defences in the East by coming in through the North and vice versa.
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Old 12-03-2018, 05:26 PM
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Russia. They've all but used Ukraine as a bit of a training ground on how to conduct cyber-warfare.
Notwithstanding the Russians evident expertise in the area, I suspect that the Baltic States - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - would lend a collective and very helpful hand. Estonia and Latvia in particular are said to punch more than their weight in this regard.
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Old 12-03-2018, 06:06 PM
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Is Russia capable of conquering Ukraine?

Yes. Ukraine's military appears to be particularly anemic and inept.
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Old 12-03-2018, 10:28 PM
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I find it ironic that the United States (the Clinton admin in particular) urged Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons after the Cold War ended in the name of global security and peacekeeping. How long did that last?
How quickly we forget. As recently as 2013 the Ukrainian government was headed by the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich. If he had managed to hang on to power any nuclear weapons that had been retained by Ukraine would be more of a threat to the West than they would be to Russia. His downfall was in large part the trigger for the recent aggressive moves by Russia. If Russia had been threatened with the prospect of a nuclear-armed anti-Russian Ukrainian government it might very well have been prompted to intervene to prop up Yanukovich when he got in trouble. (Yanukovich is now in Russia.)

Belarus and Kazakhstan also had nuclear weapons that they turned over to Russia. Belarus today is probably Russia's strongest ally. If Belarus hadn't given up its nukes they would be just as much a threat to the US today as those in Russia. Kazakhstan is a corrupt authoritarian state in the middle of Asia. Would the world be more secure if Kazakhstan were still a nuclear power?

Given the present situation, yeah, a Ukraine with nukes could be more resistant to Russia. But other plausible scenarios since 1990 could well have resulted in them being much more of a threat to US interests.

Last edited by Colibri; 12-03-2018 at 10:46 PM.
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Old 12-04-2018, 11:53 AM
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Except Ukraine was ask to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for “security assurances” from the great powers (US, UK, Russia). Basically an empty promise with nothing backing it up. Russia respects nukes a lot more than a peice of paper saying the US will defend Ukraine. You won’t see Israel giving up its nukes because someone asked them to.
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Old 12-04-2018, 01:04 PM
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Except Ukraine was ask to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for “security assurances” from the great powers (US, UK, Russia). Basically an empty promise with nothing backing it up. Russia respects nukes a lot more than a peice of paper saying the US will defend Ukraine. You won’t see Israel giving up its nukes because someone asked them to.
The United Kingdom and the United States have stated they have lived up to the agreement. The agreement said they would not attack Ukraine and they have not done so. Russia also said it would not attack Ukraine and it obviously has broken that promise. But the UK and US have said that the agreement was not a defensive alliance; there was no agreement that they would intervene if one of the parties to the agreement broke it.

The Russian argument is that they didn't technically break the agreement. They said they signed the agreement with the old government of Ukraine in 1994 and that the government that existed in 2014 was the result of a revolution and therefore Ukraine should be considered a different country. And they had no agreement with this new country not to invade it.

I believe this is the current official Russian position. But there have been others. Russia has also claimed at various times that there were no troops in Ukraine; that the troops who were in Ukraine weren't Russian; that the people where the Russian troops were had formed their own separate country so it wasn't part of Ukraine anymore; that they had only promised not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine so other kinds of attacks don't count; and that the United States had attacked Ukraine first so the Russian troops were actually there to defend Ukraine from the Americans.
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Old 12-04-2018, 02:45 PM
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Spending is only a hint since so much else comes into play. For defense spending using Purchasing Power Parity makes a lot of sense. It makes more sense for countries with large military industrial complexes that are mostly building their own weapons. Their purchasing power tends to more reflective of the internal pricing where PPP is relevant. For Russia, that's probably a better estimate. For Ukraine, it's a less relevant conversion. One major piece of spending is personnel costs; in the US it tends to fall a bit under a third of the total budget. For nations that rely on conscription that can skew pricing even lower since they don't have to pay market costs. Russia has moved to a mixed system where a lot of their enlisted are now volunteer professional troops.* Ukraine was a volunteer military but reimplemented conscription in 2014.

2017 PPP conversion factors from the World Bank - US is the standard 1.0, Russia is 24.11, Ukraine is 8.10

Nominal military spending in US Dollars for 2017 (data pulled from spreadsheet compiled by SIPRI here ) ** - US spent 609.8, Russia spent $66.3 billion, Ukraine spent $3.6 billion

Applying PPP conversion factors for comparison:
- Russia 1.6 trillion USD
- US 609.8 billion USD
- Ukraine 29.2 billion USD

At PPP Russian spending is more than double what the one world superpower spends. It's almost 55 times what Ukraine spends. Russia's also been making a major military reform and modernization effort since 2008 significantly narrowing the technical gap between their military and the US.

The disparity in spending is massive and Russia currently has a very large and modern military. Would we even think to question the United States' ability to swiftly defeat Ukraine if it shared a land border? Unless Russian reforms and spending have been very poorly managed the capability difference should be at that level of disparity.

* Without going to look and cite, IIRC Russian Lieutenant Colonels still get paid a little less than the lowest paid members of the US military, E1s with less than four months of service. That's a pretty stark example of why PPP makes for a better point of comparison.

** Measurement can be hard even with relatively accurate reporting since what counts in a budget is open to interpretation. It's easy to find different estimates. I used the same relatively well-respected international source to at least avoid differing methodologies.
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Old 12-04-2018, 02:47 PM
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Russia respects nukes a lot more than a peice of paper saying the US will defend Ukraine.
As Little Nemo has pointed out, the US never made a commitment to "defend Ukraine." And as I have said, even if Ukraine still had nukes an entirely plausible scenario would be Russia installing a puppet pro-Russian regime under someone like Yanukovich. Your assumption that nukes would have been of value to Ukraine is based on a very narrow and short-term assessment of the situation since 2014. I think it is just or even more likely that if Ukraine had been left in control of nukes in the 1990s they would be directed at the West today rather than used as a deterrent against Russia.
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Old 12-04-2018, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Kamaski View Post
I saw a military ananlyst on Fox the other day saying that a war between Russia and Ukraine would be unlike any other in the 21st century because unlike Iraq in 2003, the Ukrainians have modern weapons and training, and have been preparing to defend themselves from their big neighbor to the east since the collapse of the ussr. Ukraine is not some backward 3rd rate Middle East power that can easily be overrun. It was said that Russia will likely take very high casualties.
Well, I haven't looked deeply into Ukraine's OOB lately, but my WAG on this is that it would be more an economic and logistical issue for Russia than a purely military one. That said, Ukraine would be fighting on the defensive with some relatively 'modern' (Soviet era crap) systems and it's a lot of territory for Russia to have to both invade then hold and their own military capabilities aren't all that great these days either. It would probably strap Russia to the max to undertake an actual forced entry invasion and a series of set piece battles and then occupations, tapping heavily their on call resources and manpower and available stocks of weapons and munitions and would be a bitch on their already strapped military budget. I think they COULD do it and without 'very high casualties', whatever that means in actual terms, but I don't think they could afford to do it. And this leaves aside the international costs of doing something like that, which would be staggering. They are under heavy sanctions now for just dipping their toe in the Ukraine and their Crimean adventure...a full out invasion I think would make them a pariah to everyone but, perhaps, North Korea and China and a few other outlier nations.
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:23 PM
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Except Ukraine was ask to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for “security assurances” from the great powers (US, UK, Russia). Basically an empty promise with nothing backing it up. Russia respects nukes a lot more than a peice of paper saying the US will defend Ukraine. You won’t see Israel giving up its nukes because someone asked them to.
The piece of paper didn't say that the US would "defend" Ukraine. We (and Russia) promised to "refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine." That Russia decided to renege doesn't obligate us to confront them. We're still meeting our obligations under the Budapest Memorandum.
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:30 PM
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Also consider that there was absolutely no way that the United States would have entered a defensive alliance with a part of the former Soviet Union in 1990. The USSR had just broken apart, and there was no guarantee that the dissolution would stick. We weren't going to commit to World War III to protect Ukraine.

We promised to never attack Ukraine if they gave up nuclear weapons, and we have not attacked them. We never promised to defend them.
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:40 PM
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To get back to the original question, there's a big difference between a military victory, an economic victory, and a political victory.

Yes, Russian tanks can roll through Ukraine, and Russian bombers can flatten the cities.

And then what? What's the goal here? To return Ukraine as a productive part of the Russian Empire, surely. And will invading and occupying Ukraine accomplish that? The direct cost of the invasion and occupation would be tremendous, and those costs would pale in comparison to the indirect costs of additional sanctions, economic disruption, and the strengthening of anti-Russian alliances. And then how do you pacify Ukraine and make it productive again, to pay for the costs of annexing it?

In any case, an outright midnight invasion doesn't seem like the Russian style. The much more likely scenario is to engineer a pro-Russian coup, and then the shaky new pro-Russian government invites in the Russian military as advisers. Ukrainian regime troops are the ones on the streets suppressing the riots and demonstrations, while the Russian troops hang back as an arms-length threat.

Engineering that pro-Russian coup is going to take some work, though.

Last edited by Lemur866; 12-04-2018 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 12-04-2018, 03:58 PM
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To get back to the original question, there's a big difference between a military victory, an economic victory, and a political victory.

Yes, Russian tanks can roll through Ukraine, and Russian bombers can flatten the cities.

And then what? What's the goal here? To return Ukraine as a productive part of the Russian Empire, surely. And will invading and occupying Ukraine accomplish that? The direct cost of the invasion and occupation would be tremendous, and those costs would pale in comparison to the indirect costs of additional sanctions, economic disruption, and the strengthening of anti-Russian alliances. And then how do you pacify Ukraine and make it productive again, to pay for the costs of annexing it?

In any case, an outright midnight invasion doesn't seem like the Russian style. The much more likely scenario is to engineer a pro-Russian coup, and then the shaky new pro-Russian government invites in the Russian military as advisers. Ukrainian regime troops are the ones on the streets suppressing the riots and demonstrations, while the Russian troops hang back as an arms-length threat.

Engineering that pro-Russian coup is going to take some work, though.
I agree. I think it would be tougher for Russia to roll tanks through the Ukraine than you seem to imply, or flatten their cities with Russian bombers, but that they could do it is pretty much a yes. However, there is a cost to benefit here that would be missing. In addition, while I expect the Russian colonized eastern parts of Ukraine would be ok with being under the Russian thumb again, I seriously doubt the western parts would. There is a LOT of rancor between the two groups, especially how that Russian colonization happened and what happened to a lot of the native Ukrainians. You have a ton of very grim history there that people who haven't looked into this much lose, context wise.

And, as I said, you have the international political blow back. Russia is already on thin ice, internationally, for it's recent antics. A full on invasion of Ukraine would probably rile just about everyone up against them and make them on par with a lot of the pariah regimes like Iran and North Korea...which they definitely don't want. Plus, the cost to their military would be staggering, especially considering that a large percentage of their ground forces are conscripts. They have very little really modern weapons systems, and losing any of that would be a huge blow. Plus there is the blow of their image, prestige wise if they do have some setbacks, which they are almost certain to have.
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Old 12-04-2018, 04:16 PM
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... Russia's also been making a major military reform and modernization effort since 2008 significantly narrowing the technical gap between their military and the US. ...
You think they've narrowed the gap? I don't.

Since 2008, the US military has acquired an additional few dozen F-22s, a couple hundred F-35s, a few hundred V-22s, more than a dozen Arleigh Burke DDGs, 11 Virginia-class SSNs, CVN-77 & 78, various cruisers, litoral combat ships, and amphibious assault ships, they've launched the X-37B into orbit several times, put into operation their first directed-energy weapon, introduced new stealthy and sophisticated missiles and bombs, etc.

What has Russia done in this time that compares?

They've managed to commission a dozen corvettes, a half-dozen frigates, three Borei-class SSBNs, one SSN, a half-dozen or so SSKs. Yes, they've acquired some new rotorcraft and jets, but their "5th-generation" fighter jet, the SU-57 is still in the prototype stage, and their shiny new T-14 main battle tank (which they seem to have only ordered a handful of) broke down during a parade.
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Old 12-04-2018, 04:26 PM
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You think they've narrowed the gap? I don't.

Since 2008, the US military has acquired an additional few dozen F-22s, a couple hundred F-35s, a few hundred V-22s, more than a dozen Arleigh Burke DDGs, 11 Virginia-class SSNs, CVN-77 & 78, various cruisers, litoral combat ships, and amphibious assault ships, they've launched the X-37B into orbit several times, put into operation their first directed-energy weapon, introduced new stealthy and sophisticated missiles and bombs, etc.

What has Russia done in this time that compares?

They've managed to commission a dozen corvettes, a half-dozen frigates, three Borei-class SSBNs, one SSN, a half-dozen or so SSKs. Yes, they've acquired some new rotorcraft and jets, but their "5th-generation" fighter jet, the SU-57 is still in the prototype stage, and their shiny new T-14 main battle tank (which they seem to have only ordered a handful of) broke down during a parade.
They have a few really, really good systems. Their anti-aircraft missile systems are considered the best in the world (things like the S-400). The T-14 is a lot better than you seem to think (one of them had an issue in an early parade, but didn't actually break down). Their SU-57 is a good, solid 5th gen aircraft that doesn't have all of the integration capabilities that the US 5th gen fighters do, but has a lot more maneuver capabilities than ours does. The problem is, they don't have a lot of any of this new stuff, so the majority of what they have is conscripts using old (or new built old designs) Soviet era crap. So, no, they haven't closed the gap with the US except in a very few narrow areas with a very few really top of the line weapons systems used and operated by a very small elite number of very good troops and pilots.

China is pretty much in the same boat, though they have a much larger budget to play with. That said though, they have a hell of a lot more systemic issues that sucks at that budget and they have a boat load more internal fires going on that folks seem to think.
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  #36  
Old 12-04-2018, 04:50 PM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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They have a few really, really good systems. Their anti-aircraft missile systems are considered the best in the world (things like the S-400). The T-14 is a lot better than you seem to think (one of them had an issue in an early parade, but didn't actually break down). Their SU-57 is a good, solid 5th gen aircraft that doesn't have all of the integration capabilities that the US 5th gen fighters do, but has a lot more maneuver capabilities than ours does. The problem is, they don't have a lot of any of this new stuff, so the majority of what they have is conscripts using old (or new built old designs) Soviet era crap. So, no, they haven't closed the gap with the US except in a very few narrow areas with a very few really top of the line weapons systems used and operated by a very small elite number of very good troops and pilots.

China is pretty much in the same boat, though they have a much larger budget to play with. That said though, they have a hell of a lot more systemic issues that sucks at that budget and they have a boat load more internal fires going on that folks seem to think.
I agree with what you said. I was just trying to highlight the fact that they've only ordered a dozen SU-57s. It's not clear to me how many T-14s they actually have on hand, but it does seem that they're drastically scaling-back their purchase from the initial reports.

This seems to be a bit of a pattern with Russian defense industry: announce some cool new vaporware system, Russia makes a big show about plans to procure tons of them, then later quietly scales down the purchase significantly (to a number that's not really very impressive) when they find out the cost. This seems to have happened with the SU-57, the T-14, and the Yasen-class submarines.

Last edited by HurricaneDitka; 12-04-2018 at 04:50 PM.
  #37  
Old 12-04-2018, 04:56 PM
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It's more a matter of their shinny new toys just aren't affordable to them in large numbers. They aren't vaporware though...they are good, solid systems from what I've read or listened to. But their annual military budget just isn't there to buy more than a handful of the things, and a large part of that budget is spread out trying to maintain their old crap and very large conscript army. What they SHOULD do is remodel their entire military along the lines of countries like the UK, instead of trying to compete with the US or even China, who's annual budget dwarfs their own, but then they would have to admit that they aren't a global superpower anymore.

Which is another reason why they won't directly invade the Ukraine, to bring this back to the OP. Because by doing so they would demonstrate (again) that the emperor has no clothes...
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  #38  
Old 12-04-2018, 06:01 PM
DinoR DinoR is offline
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You think they've narrowed the gap? I don't.
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In this time of change, our military is still strong. Yet our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare, air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, and it is continuing to erode.
- Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Jan 2018, commenting after the release of the 2018 National Defense Strategy


SECDEF wasn't even stating something new or all that controversial. The gap narrowing has been a common theme coming out of DOD and among outside security professionals for several years now.
  #39  
Old 12-04-2018, 06:39 PM
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SECDEF wasn't even stating something new or all that controversial. The gap narrowing has been a common theme coming out of DOD and among outside security professionals for several years now.
The DOD always believes the gap is narrowing and more funds are needed. You could allocate every dollar in the budget to defense and the refrain would remain the same. IMHO such reports should always be taken with a grain or fifty of salt.

It's not that they are outright lying necessarily, but what would to me read as a trivial downgrade relative to projected foreign opponents to them could be taken as a dire decline that forebodes disaster. I'm sure the navy would love to get back to a 600* ship count again, but that isn't going to( and IMHO shouldn't )happen. The United States is the only super-power in the world at the moment**. I don't think that is likely to change anytime soon and when and if it does, I'm not inclined to think Russia with its slightly precarious economy is going be the next in line to vie for that status.

*Well, 594.

**We'll put aside whether the existence of such an entity is even desirable in the first place.
  #40  
Old 12-04-2018, 06:40 PM
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NPR had a military expert recently who said that while Russia could in theory defeat Ukraine militarily, Russia's military is in such a shoddy state it would largely be a Pyrrhic victory since they would pretty much have no actual competent forces left afterwards. The strain of both Ukraine and Syria based operations stressed the Russian military immensely and that wasn't even full scale warfare in either sector. Taking Ukraine would basically leave them unable to do anything else global for quite some time.
  #41  
Old 12-04-2018, 06:45 PM
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The problem is, they don't have a lot of any of this new stuff, so the majority of what they have is conscripts using old (or new built old designs) Soviet era crap.
As of 2015, the majority of the Russian military is professional volunteers not conscripts. Professionals were expected to replace conscripts in all leadership positions by the end of 2015. Draft numbers have continued to dwindle although progress towards a western style professional army has it's rough spots.

The goal of their reform was 70% modern equipment by 2020. Some of their progress towards that goal might not be immediately obvious. If you see talk about T72B3s in the fighting inside Crimea it might sound like old Soviet era crap. US forces beat the hell out of T72s dring Desert Storm. We beat the hell out of mostly export variants that weren't up to top of the line T72s in Soviet service in 1991. The T72B3 is heavily upgraded. It's got a second generation thermal sight on par with the top Abrams variants...and better than some Abrams variants still in service on some US tanks. It's not simply a case of a T72 is a T72. The devil is in the details.

There are real potential issues with such massive changes. Adapting a mission oriented command philosophy based on the old Prussian reforms is hard. When you pay your troops to think it takes time to both change the culture of "just follow orders" let alone get leaders that think well. The change from conscription is hard and will tend to push up costs. Russia is not mostly conscripted troops operating Soviet era equipment, anymore. New equipment can have technical issues which is a big deal when it's mostly new equipment. Things changed pretty drastically in the last decade, though. That started after the war with Georgia in 2008 where the old weaknesses caused issues.

Of course, they still crushed Georgia. Quantity has a quality all it's own. Which probably says something about the OP.
  #42  
Old 12-05-2018, 01:30 AM
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It really doesn’t matter how many tanks Russia throws at Ukraine. Ukraine can counter with an anti-tank missile. Russia can send in 5,000 tanks, and Ukraine will counter with 5,000 anti-tank missiles (Javelin and other systems).

With Mattis in the Pentagon Ukraine can get any anti-tank or anti-aircraft system it wants. In any number.

Plus the Ukrainian military has already recieved extensive training in military tactics from US Army advisors, including West Point grads and Iraq war vets. Everything from small unit tactics, battalion size maneuvers, close air support, urban warfare, armor tactics, etc, etc.

Plus Ukraine is trying to start a troop training school similar to Fort Irwin in the US.




The Russian military has had huge problems in the past and still does with courrption and I don’t see that changing. Despite Putin’s propaganda the Russian military is largely made up of unmotivated conscripts who would drop their rifle and run at the first sound of battle....... motivation is a big problem in the Russian miltary. This is not the glory days of the USSR when the average soldier thought they were defending the noble cause of communism...... now the average Russian soldier fights so that Putin and the oilarghs can collect another million.



Average Russians know they would gain nothing from a war of conquest against Ukraine. I suspect there would be a large number of defections if it did happen. Putin does not have the hold on the Russian military the way Stalin did.
  #43  
Old 12-05-2018, 08:51 AM
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I would think the major problem would be economic not military. Not so much taking and then holding the Ukraine, so much as what the West would do afterwards. Even if sanctions are leaky, the rich oligarchs who run the country will miss their Mercedes and fine brandy; not to mention the risk that their bank accounts in Western banks all get frozen, and definitely nobody of significance from Russia would be allowed to travel in the West, assuming they had any foreign money to travel with. With the glut of oil, and with the proper natural gas arrangements from elsewhere, their major revenue from resources would drop to nothing.

I suspect the Russians will stick to harassing, disrupting, and chipping away at Ukrainian stability.

OTOH, there are plenty in the Ukraine who remember Stalin's purge that starved to death over 3 million of them during the 1930's. There's a fairly deep animosity still.
  #44  
Old 12-05-2018, 09:34 AM
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OTOH, there are plenty in the Ukraine who remember Stalin's purge that starved to death over 3 million of them during the 1930's.
I don't see how this can be correct. Only people in their mid-90s and older could have clear memories of the Holodomor. This is a tiny fraction of the population that moreover has next to no political sway or influence. And in any case I'm sure it's not politically homogeneous—there are still a lot of people in Ukraine that have a favourable opinion of Stalinism, or at least of the Stalin era.
  #45  
Old 12-05-2018, 10:51 AM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
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It really doesn’t matter how many tanks Russia throws at Ukraine. Ukraine can counter with an anti-tank missile. Russia can send in 5,000 tanks, and Ukraine will counter with 5,000 anti-tank missiles (Javelin and other systems).

.
Two points on this:

Does the Ukraine have access to anywhere near 5000 modern anti-tank missiles?

I though the state of the art Russian tanks (which admittedly are only a small percentage of the Russian tank force) had pretty effective anti-missile countermeasures nowadays. Would a Javelin still be effective?
  #46  
Old 12-05-2018, 11:50 AM
HurricaneDitka HurricaneDitka is online now
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Two points on this:

Does the Ukraine have access to anywhere near 5000 modern anti-tank missiles?

I though the state of the art Russian tanks (which admittedly are only a small percentage of the Russian tank force) had pretty effective anti-missile countermeasures nowadays. Would a Javelin still be effective?
The Russians have Arena, an active-protection system. I don't know how effective it would be against either our newer anti-tank missiles or older stuff we might be more willing to pass out to Ukrainians. I also don't know how many of their tanks are equipped with Arena. If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that a relatively small % of Russian tanks are equipped with Arena.
  #47  
Old 12-05-2018, 12:18 PM
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I don't see how this can be correct. Only people in their mid-90s and older could have clear memories of the Holodomor. This is a tiny fraction of the population that moreover has next to no political sway or influence. And in any case I'm sure it's not politically homogeneous—there are still a lot of people in Ukraine that have a favourable opinion of Stalinism, or at least of the Stalin era.
They have memories in the same way that the children and grandchildren of Holocaust victims have memories - not literal, but still very, very deep.
  #48  
Old 12-05-2018, 12:33 PM
griffin1977 griffin1977 is offline
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The Russians have Arena, an active-protection system. I don't know how effective it would be against either our newer anti-tank missiles or older stuff we might be more willing to pass out to Ukrainians. I also don't know how many of their tanks are equipped with Arena. If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that a relatively small % of Russian tanks are equipped with Arena.
Also I'd assume despite recent modernization, the Russian army still has a fairly cold-war mindset. In that they are quite happy to use weight of numbers to achieve victory, even if that means taking heavy casualties.

So even if Ukraine do have a reasonable quantity of effective anti-tank missiles, they don't have as many missile launchers as the Russians have tanks. The threat of losing a couple of tanks for every anti-tank missile launcher is not going deter the Russians from launching a massive armored assault.
  #49  
Old 12-05-2018, 02:05 PM
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I’m pretty sure the United States has figured out how to destroy Russian tanks with guided missiles, that’s a Cold War problem. The Russians have developed some anti-missile counter measures in recent years, but the DOD has the best scientists and engineers on the planet working for it and budget of $700B. Those guys are pretty clever. I’m sure they can make a missile that can beat anything Russia has.


In this age of 21st century warfare, space war, cyber war, drones, UAVs, asymmetrical warfare, etc, etc Russia is going to need more than a massive Cold War-style tank blitzgreig.


I suspect the leadership of the Russian military is in denial. They are old men. They still want to believe that their rapidly aging and obsolete tank fleet is supreme. They want to believe that they are still a powerful country, that the world fears them like it feared the Soviet military. They don’t want to believe that the Cold War ended 3 decades ago and Russia lost. That their tank fleet is a relic of the past. That new forms of warfare has evolved in the 21st century.



Russia lacks open-minded and dynamic leaders, and that will be a huge problem.
  #50  
Old 12-05-2018, 02:12 PM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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Sounds like a new Afghanistan-1980 type of opportunity, whereby the United States could supply the anti-Russian resistance with thousands of antitank missiles (similar to Taliban Stingers, although Stingers were anti-helicopter). Do it cheap.


Tangential question: With a lot of stealth aircraft in its inventory, could the USAF do covert airstrikes against Russian forces in Ukraine every here and there and now and then, only doing it during a major battle so as to be able to plausibly disguise the bomb explosions as being of Ukrainian origin?

Last edited by Velocity; 12-05-2018 at 02:13 PM.
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