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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How does the Ukrainian military compare with the Georgian military in 2008?

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.

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)?

Didn’t they give them up in exchange for a guarantee that the US would ensure their sovereignty?

There was a memorandumsigned 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.

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.

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.

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?

According to the OP, some military pundit on Fox is saying it.

Other than that, I agree with what you wrote.

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?