London/Prague – A few weeks ago, Russia managed to occupy the Crimean peninsula quickly and almost without any fight. Now Kiev and Western powers fear that Moscow is going to do the same in Eastern Ukraine.
The Russian military appears to be well-disposed for such a task: it has much more modern equipment than Ukrainian armed forces and more soldiers. Russia has around 15,000 tanks and 3,000 planes, while Ukraine owns only 3,000 tanks and 400 planes. Moreover, Moscow spent USD 70 billion on defense in 2012, Ukraine only USD 2 billion.
However, if the Ukrainian military decides to fight back, Russia will have a hard time occupying the eastern part of the country, said British military analyst Tim Ripley in an interview with Czech online newspaper Aktualne.cz.
A possible Russian invasion will not be as quick as, for example, the US operation in the Persian Gulf in 1991 or Iraq in 2003, said Ripley.
“The Russians have at their disposal an enormous, compact force that is difficult to stop. But possible Ukrainian resistance may be successful, it only depends on if Ukrainian soldiers are motivated and willing to defend themselves, if Ukrainian units are loyal to orders from Kiev and to the leadership of the military and the state.”
“The Russian military is not as big a machinery as was the Soviet one at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Ukraine can defend itself even though it is weaker, it is only the question of will and motivation. If the population of the east of Ukraine does not join the side of the Russians, Ukrainian troops have a potential to create big problems for Russian forces.”
The strong point of the Russian military is the ability of some units to quickly decide, take initiative, and achieve a specific objective, and its biggest weakness is its reliance on conscripts, said Ripley.
Tim Ripley is the author of books such as Air War Iraq (Pen & Sword) or Jane's Modern Military Helicopters (Harper Collins 1997).
Follow us on Twitter!