Ukrainian Military After 5 Years Of Warfare


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Ukrainian Military After 5 Years Of Warfare

Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

Prior to the Maidan coup of 2014, Ukraine’s military existed in a political vacuum, suffering from benign neglect as well as corruption and other problems plaguing the Ukrainian state. Apart from downsizing, which meant the replacement of divisions by brigades, no modernization was conducted in the years of independence. While Ukraine did contribute to a variety of international missions, even sending a small contingent to Afghanistan and Iraq, these units came from various elite components of the armed forces. The rank-and-file mechanized and armored brigades simply languished under successive Ukrainian governments.

Kiev’s bid to mobilize its military resources after 2014 has enjoyed mixed fortunes. On the one hand, Ukraine did benefit from massive stockpiles of relatively modern weapons left over from the Soviet era. They gave a seemingly inexhaustible supply of weapons and spare parts to flesh out existing units and assemble new ones. In practice, however, neglect of the stored equipment and the limited capacities of Ukraine’s manufacturing and repair infrastructure meant that the losses incurred during the battles of 2014 and 2015 could only partly be replaced, and even then only with inferior equipment.  While Ukraine does have the ability to manufacture heavy and light armored vehicles, it cannot do so in large quantities or without continued supply of certain subsystems from Russia. Indigenously developed vehicles like the Oplot MBT or BTR-3 and -4 APCs seem mainly intended for export to earn badly needed hard currency. Domestic modifications of existing vehicles like the T-64BU Bulat MBT have been discontinued due to the combination of high costs and enduring problems. So as a result of five years of intermittent warfare Ukraine’s tank and APC fleets are smaller, older, more heterogeneous, and more worn out than they were at the beginning of conflict. The shortage of heavy equipment has forced Kiev to resort to organizing motorized brigades with hardly any armored vehicles at all.

NATO’s contribution has not reversed this trend.  There is no evidence any MBTs have been supplied to Ukraine, even from former Warsaw Pact members of NATO who, like Poland and the Czech Republic, have limited themselves to deliveries of small numbers of 2S1 howitzers and BMP-1 troop carriers. Western NATO members likewise have not been showering Ukraine with modern equipment. The most notable deliveries of Western gear were the AT-105 Saxon 4×4 APCs from Great Britain, and the Javelin ATGMs from the United States, the latter of which have not seen combat and appear to be held in reserve. There have been spotty deliveries of small arms, including US copies of RPG-7s, large caliber sniper rifles, Humvees, and even US-made counter-battery radars. The most important aspect of foreign aid has been in the realm of provision of munitions, both for small arms and artillery. The provision of large quantities of artillery shells enabled Ukraine to subject the Donbass to continued bombardment for the last five years. Here the culprits are, again, the former Warsaw Pact members of NATO, with the deliveries being paid for by US military assistance to Ukraine funds.

The fact that the Ukrainian state has de-facto lost its monopoly on violence after the events of 2014 also left a mark on Ukraine’s forces. The military has a powerful competitor in the form of the National Guard which comprises some of the most ideological neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, and which amounts to a state within a state under the command of Arsen Avakov. The fact that Avakov is one of the few high-level luminaries from the Poroshenko era to survive into the Zelensky era proves something that has long been suspected, namely that he is an independent player in Ukrainian politics whose subordination to the President is only nominal. Little is known of Avakov’s ties to the West, though here the fact that Western powers have turned a blind eye to Avakov’s arming of neo-Nazis suggests they view him as an insurance policy against Zelensky or any future Ukrainian leader who might “go soft” on Russia. Avakov and his proxies have made it clear on more than one occasion that he would oppose “revanchism” in the form of improved relations with Russia, which makes his political preferences consistent with those of Western hardliners. Zelensky’s humiliating confrontation with Azov Regiment militants, who plainly refused to accept orders from their supposed commander-in-chief, only underscores the weakness of his position. It also means that should Ukraine’s military suffer disproportionately heavy combat losses, it would create a vacuum of power that Avakov’s National Guard would be eager to fill.

For that reason, the seven brigades of the Airmobile Forces, the elite of the Ukrainian military have seen relatively little fighting in the Donbass.  These brigades were built on the basis of Ukraine’s Airborne Forces units, with adaptations to modern warfare including provision of heavy equipment such as T-80BV tanks, BTR-3 and -4 wheeled infantry fighting vehicles replacing the Soviet-era BMDs, and of course self-propelled artillery battalions. They also contain a considerably higher proportion of contract as opposed to conscript soldiers, are without any doubt the most effective units that Kiev commands. They are also quite visible during parades and exercises attended by Western observers. But instead of being on the front lines, two of the seven brigades are stationed close to Kiev, while the rest are spread relatively evenly across Ukraine’s regions, even Western ones where there is little danger of fighting, suggesting their role is mainly internal security. While their ostensible military purpose is to serve in a “fire brigade” role in the event of an LPR/DPR breakout and possibly even a direct Russian intervention, the fact that only one of the seven brigades is anywhere near the Donbass at any one time suggests that their main task is to guard against the potential seizure of power by the National Guard or other militants.

The political divisions, corruption, and progressive impoverishment of Ukraine have also left an impact on the armed forces. In order to send Ukrainian brigades to the Donbass to suppress what at that point were peaceful demonstrations, Maidan leaders had to resort to a major purge of the command staff, elevating relatively junior officers with proven nationalist credentials in order to ensure the military would follow orders. The early cases of units refusing to act against the Donbass activists showed that the pre-Maidan military was not mentally ready to shoot at Ukraine’s own citizens.

The problem of motivation has persisted ever since.  Far from every Ukrainian citizen shares Kiev’s political preferences or is interested in shedding blood on behalf of the oligarchs. Those Ukrainians who do serve often do it because military salaries actually compare favorably to what is available in the depressed Ukrainian economy, not to mention the prospect of plunder and/or smuggling in the frontline areas, with the latter being responsible for several clashes among various Ukrainian formations seeking to control this or that smuggling route.  But since the soldiers’ motives tend in the direction of monetary gains, the morale among those frontline Ukrainian units actually on the “line of separation” remains low, with a high rate of non-combat casualties caused by alcohol abuse or careless handling of weapons.  To offset this, Ukrainian commanders appear to have resorted to forming specialized assault units that can be relied upon to undertake difficult missions. The clashes along the line of separation during which Ukrainian forces attempted to seize positions in the “no-man’s land” separating the warring parties were carried out by such assault units usually of company strength. These clashes also showed the strengths and weaknesses of these formations. While capable of launching bold attacks, they are also highly vulnerable to attrition which ultimately forced them to abandon positions they had seized.

Consequently the Ukrainian military can roughly be broken down into three tiers. At the top there are the well-equipped and trained airmobile brigades intended for use as a last resort should a crisis erupt either on the front lines or on the home front. At the bottom there is the grey, unremarkable mass of poorly motivated Ukrainian conscripts serving in poorly equipped and trained mechanized and motorized brigades who perhaps can be relied upon to hold positions on quiet sectors but likely not much else. And in between there are the select assault units among these brigades, as well as volunteer battalions of the National Guard, which can carry out spectacular localized raids but which are unsuitable for sustained warfare.

There is little chance that the situation will change in the foreseeable future. Ukraine cannot afford a professional, all-volunteer force large enough to meet its requirements.  It also cannot afford modern weapons in large quantities. The “praetorian” factor gave Kiev an incentive to concentrate its contract soldiers and best weapons in the elite rapid reaction airmobile brigades, instead of using them in leadership positions among the ordinary mechanized and motorized brigades. While this means a rather dysfunctional military of radically differing capabilities, it is adequate to Kiev’s perception of threat. The “fire brigades” could probably handle a breakout threat by LPR/DPR forces. The Russian military is unlikely to involve itself in force except in cases of dire danger to LPR/DPR posed by a major Ukrainian offensive which Kiev so far has been unwilling to launch for fear of a new round of heavy personnel and material losses. Last but not least, Kiev appears to be aware that the outcome of the Donbass crisis has more to do with Moscow and Washington than with Kiev’s military modernization efforts.


  • Rodney Loder

    Many Salafists identified with the Ukranian ousting of Russians because it was though that Russia would be targeted, remember Samantha Lewthwaite November 2014 killed in Ukraine fighting with Aidar Battalion, but they refuse to identify with her sacrifice, this played into our hands and Salafist contingents opposed to attacking Russia and China got the upper hand and even Turkey came on board supporting Russia and China.

    So Ukraine lost out and is now a basket case.

    • AM Hants

      Samantha Lewthwaite – The White Widow and did ever use DNA to identify the body?

      I remember the actions of her husband, back on 7 July 2007, over in London very well.

      Now why does she remind me of an ‘intelligence created terrorist’ who comes in handy, when spinning stories?

      Why she interested me, was the fact I grew up in a small town, not far from where her husband got the train to London, and not far from where they actually lived. Plus, when living in London, I used to commute via Aldgate, although it was one of her husband’s mates, that was involved in that one.

      What never made sense, was why would the Jihads allow a female to run their units?
      Her father was a former soldier, who met her mother in Northern Ireland, before settling in Aylesbury, where she grew up, before she met the hubby. Well, that is the Disney version of the script.

  • AM Hants

    Talking of Ukraine and 5 years ago, ironic I was just watching the old Storm Front video and Nulandistan 9 Video, from back in those days. Both are well worth reviewing.

    Ukraine Crisis – What You’re Not Being Told…

    What were the BBC saying about Ukraine and the Svoboda Party, back in February 2014?

    Neo-Nazi threat in new Ukraine: NEWSNIGHT
    730,008 views•28 Feb 2014…

    Nulandistan: 9 facts that prove the U.S. is behind Ukraine crisis…


    The first video interested me, just not because of the late ‘Psycho Billy’ and his far right actions, but, also going back to the Larry Diamond videos. Remember the ‘Ukraine Girl’, who ended up working for Saakashvili, after she fronted the propaganda video, shot by larry Diamond Video Enterprises. Now why does it remind me of the ‘White Helmet’ Fake Videos?

    Who kick started The Maidan? Soros and Obama admit to funding the regime change script. So who runs parallel to the Soros ‘Open Society Foundation’ NGO? Is it not the National Endowment for Democracy tax payer funded NGO? Who sits on the Board of Directors of the NED? Larry Diamond, Anne Applebaum, Victoria Nuland, Elliot Abrams and many more US Ambassadors, specifically involved in regime change scripts in the nations they have been sent. Elliot Abrams, the US Ambassador to Venezuela and which other Ambassadors sit on the Board of Directors, over at the US tax payer funded NED? Why does the late Timothy Bell and his brother David, remind me of who runs the UK version of the NED and Larry Diamond Video Productions? Timothy Bell, Special Adviser to Margaret Thatcher, Boris Yeltsin, Berezovsky and Litvenenko, who set up both Sans Frontieres and Bell Pottinger. Remember, Bell Pottinger, who were given over $500,000 by the Pentagon to spin the Iraq War? Didn’t the Chilcott Report, find Blair guilty of lying in Parliament, with regards Sadam and his WMDs, when Blair was so desperate to take the UK Forces to War. How much did Blair make when he moved out of 10 Downing Street? Still cannot fathom the irony of them making him the Middle East Peace Envoy, knowing full well he lied to Parliament, to take us into an illegal war. David Bell, who runs Common Purpose and how many UK politicians and Prime Ministers are members of the Common Purpose, Shadow Government?


    So who are the Amabassadors who sit on the Board of Directors, over at the NED, who were heavily involved in kick starting the Maidan?


    Carl Gershman is President of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, congressionally…

    ANDREW H. CARD, JR. (Chairman)
    Andrew H. Card, Jr. served as President of Franklin Pierce University with its anchor campus in Rindge,…

    David E. Skaggs (VICE CHAIRMAN)
    Office of Congressional Ethics and Dentons US LLP
    David Skaggs holds positions as Co-Chair of the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics and a Senior…

    Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Secretary)
    Carlson Holdings, Inc.
    Marilyn Carlson Nelson is Co-CEO and former chairman of Carlson Holdings, Inc., one of the largest…

    Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle (Treasurer)
    Robert Holmes Tuttle served as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s from…

    Board of Directors

    Anne Applebaum
    Institute of Global Affairs London School of Economics
    Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post. She is a visiting professor at the London School… (she is also a member of Integrity Initiative and isn’t she linked to the Atlantic Council?).

    The Honorable Karen Bass
    United States House of Representatives
    Congressmember Karen Bass was re-elected to her second term representing the newly drawn 37th Congressional…

    James Boland
    Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC)
    James Boland became President of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) in…
    (Guess he comes in handy, when Donald needs a wall building?).

    Ambassador William J. Burns
    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,…

    The Business Council
    Marlene Colucci is the Executive Director of The Business Council, an elite group…

    Ambassador Eileen Donahoe
    Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law
    Eileen Donahoe is Executive Director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s…

    Dr. Michele Dunne
    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
    Michele Dunne is a Director of Carnegie’s Middle East Program, where her research…

    Ambassador Daniel Fried
    Future Europe Initiative & Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center Atlantic Council
    In the course of his forty-year Foreign Service career, Ambassador Fried played a key role in designing…

    Dr. Francis Fukuyama
    Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
    Francis Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli

    Barry Jackson
    Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, The Lindsey Group LLC
    Barry Jackson served as Chief of Staff for Speaker Boehner from 2010 to June 2012. Jackson served…

    Senator Tim Kaine (Honorary)
    United States Senate
    EARLY COMMITMENT TO PUBLIC SERVICE Tim grew up working in his father’s ironworking shop in Kansas…

    Jayne M. Kurzman, Esq.
    Davidson, Dawson & Clark, LLP
    Jayne M. Kurzman graduated from Vassar College magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in…

    The Honorable Mel Martinez
    Southeast United States and Latin America at JPMorgan Chase
    Having arrived in the United States at the height of the Cold War from Cuba at age 15, Mel rose to…

    Ambassador Victoria Nuland
    Center for a New American Security
    Ambassador Victoria Nuland is Senior Counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategic…

    Dayton Ogden
    Succession Advisory Services
    Dayton Ogden is the global leader of Spencer Stuart’s CEO Succession…

    Fred Redmond
    United Steelworkers
    Elected by acclamation in 2005, Fred Redmond took office as the USW’s International Vice President…

    The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
    Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
    Former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) served for almost three decades as a member of Congress representing…

    The Honorable Peter Roskam
    Former Member of the United States House of Representatives
    The Honorable Peter Roskam, a native of Chicago, and former member of United States House of Representatives,…

    Senator Ben Sasse (Honorary)
    United States Senate
    Ben Sasse is a United States Senator, representing the great state of Nebraska. He was elected in…

    Dr. Nadia Schadlow
    Hudson Institute
    Dr. Nadia Schadlow is a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute. She was most recently U.S. Deputy National…

    THE HONORABLE Elise Stefanik
    Congresswoman Elise Stefanik proudly represents New York’s 21st District in the House of Representatives…

    Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
    Albright Stonebridge Group
    Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield is a Senior Counselor at ASG, where she draws…

    Ambassador Rich Verma
    The Asia Group
    Ambassador Richard Verma is Vice Chairman and Partner at The Asia Group, where he leads the firm’s…

    Ambassador Melanne Verveer
    Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security
    Ambassador Verveer most recently served as the first US Ambassador for Global women’s…

    Kenneth Wollack has been actively involved in foreign affairs, journalism…

    George Weigel
    Ethics and Public Policy Center
    George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian…


    Read more, of the rogues of ‘Double Speak’ and how many of them are also members of the Atlantic Council? Wasn’t Allen Dulles, involved in setting up the Atlantic Council, in the year he left the CIA?


    Why does Larry Diamond so remind me of the late Timothy Bell, who founded ‘Bell Pottinger’ and ‘Sans Frontieres’?

    ‘…Diamond has served as an advisor to numerous governmental and international organizations at various points in his life, including the United States Department of State, United Nations, World Bank, and U.S. Agency for International Development. He is a founding co-editor of the National Endowment for Democracy’s Journal of Democracy. He is also a coordinator of the Hoover Institution’s Iran Democracy Project, along with Abbas Milani and Michael McFaul…’

  • AM Hants

    The article above is like a ‘soft spy-ops’ article, written for those, who have no memory of events in Ukraine, back in 2014. What the military was like, when Poroshenko came to power and promised to return Donbass and Crimea to the control of the Kiev Government, within two weeks. What happened next?

    How many perished at Donetsk airport and how many of them, NATO Forces included, are still waiting to be picked up, as they lie composting in the Monsanto soil?

    Remember, when Merkel ran to the Kremlin, begging for help, and owing to NSA eavesdropping on her conversations, especially around breakfast, she knew the Kremlin would be safe from NSA eavesdroppers. That led to the Minsk II Agreements, owing to the miners and farmers over in Donetsk, seeing off all Ukraine had to offer, even with NATO lending an unofficial hand. Then, do not forget the cauldrons and how much military weapons, systems and members of the conscripted forces did Ukraine lose? The Azov battalion, so reliant on it’s loyalty to the National Socialist ‘German’ Worker’s Party and not forgetting the battalion of ex-convicts that they had to dismantle. What was that battalion called?

    How many tanks did the West provide Eastern Ukraine, who happily went on to repair the gifts? Why could the West not hang on to what she had? Remember the Saxons, the UK gave Ukraine. They were banned in the UK, owing to safety concerns. Not a nice gift, to send Ukraine.

    Then you had Azov Engineering and does anybody remember the humour that came out of the Azov Production Line? Didn’t Poroshenko use a photo of a Russian Tank Factory, conveyor belt and try to sell Ukrainian tanks, to foreign governments based on those photos? Hiding the rust buckets, that came off the Azov Engineering Assembly Lines?

    Azov Engineering At It’s Best

  • This website is a repulsive example of ruSSian propaganda and only for the entertainment value for a few misguided disinformationists. Fiction doesn’t begin to describe it, no wonder you’re financially pinched and it appears even your Kremlin masters don’t think it’s worth investing in.
    Slava Ukraini~~!!