(Makes clear Ukraine did not name Russia in accusation, 15th
By Peter Apps
LONDON, March 4 Underfunded, underequipped and
with its senior leadership often seen close to Moscow, Ukraine's
military has been something of a no-show in its confrontation
But that, experts say, has probably been largely deliberate.
Ukrainian forces have been involved in some stand-offs with
Russian forces particularly around bases in Crimea, some of
which have long been shared between Kiev and Russian forces
attached to the Black Sea Fleet.
On Sunday, Ukraine's newly appointed navy commander publicly
defected to Crimea's regional administration, long Russian
dominated and now effectively under Moscow's control.
Ukraine's senior military leadership served much of their
careers in the Soviet Army with their Russian colleagues before
the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Neither they nor their
new broadly pro-western leadership in Kiev are keen to provoke a
confrontation they know they cannot win.
"I think there are strong directives from Kiev in place to
avoid confrontation," says Dmitry Gorenburg, regional analyst
for the U.S. government funded Centre For Naval Analyses, part
of the larger not for profit CNA Corporation.
"This actually fits well with commanders' inclination
because of their familiarity with the Russians - especially in
Crimea, where they are essentially co-located."
A single incident could still cause further escalation, he
Click here for a graphic on the balance of power between
Russian and Ukrainian forces:
OVERWHELMING RUSSIAN SUPERIORITY
On Monday night, Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations
said Moscow now had moved some 16,000 troops onto the Crimean
peninsula. Having mobilised up to 150,000 personnel last week
for what it said at the time were exercises, Moscow could
rapidly reinforce with many more if it wished.
London's International Institute for Strategic Studies think
tank estimates Russia has some 845,000 military personnel
alongside a 2 million-strong reserve of those with recent
Since the 2008 Georgia war, it has increased military
spending by more than 30 percent to some $68 billion a year.
Based in Sevastopol, its Black Sea fleet contains three
submarines, seven destroyers, five frigates, 20 patrol boats and
corvettes, 15 minesweepers and 11 amphibious craft.
Other naval forces have also operated from the port, which
has been central to supporting recent naval operations in the
Mediterranean and against Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
IISS estimates Russia has almost 1,400 combat aircraft of
various types, though some are outdated by Western standards.
Ukraine said its telecommunications systems had been
attacked using equipment installed by unidentified armed men at
an important telecoms centre in Crimea. Russia's domestic
intelligence service declined immediate comment when asked if
Moscow was behind the communications disruptions.
IISS estimates Ukraine spends some $2.4 billion a year on
defence but has struggled to keep its armed forces up to date.
Its most elite units have experience of fighting alongside
NATO in Afghanistan and elsewhere on international peacekeeping
operations. Most of its personnel, however, have too little
experience of modern post-Cold War equipment.
It has an estimated 129,950 service personnel with 64,750 in
the Army, 13,950 in the Navy, 45,250 in the air force and
another 6000 in separate airborne units. Before the recent
troubles, its paramilitary forces registered some 84,900 though
that number is expected to have fallen with demobilisation of
elite riot units accused of killing unarmed protesters.
Moscow mobilised some 150,000 troops last week before moving
into Ukraine, many of them recently re-equipped units.
ILL-MAINTAINED NAVY, AIR FORCE
Largely housed in bases alongside or next to the much more
powerful Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Navy has little or no
ability to deploy to sea unless allowed by Moscow.
Poor maintenance and a shortage of spares have kept its
single Russian-built Foxtrot-class diesel submarine out of the
water. It has a single frigate, recently deployed to NATO
counter-piracy operations off Somalia, another 10 patrol boats
and Corvettes, five minesweepers, five landing ships and
aircraft and several dozen other support vessels.
Many of those are believed out of service. Similar problems
afflict its Cold War-era jet fleet that seemed unable to stop
Russian jets, according to Kiev, violating its airspace.
On paper, Kiev has 121 combat aircraft including MiG-29 and
Su-27 fast jet fighters and older Su-24 and Su-25 attack
aircraft. In reality, many are grounded.
IISS estimates its pilots get only 40 hours flying time or
so a year compared to 60-100 for their Russian counterparts.
(Reporting by Peter Apps)