Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preparing Ukraine for the Next War

Ukraine's government wants to strengthen their military. What should the Ukrainians do?

Ukraine asked for help to upgrade their military:

In an interview with American broadcaster PBS, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Ukraine is struggling to maintain a fighting capability after it was "deliberately dismantled" under Yanukovych.

"What we need is support from the international community. We need technology and military support to overhaul the Ukrainian military and modernize -- to be ready not just to fight, but to be ready to win," Yatsenyuk said.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Ukraine needs to be ready to fight and at least lose while inflicting heavy casualties on the Russians. That alone could deter Russia.

Ukraine's active force isn't going to get much bigger. It is essentially three good-sized divisions. So the best bet is to make what they have better, and focus on increasing the effectiveness of their reserve forces.

I initially thought that Ukraine's army should be redeployed from its Cold War-era deployment that was not suited for a forward defense against the Russians.

On second thought, don't waste the money to move 13th Corps east to cover Crimea and be in a position to reinforce either 6th corps or 8th Corps; and don't move 6th Corps to the northeast to defend the cities of Kharkov and Donetsk.

Note that those corps are really division-sized outfits.

Thirteenth Corps is the smallest, but I'd extend it's area of responsibility to cover the Crimean peninsula and defend Odessa. This would require moving a mechanized brigade from the west to the region north of Crimea. Put the marines who left Crimea in the region north of Crimea along the route that goes northeast out of Crimea to the mainland.

Sixth Corps could transfer one of its brigades to 13th Corps to help cover Odessa, and give 13th Corps an airmobile infantry brigade currently not in any corps for the same mission.

I changed my mind because if Russia ever formally takes over Belarus, all of a sudden the Ukrainians need troops in their northwest to block an advance from that direction. Who wants to rule out that Anschluss now?

But to kill two birds with one stone, the West could help build up Ukraine's logistics infrastructure to make it easier to move troops from western Ukraine to points east.

This would not only help the Ukrainians deploy forces on interior lines to fend off Russian threats around their border (or to launch attacks south into Crimea or west into Transdniestra), but would allow NATO forces to gain the ability to move through Ukraine, just in case. I'd mentioned that effectively intervening in Ukraine without logistics lines would be impossible for NATO. This would correct that deficiency.

NATO would also need to improve logistics through the new NATO states of the former Warsaw Pact and into the Baltic states, of course.

If Ukraine is better able to fight and if it is no longer impossible for NATO to intervene, Russia might back off from future attempts to rebuild the Russian empire in the west.