Wednesday, September 03, 2014

And What About Day 15?

Putin's boast that his army could take Kiev in two weeks is probably accurate but misses the point of Russia's land power weakness.

President Putin of Russia said he could--should the alien concept of invading Ukraine ever occur to him--rapidly take Ukraine's capital, Kiev:

A reported comment by President Vladimir Putin that Russia could capture Ukraine's capital Kiev within two weeks was taken out of context, Itar-Tass news agency quoted a Kremlin foreign policy aide as saying on Tuesday.

You want context for that comment? Here's some context:

Just because the threat of invasion is "largely bluff" doesn't mean Russia could not invade Ukraine. But it would be ugly and lack "style points" that are required when a major power uses force against a minor power. Especially given Ukraine's unready military, I think Russia could bulldoze their way into eastern Ukraine over Ukrainian opposition.

But it would be ugly and expose Russian weaknesses. Russia doesn't want that.

And if Ukrainians resist such an invasion of eastern Ukraine, Russia could face a long front line against Ukrainian troops that attempt to whittle away Russian control while partisans resist in areas of Russian control.

Given Ukraine's small and still weakened military (from years of neglect under pro-Russian rulers to undermine their capacity to resist Russia), Russia surely has the capacity to roll into Ukraine in two weeks.

But Ukraine is big. And Russia's ground forces are too weak--with no more than 100,000 reasonably good troops in their army plus some lightly-armed Interior Ministry troops for their entire Eurasian landmass--to hold much ground if Ukrainians resist Russian occupation and have a sanctuary in whatever free Ukraine remains after two weeks.

Just how many risks is Russia willing to take away from Ukraine to put all of their effective troops into Ukraine? If they even could gather them all?

Russia's decision to double their airborne forces shows that Russia's effective army troops are mostly their existing airborne forces. If Russia had more confidence in their non-airborne troops, they'd expand their military more generally and not count on the paratroopers for expansion. Do you really think Russia can use that many paratroopers for their parachute role?

Putin will beat his chest and fling poo to convince others that the only reason he doesn't conquer Ukraine is because he chooses not to. But if he could do that, I'm reasonably sure Putin would have ordered that already.