Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's a Big Job. Start Now

Ukraine's prime minister recently stated that his job was to build a military that could stop Russia. What are the building blocks?

According to my latest (2012)--and way too expensive for a humble blogger--the IISS The Military Balance, Ukraine's power can be set out as follows:

Population: 45 million.
GDP: $161 billion.
Per capita GDP: $3,559.

Main battle tanks: 2,988 (10 T-84, 167 T-80, 1,032 T-72, 1,667 T-64, 112 T-55).
Recon: 600+ BRDM-2 armored cars.
Infantry fighting vehicles: 3,028 (60 BMD-1, 78 BMD-2, 994 BMP-1, 1,434 BMP-2, 4 BMP-3, 458 BRM-1K).
Armored personnel carriers: 1,432 (44 BTR-D tracked; 10 BTR-4, 136 BTR-60, 857 BTR-70, 395 BTR-80 wheeled).

Artillery :3,351 (600 2S1, 527 2S19, 463 2S3, 24 2S5, 99 2S7 (self-propelled); 371 D-30, 2 M-30, 287 2A36, 185 2A65, 215 D-20, and 7 ML-70 (towed).
Multiple rocket launchers: 554 (20 9P140, 315 BM-21, 2 BM-13, 137 9P140, 80 9A52).
Large Mortars: 437 (318 2S12, 119 PM-38).
Anti-tank: 500 100mm ATG plus AT-4, AT-5, and AT-6 ATGM.

Anti-tank helicopters: 139 Mi-24.
Transport helicopters: 77 mostly Mi-8 (army, air force, and navy). Plus some in border guard.
ASW helicopters: 72.
Transport aircraft: 62 (air force and navy).  Plus some in border guard.

Anti-aircraft:1,261 SAM of various types  (army and air force) and 470 guns, mostly towed 57mm.

Surface-to-surface missiles: 212 (50 FROG, 90 SS-21, 72 Scud-B).

Combat aircraft: 234 (126 MiG-29, 36 Su-27, 36 Su-24, 36 Su-25).

I've left out naval craft. Aside from losses in the above inventory in the war so far, the navy was decimated by the Crimea campaign and wasn't terribly relevant before that.

Russia's military power is far greater than Ukraine's. I won't bother listing out their assets.

My point in the hardware listing isn't to imply that this represents military power. It just allows well-trained, well-supplied, and well-led troops to maximize their combat capabilities.

My point is that Ukraine has the building blocks of equipping their military with big ticket items.

We don't need to ship major weapons to Ukraine. That would take too long to re-equip and re-train the Ukrainian army. And they have plenty of existing stuff that is adequate to face the Russians.

Ukraine needs to repair and upgrade what they have, which our new NATO members who are shedding old Soviet equipment can help upgrade and maintain.

Our help should be in training, command and control, logistics, intelligence, and recon capabilities.

Weapons should be limited to filling capability gaps--like anti-ship missiles, naval mines, and more longer-range precision surface-to-surface missiles (like the SCUD-B--which given Ukraine's armaments industry in this field they should be able to build on their own, right?) than Ukraine possesses to threaten Sevastopol naval base--and equipment (which could include personal and crew-served weapons) to make their special forces, infantry, and paramilitary infantry more capable.

Since landmines seem to be out of fashion, we should make sure that Ukrainian combat engineering capabilities are good to build obstacles to slow a mechanized advance.

We could help with all this. It seems the new Congress wants to help more than the Obama administrations appears to be doing (although there could be quiet help taking place, I don't know), but I agree with the Obama administration that big-ticket weapons systems aren't appropriate.

Perhaps Congress could pass a new Lend-Lease Act to coordinate Western actions to rebuild Ukraine's military to create a good active force and an effective reserve structure.

More significant than hardware and troops in the long run, Ukraine is handicapped by demographics and economics where Russia has a population of 139 million by the same source and a GDP of $1.84 trillion, with a per capita of $13,270.

While building an army that can stop Russia is important, it requires a Ukrainian economic base to do so.

If Ukraine can combat lack of rule of law and move toward the West, achieving even a per capita GDP of Poland ($13,435) which has a head start on Ukraine--or even Russia--Ukraine could have a GDP of $604 billion. Now we're talking a real economic base to hold off Russia.

Achieve just the European Union average of about $34,000, and Ukraine's GDP could be $1.5 trillion. Do that and Crimea and Donbas will beg to rejoin Ukraine.

Those are big "ifs" and will take time, but Ukraine's position is hardly hopeless. Ukraine needs to get to the point where they can inflict casualties so heavy on the Russians that a Moscow victory isn't worth achieving before they can aspire to defeating the new Reddish Army.