Russian Invasions

My son was texting me today about the threat Russia appears to be posing towards Ukraine. Glad he is paying attention. According to an article he read, the Russians have gathered 175,000 troops on the border and 10 days of supply.

Now, according to Wikipedia (which is usually drawn from IISS) the Ukrainian Armed Forces has 255,000 active personnel and 900,000 in reserve as of 2021. In 2016 there were 169,000 personnel in the ground forces: with two armored brigades, 13 mechanized brigades, eight air assault brigades, two mountain warfare brigades, five airmobile brigades and seven rocket and artillery brigades. In 2016 the Air Force had 36,300 personnel, the Navy had 6,500 personnel and the Special Forces had 4,000. I gather these forces have expanded since 2016.

So, it does not look like Russia is planning on marching to Kiev, especially with 10 days of supply. They are probably not even considering creating a land bridge to Crimea.

So what might they be considering:

1. Help the local governments in rebellion take the rest of Donetsk and Lugansk.
2. Replace the local governments in Donetsk and Lugansk with their own governance (possibly in anticipation of formally annexing these two areas).
3. Make violent border demonstrations.
4. Or the build up may be the message (most likely option).

I gather Russia really does not want Ukraine to join NATO. I am not sure that build ups at the border make that point. In fact, it may reinforce Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. On the other hand, invading Donetsk or Lugansk or the rest of Ukraine certainly works against that goal.

Of course the real question is not whether Ukraine wants to join NATO, I gather that is a given. The real question is NATO willing to take on the responsibility of defending Ukraine, especially with two provinces in open revolt and two entities (Crimea and Sevastopol) annexed by Russia. So far, I gather no one significant has made a clear statement on that subject one way or the other. Ukrainian’s NATO membership appears to be in permanent limbo, which I gather that is what Russia prefers. The build up may be for the sake of signaling that it should stay that way. 

One last note: the price of oil is below $70 a barrel (Brent Crude was at 69.92). Last I checked (it was a couple of years ago), Russia needed the price of oil to be at $80 or higher to balance their budget. It was there a month ago, now it is not. Running significant deficits may limit their willingness to explore military options. Perhaps the easiest way to constrain Russian adventurism is to keep the price of oil down.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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