How can 190 000 Russians win against 700 000 Ukrainians?

25 June 2022

Chechen commander Zamid Chalaev in discussion with Ukraine separatist troops on the Lisichansk frontline / Ramzan Kadyrov's Telegram channel

Established military wisdom has it that an invading army needs to outnumber defenders by a 3:1 ratio.

(This makes sense to me. A dug-in defensive unit is able to fortify itself, supply itself with food, water, and munitions.)

Ukraine deployed 700 000 combatants to fight the Russian incursion. In theory, Russia would need a minimum of 2,1 million troops to be able to take on Ukraine.

Estimates of Russian forces deployed into Ukraine vary between 150 000 to 190 000 .

In spite of being vastly outnumbered, Russia has been systematically beating back the Ukrainians, and now control territory larger than many countries. (Donbas is bigger than Netherlands or Denmark or Taiwan as examples.)

This bugs me because the numbers don’t add up. Basically, the 3:1 rule is proven science.

What do I do when the numbers don’t make sense? I go back to questioning my assumptions.

Here’s what's going on:

  • Up to end 2013, the Ukraine forces numbered around 130 000.
  • In 2014, there was a US-backed insurrection which removed Ukraine’s elected president Viktor Yanukovych . The insurrectionists installed Oleksandr Turchynov as acting president. One of Turchynov’s first acts was to reinstitute conscription which had been scrapped under Yanukovych. Some 120 000 young men were drafted as a result.
  • This boosted the Ukrainian armed forces from 130 000 to 250 000 which was the state of play at the start of this conflict in February.
  • Since then, President Zelenskyy has effectively drafted all men aged 18-60 . They are now all combatants. They are not allowed to leave the country.

Let me quote World Politics Review :

…fathers, brothers, boyfriends and husbands as well as single men between the ages of 18 and 60 are being forced to stay and enlist in Ukraine’s military, while women of all ages are not only being allowed over borders but actively encouraged to flee.

And this report from The Conversation :

As Ukraine scrambles to defend itself from Russia’s illegal invasion, men aged 18 to 60 have been banned from leaving the country.

The declaration of martial law in Ukraine gives the government power to enact this ban, but it is not in keeping with human rights or humanitarian norms.

The government of Ukraine should cancel its ban on men leaving the country. To maintain it will violate the freedom of conscience of any man who wishes to flee due to a conscientious objection to killing others.

In relation to LGBTQI+ people, the ban could also be regarded as preventing people with a well-founded fear of persecution from fleeing to seek refuge outside Ukraine.

So, there is the answer. These are not 700 000 Ukraine troops fighting 190 000 Russians; what we have are 130 000 trained Ukrainian troops fighting 190 000 of "Russia’s finest", including 12 000 highly efficient Chechen forces headed by Ramzan Kadyrov.

The other 570 000 Ukrainian “combatants” are just sitting ducks. They lack the training, skill, and motivation to defend themselves. But because all men are legally defined as combatants, they are fair game for the Russian forces.

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