Friday, February 20, 2015

Ukraine’s Ability to Mobilize May Force Moscow to Revise Its Plans, Zguryets Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, February 20 – The fall of Debaltsevo will allow Russia to resupply its forces in southeastern Ukraine by train, thus significantly reducing the length of the pause that the two sides will need after the battles there and increasing the ability of the Russian military and the pro-Moscow militias to resume their offensive, according to a Ukrainian military analyst.


            But despite that, Sergey Zgurets, head of the Defense Express company, it would be a mistake for Ukrainians to fall into despair because Ukraine has a key advantage: it can mobilize and deploy a far larger and more professional army than Russia will find it easy to defeat (


            When Russian began its invasion, the Ukrainian army “was very weak and small.” But “today we have put under arms more than 100,000 people, and the number of Ukrainians who know how to fight exceeds a half a million.” That “ability to mobilize is [Ukraine’s continuing] advantage over Russia.”


            The number of troops Ukraine may soon be able to put in the field may “force the Kremlin to revise its plans for seizing” more Ukrainian territory because “to fight with an army of several hundred thousand people on its own land is very difficult.” Moreover, the Ukrainian army is rapidly “arming itself,” with the country’s defense industry now working 24/7.


            Ukrainians need to remember that, Zguryets argues, and remember that many of the failings of its forces in the field up to now are the result of its own mistakes rather than the consequence of the West’s failure to provide it with arms or the result of Russia’s overwhelming force and brilliant strategy and tactics.


            “Western political leaders are afraid of a full-scale war in the region,” and that is why they have not moved quickly to support Ukraine with the weapons it needs. Ukraine thus “has remained face to face with the aggressor.” Ukrainians need to correct their mistakes, improve training and command, and be ready to resume the fight after the current pause.


            At the same time, it is important not to fall into a defeatist trap and assume that Russia can do anything it wants and that Ukraine is without resources.  “Russia will never throw against Ukraine all its army.” It can’t because its forces are needed in the Caucasus, along the Chinese border and in Kaliningrad oblast. Moscow has “enough potentially dangerous places” to guard.


            Moreover, Moscow is limited in its ability to deploy forces in Ukraine by something else: It must conduct any war in a way that doesn’t’ generate a sharp reaction among the population.  So far, Russians are supporting Putin’s limited war, but if they concluded that it was going to be something more, “that could have fatal consequences” for the Kremlin leader himself.


            And Russian commanders, Zguryets continues, have been anything but brilliant in their operational work. Had they attacked sooner and with greater numbers, “Ukraine already would have lost the Donbas.” But “now our army is much bigger and stronger than it was a year ago,” and consequently, the Russian forces face a more difficult task, especially since Russian political leaders know that NATO would respond in the event of a larger war.




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