IN DEPTH: Why NATO’s imminent Donbass attack will fail


The Ukrainian army is running out of men to continue the war due to a number of factors

By Julio Martinez, for FRN

Unlike the nations of the wars of the 20th century, Ukraine started from a base of potential recruits much lower than its nominal population suggested, due to the aging of the population and emigration, and because of the birth crisis of the 1990’s . Added to this are the consequences of the war. These are just a few factors which tell us that the present Ukrainian military is not a military which can be militarily fielded with any eye on victory. 

  1. the loss of population in the Crimea and the free Donbass, which although small in size, was a highly populated region,
  2. .the demographic collapse of Ukraine by mass emigration due both to poverty and to avoid the war,
  3. the massive evasion of military service by the men who remain, whether by bribery or trickery,
  4. the periodic need to replace troops due to the decision to muster out  the soldiers after a year and a half in the ranks, to avoid riots,
  5. the decision not recruit soldiers in the pro-Russian regions because of their dubious loyalty, which causes the weight of recruitment to fall disproportionately onto the provinces of Western Ukraine, and finally, 
  6. being the second leading cause after discharges, high losses in 2014-2015 and those accumulated in 2016-2017 years.

1. Recruitment and mobilization potential

A quick dimensional analysis: according to the approximate population statistics extracted from the CIA Factbook, and possibly only updated from previous years, since a census of the population has not been conducted since the war began, in theory Ukraine would have the following men of military age

15-24 years 2 million
25-55 years 9 and a half million

On that theoretical basis, as under age 20 and over age 50 do not count and you have to discount many for medical reasons, being children only and others, the total of fit men is 7 million,

If we exclude the reservists, who were mobilized to create the National Guard in 2014, and we stay with young people between 20 and 27 years, there should be about 1 million useful men. You can not mobilize more without going to a war economy. Economic news already report a worker shortage in Ukraine.

But of that million, the evasion of military service by one cause or another reaches 70% . Therefore, the Kiev junta in the successive levvies called up during 2014-2015, six in total, had to increase the age of recruitment to 27 years and had to mobilize reservists . In some previous articles I’ve written, it was commented that in the fourth or fifth levy, the average age of the recruits was more than 30 years.

Out of that million potential recruits, a quarter of a million has already been mobilized in six levies, plus a  seventh this spring 2018. The casualties are moderate since 2015, ten or fifteen thousand dead and injured per year in 2016-17, but the junta is forced to discharge the soldiers after a year and a half of service, and we have already gone through four years of war. And that taking into account that to forestall the drop in troop levels,  under various pretenses soldiers were held in the ranks  for a few more months during 2014-2015.

Therefore, of that one million recruits, the Kiev junta has already consumed around half a million, and the other half million has escaped from the call-up. The logical thing would be to keep the soldiers in the army “for the duration of the war” , but to avoid riots and protests they are forced to discharge the soldiers, although officially it is justified by making a virtue of necessity and saying that the veterans form a reserve of trained men to resort to in case of aggravation of hostilities. Which is absurd because the men who have already fulfilled their service and have managed to survive and return to civilian life are as a rule very reluctant to risk their lives again.

2. Losses in four years of war

In addition , casualties are important. These can be estimated at some 50,000 dead : of which 25,000 killed in the battles of 2014, 15,000 in 2015

Note: Debaltsevo lost 8,000 men alone, many more than estimated previously , see about this entry

and 5,000 deaths per year of war of positions (2016-2017).

To this is added at least twice as many injured, 100,000 injured of whom a proportion perhaps of a third are not recoverable, but we consider them included in the discharged, and about 25,000 deserters : of which 15,000 during 2014-2015, and another 5,000 per year since then (for 2017 at least that figure is known), which dimensionally seems correct and in line with historical experience, for half a million mobilized, the desertion rates would then be 5%.

Adding up the dead, disappeared and deserters: even if they are arrested, they are not recoverable for the front, because for understandable reasons the Ukrainian command already has enough problems with the discipline to introduce unreliable elements with their risk of contagion, and losses from other causes outside of combat, as suicides: a thousand, and accidents: perhaps a couple of thousands (the Ukrainian command officially recognizes ten thousand casualties for reasons beyond combat), the non-recoverable losses can be estimated at 80,000 .

3. Historical comparison

These are important losses, by way of historical comparison, in the Spanish Civil War in three years of war both sides mobilized a million men and suffered casualties (not counting foreigners) of 60,000 men, and at the end of the war they showed exhaustion symptons. Of course, to these non-recoverable losses, in addition to the wounded that were crippled or unfit for further service, we would have to add the prisoners, that war was more similar to the First World War, a succession of frontal battles of infantry and gradual conquest of the territory without rapid advances or encirclement maneuvers , with the exception of the North Front that counts as a large pocket, the  liquidation of which cost the loss of 60,000 prisoners to the Republican side.

By comparison with this war in Donbass, although with smaller forces engaged, the fighting, due to the enormous firepower of modern weapons, was much more bloody, and the incompetence of the Ukrainian command, which drove its forces into pockets, so the battles of annihilation of the encircled troops were as bloody as similar episodes of World War II. Furthermore, these battles were atypical because the Ukrainian soldiers either resisted to the death, or the survivors were allowed to cross the border into Russia, or leave the encirclement after surrendering their weapons. That is, the Novorossians captured relatively few prisoners and even these were later exchanged, so the junta did not suffer appreciable losses in captured soldiers.

4. Importance of losses

The importance of these losses is not so much quantitative, but qualitative, especially those of 2014-2015, which destroyed the pre-war Ukrainian army and especially the cadres of officers and sergeants needed for mobilizing a larger army. Ukrainian command admitted as much back then.

5. Shortage of manpower: boys, seniors and veterans from 2014 wanted

As there are no young men available, the Ukrainians  have resorted to the voluntary or forced recruitment of many reservists, in an entry last winter

I commented that it was significant that the deaths after a fight of the National Guard unit attached to a regular brigade, three or four dozen, were a mixture of a few very young boys and many mature men over 35. An exact reflection of the demographic distribution by ages and also confirmation of the recruitment problem that the enemy tries to alleviate by the voluntary enlistment of older men with family responsibilities without work and young people from 18 to 20 years who are tempted to enlist for money before reaching the age of mobilization.

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This enlistment of teenagers seems to be confirmed, both by Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian sources, about the state of the Ukrainian army, this article is relational, I quote and poll the translation of the most relevant fragment.

But the opinion of Diana Makarova, a volunteer who helps the Ukrainian troops in the Donbas, and who personally knows the situation at the front:

– There’s not an army of volunteers in Ukraine.

All the professional units on the front lack personnel. On paper, the unit roosters are complete with volunteer soldiers, but in reality it is not like that. If now, when the rotation takes place, battalions composed of drafted  and contract soldiers that had 280 people each are withdrawn, then battalions of 120 people come to replace them. And they must maintain the same extension of the front that a full battalion once held.

In some positions instead of sections of 30 people, there are four or five fighters. That is, they are located there as cannon fodder. To say that the front is full of holes is to say nothing.

Also, who volunteers voluntarily? There are motivated fighters for whom their life is the army. There are still many patriots who will fight to the end. But, unfortunately, not all contractors are so motivated. Many are ready, but, unfortunately not all contractors are so motivated. Many “zarobitchane” are ready – these are people who know they will not find work at home, so they enlist for the pay.

There were also many “avatars”, who do not care where to drink, at home or in the front line.

[Note: In Russian, getting drunk is “turning blue”,  “avatar” is the nickname given to alcoholics, in reference to the blue-skinned aliens of James Cameron’s film. ]

But the worst thing is that they have enlisted many drafted boys of 19-20 years. When they come to serve in the army, they are told they will receive huge sums of money. Then they sign the contract and sometimes they are sent to the front with little or no training. It is with these children that the front is held now. “

This is interesting because this news is from February of this year, the writer Zakhar Prilepin, who served in the Novorossian milita, confirmed this situation in an interview in April.The difference is that Diana Makarova apparently indicates that the regime has lowered the age of recruitment and now draws recruits 18-20 years old, who are then induced to enroll as volunteers.While Prilepin says that those guys have been tricked into voluntarily enlisting before they are old enough to be called up. I admit that the translation is not clear, and it is possible that Makarova exaggerates or gets confused with the well-known practice of coercing conscripts to re-engage as “volunteers.” However, given the shortage of replacements, it would be the following logical step to lower the age of recruitment, without making official announcements. They are already going through the seventh partial mobilization without publicizing the fact.…te_chisla.html


Interview with Zakhar Prilepin, Russian writer, briefly militia officer and well informed.

Relevant fragments:

… increase the number of soldiers in the southeast of the country through trickery.

“They are constantly working in universities to recruit soldiers. With minor children from disadvantaged or poor families who can not afford their studies,

According to Prilepin, the result of this recruitment of students in the Ukrainian army was the appearance on the front line in the Donbass of a large number of inexperienced young people who do not understand who they are fighting for and why.

“We see more and more young people in the front line. And this makes us very sad because one thing is when adults are deliberately going to fight for an idea, and another is when ideologically unmotivated young people, deceived by people who “brainwash” them “in universities, promise a lot of money”, said Zakhar Prilepin.

(Prilepin) is sure that Kiev understands that in terms of material, it can not surpass the armed forces of Novorossia, and therefore will strive to achieve a superiority of three or four times in the number of troops to “crush” the enemy.

“But, of course, there will be an inverse effect. Because this, first, you need to spend a lot of money … while in Ukraine the prices, tariffs and taxes will increase even more. And, secondly, the more children, husbands and fathers enter the army, the more nervous the situation will be within society. Approximately as it was in Russia, when the Chechen campaign was carried out. Society suffers a commotion when mass funerals arrive. But let the Ukrainian military say and do what they want. Basically we do not care, “said Zakhar Prilepin.

Finally, a few days ago the news appeared that the Ukrainian command seeks to recruit volunteers among veterans graduates of the 2014 campaign, the battalions of volunteers, the National Guard and other punitive paramilitary units. All this rabble had a military value so scarce that it was preferred to recruit en masse young people to rebuild the army, although for political reasons and lack of troops regular brigades were completed with paramilitary battalions, while they continue to maintain parallel armies of troops of the Ministry of the Interior and other armed bands. The fact that the junta plans to recruit again the survivors of this scum whose only function was to make occupation troops with brutal methods is another very telling symptom of the lack of troops and the little enthusiasm of the soldiers in rows .

6. Conclusions:

Ukraine maintains 200,000 men in arms (official data in 2017 said an authorized force of 280,000, but there are many indications that the amount is less), half in the front, and reports suggest that there are only 50,000 bayonets in the front-line at any given point. To continue the war effort, the regime would have to resort to mobilizing people who work with their negative effect on the economy, or to mobilize already discharged soldiers who will not be willing to re-enlist, not to mention the moral effect mass casualties would have on a demoralized and impoverished  population.

It is not war that destroys the Ukrainian army, it is the impossibility of replenishing losses and maintaining their level of strength due to the general flight of the male population.

This war lasts for 4 years now, and unless internal collapse, hostilities resume for a decisive war, or foreign intervention, it may still last another couple of years, it remains to be seen that it ends first: money, men, or ammunition.

The IMF has already announced that there will be no more loans until after the elections and that a new Ukrainian government is formed. The shortage of ammunition begins to be pressing, and alreadyadmitted by by the Ukrainian command last winter that remaining stocks will last for two years at the rate of current consumption, much less if there are major battles. As for the recruitment, it is running dry. How many more losses can the Ukrainian army endure before becoming demoralized or entering the slippery slope of the defeat, even if it is due to attrition?

What is clear is that although on paper Ukraine still has a powerful force in war material, the general quality of the troops in terms of instruction and morale does not improve, even though there are some well-equipped units of fanatics and who have received acceptable training by NATO instructors.



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