The US mission to NATO tweets evidence that Putin was lying when he claimed last week that Russian forces had been pulled away from the Ukrainian borders:
Adam Taylor and Gene Thorp explain why eastern Ukraine matters to the Russian military:
Kateryna Choursina and James M. Gomez of Bloomberg Businessweek recently pointed out that more than 50 factories in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions provide significant amounts of important hardware for Russia’s military, and that the Russian government’s $15 billion agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (the agreement that eventually lead to his ousting) aimed to further intertwine the two country’s defense industries.
The map [here], compiled using information from the Royal United Services Institute, shows where some of the most important sites are for Russia, as well as the major sites of Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatist movement. It shows not only how southeast Ukraine provides military hardware for Russia, but also controls oil and uranium, and even the food for the sailors in Sevastopol.
It’s worth bearing this in mind when we consider the Russian military’s buildup on the borders of Ukraine (whether or not they are gone). The troops don’t just threaten Ukraine: They rely on it. too.
Linda Kinstler points out that Ukraine’s army is unequipped to respond to a Russian invasion:
Ukraine inherited the Soviet military machine when it gained independence. At the time, that meant Ukraine had the second-largest standing army in Europe, with some 750,000 troops. But the new government couldn’t afford to keep up such a large force, and began rapidly cutting costs. Since then, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry has been “consistently downsizing to a force of about 120,000, which they thought made sense,” said Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000). When Russia invaded Crimea, Ukraine was still in the process of downsizing, and had plans to further decrease its forces to 100,000 by 2017.
Soviet-era infrastructure remains the backbone of Ukraine’s army, which means that most military bases are located in the western part of the country, where they could fend off a NATO attack.
David Patrikarakos adds that, in the east, the police aren’t doing much to combat the separatists and in some cases have joined them:
“Yanukovych had especially strong links to the police force,” says Nataliya Gumenyuk, a Ukrainian journalist and co-founder of the independent online TV station Hromadske.TV. “The police in East Ukraine have been the most corrupt sphere of local government for a long time; they are politically controlled and on the payroll.”
Little surprise, then, that despite their numbers (Ukraine has 300,000 policemen compared with 100,000 soldiers, Kyiv mayoral candidate and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko told me), for the most part the police have failed to even try to combat the unrest. It is merely the most egregious example of the truth at the heart of the situation in east Ukraine: What remains of Ukrainian national organizations and loyalties are cracking, dissolving, disintegrating.