Much has been made over recent months concerning the weapons that western nations have given to the Ukrainian government, yet an increasingly pressing issue is beginning to make itself felt as Kiev’s efforts to bring the Russians to a halt turns is actually turning into a rout that accelerates by the day. That problem is a lack of personnel and this article is going to examine why this is becoming just one more dilemma facing the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
Scarcity of Soldiers.
It is impossible to know exact numbers, but it would be fair to say that prior to the current conflict, the Ukraine had between 220,000 and 240,00 service personnel in its ranks. These were comprised all three branches of the armed services and included both nazi paramilitaries as well as the unfortunate conscripts who were forced against their will to fight for a government that many now hate.
According to a posts by both Alexander Mercouris and Gonzalo Lira, the Ukrainian government has suddenly become much more candid regarding the losses that it is suffering, possibly in the hope that this will again increase support for the Ukrainian cause in the western world. The figures that are being floated indicate that losses including death, incapacitation, injuries and capture are averaging around a thousand per day. On top of this, the total deaths suffered by the Ukrainian Armed Services are anywhere between forty five and seventy thousand dead. One would expect a much more precise figure than this, yet one of the hallmarks of this war from a Ukrainian perspective has been the abandonment of fallen comrades, meaning that in all honesty, the Russian and Donbass forces are probably better informed of casualties than Kiev. In either case, the losses being incurred upon Ukrainian forces are completely unsustainable, replacements being recruited through ever more arcane methods in the vain hope that Ukraine can stem the tide of the Russian tsunami presently crossing its territory.
The general questions concerning conscription have long been answered, conscripts being markedly inferior to volunteers in both ethos and efficiency, yet with no right-minded person joining the ranks, increasingly wrong candidates are being pulled out of civilian life to begrudgingly serve a country that many have come to loathe. Aside from the willingness of differing recruits to fight for their nation, military training is broadly similar in any developed country. It consists of eight to ten weeks of the most basic of military training, these being dedicated to normal duties and ensuring that recruits have the discipline and physical attributes necessary for military life. After this initial period, the recruits will then be trained in their trade, be that as infantry, artillery or the vast range of other professions that make up an army, air force or navy. This second period can last for as little as six weeks or continue for months, depending on the trade and level of aptitude required. In short, it takes a minimum of four months to turn a physically able person into a capable military one, yet as we will see, the Ukraine is presently facing insurmountable hurdles that at best make this difficult or at worst impossible. This is only partially offset by the fact that compulsory military service means that most of those being forced into uniform have prior military experience to some degree. Unlike western nations, countries in Eastern Europe still have mandatory military service for all able-bodied males, yet those serving this obligation are nowhere near as effective as regular army units, they being restricted to the most basic of roles and duties, most considering this to be the waste of a year of their lives.
The first problem that the Ukrainian government must overcome is that a huge percentage of those going through military training simply do not want to be there. This can be for a multitude of reasons, yet with this war having now lasted for four months and the best candidates already being on the frontline, those that Kiev is now pressing into service are the scrapings off the bottom of the barrel. Badly motivated, physically unfit or just social misfits, most of today’s recruits have been dragged from their towns and cities, yet their worth to the Ukrainian cause is at best minimal, yet the more unsuitable ones are more of a hindrance than a help. These individuals are scarcely suited for even second-line roles, yet with manpower shortages being what they are, most if not all will be sent to the frontline upon completion of their training.
Follow my Leader.
The second problem facing the Ukrainian High Command is the fact that it is so desperate to have capable men in the field, there are few to spare for training purposes. This is compounded by the fact that with combat losses being what they are, a bad situation is made worse, there being few if any good soldiers that are still able who can be allocated for training duties. The skills they have gained are the difference between life and death in the battlefield, but experienced individuals are also able to weed out those who are simply unfit for military service. No training cadre is perfect and it is always the case that there are certain individuals who through a variety of reasons are kept away from firearms. With Kiev being in the mess that it is, both the desperation of the government as well as a lack of skilled staff means that badly-trained and in some cases downright unsuitable recruits make it to the frontline.
The Old, the Impaired and the Inadequate.
Apart from those of military age and fitness who are unsuitable for military service, there are those who through age and disability should not be anywhere near a war zone. There have been a multitude of videos showing Russian forces with captured Ukrainian personnel who are much too old for military service whist other stories have told of some individuals who putting it mildly were of a poor intellect. The fact that these poor souls have been pressed into service would not be so bad were it not for the fact that they are expected to pay the ultimate price on behalf of those in Washington who started this freak show in 2014.
Now that we have examined those expected to serve Kiev, we now need to consider the equipment and training they receive before going off to fight. This article covered the issue in more detail, yet some raw recruits are trained for a couple of weeks at most, and the equipment they need to survive must be purchased privately. The fact that items such as body armor and helmets are only available on the black market rather than from the armed services speaks volumes of the corruption that is still rampant in the country, kit donated from the western world becoming a cash cow to those who receive it. With that, we need to consider other matters that directly affect both military equipment and the soldiers that use it.
Prior to the conflict, soldiers of the regular Ukrainian forces received decent military training, much of it from western instructors. This at first glance should mean that they are professionals with more than adequate knowledge of their given trades. With the army having lost the equipment it has however, the western kit that has substituted it works in very different ways and unless Ukrainian soldiers are retrained on the plethora of diverse systems that the western world has thrown at their government, their effectiveness is greatly reduced.
Square Peg, Round Hole.
At the same time as the Ukrainian Army is operating with a mishmash of different weapons, the gulf of competency between professional soldiers and unwilling conscripts is causing immeasurable issues regarding real operations. With the professionals not knowing their equipment and the draftees not knowing what the hell is really going on, many operations involve the Ukrainian army chasing its own tail or even shooting its own men, complete chaos being the only winner in so many battles.
Opening the Door.
With there being the issues that there are, even the simplest of weapons can create difficulties, yet with western nations now gifting the Ukraine with elaborate and technically-demanding systems such as the MLRS, other than lengthy training of Ukrainian personnel in the West, the only way that these arms can be brought to bear is through western personnel being deployed in-theater to ensure they are operated adequately. The implications vis-à-vis a proxy war turning into a real one are not the subject of this article, yet as Ukrainian fortunes fade by the day, the West is becoming increasingly desperate to not only keep the country as a going concern but demonstrate that the weapons being supplied are having the desired effect.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces are collapsing in a similar manner to the Germans in the final weeks and months of the Second World War and just as in 1945, a desperate government is now attempting form a quasi-Volksturm in order to get every male, able-bodied or not into the army and out to the frontline. The training and equipment available to these unfortunate individuals is hardly worth the name, the fate awaiting them being worse than that of the penal battalions of previous wars.
To word it in the simplest manner, for all the weapons that the West is supplying, they serve no purpose whatsoever if there are no competent soldiers to use them effectively. Furthermore, with many who are now being forced into uniform being completely unsuited to military life, they are as much a danger to their colleagues as they are to Russian forces. With the Ukrainians largely abandoning their dead, Kiev can today only guess at the true death toll, yet it is obvious that with Russia advancing as it is against poor-quality soldiers as they are, the body count is only going to climb as the war continues…