Russia vs Ukraine: A conflict to start World War 3?

The world has been in peace since the end of World War 2 eight decades ago. The United Nations Organization which was formed to maintain this peace has continued to do so. But today, the world is once again on the brink of a major conflict. But wait! This could be just another instance of those cold war tensions. This could end with some predicted compromise. But, what if a conflict really breaks out. Can it turn into a third world war? If it did, who would have an upper hand it? Lets try to analyze it!

#Russian Army
#Russia vs Ukraine
Russian Army personnel during an exercise. P.C-

One major aspect we are going to consider is foreign interference! The primary reason many experts believe to stalled a Russian invasion until now is western interference. Consider Russia’s annexation of Crimean peninsula in 2014. Crimea was a part of Ukraine. When Russia occupied it, they faced heavy sanctions from the west especially its arch rival, the United States. These economic sanctions have hurt Russia’s economy real bad.


Seems like the west is quite determined this time to stop the Russian expansionism. NATO has been deploying troops and war-machines in Ukraine and other neighboring countries. United States and Great Britain are completely on Ukraine’s side. France is trying diplomacy with its president making trips to Russia. Germany is having second thoughts about going against Russia since its almost completely dependent on Russia for its energy imports. This has questioned Europe’s unity against Russia. But still, if it comes to a war, the European powers will stand together.

Ukraine Armed Forces, Russia vs Ukraine
Ukrainian Soldiers during an exercise. Picture Courtesy:

So, Russia not only faces the western military and economic might, it also faces Ukraine’s small but formidable military. Ukraine has taken the Russian threat seriously and tried to build up its military. Lets see the numbers:

Military Comparison:

Russia definitely has the edge over Ukraine in terms of military hardware and manpower. Its soldiers are one of the best in winter warfare. Russia’s advanced military equipment widens the gap. But, NATO is trying its best to supply Ukraine with state of the art weapons.

If we see the defence budget, Russia spends around US$61 billions annually over its military. Whereas Ukraine spends around US$6 billions. One thing we have to consider here is that Russia has a well established domestic arms industry. So, it manufactures a lot of military hardware than what a country could buy for the same amount. Domestic arms industry gives a nation massive advantages like self-reliance and cheap arms. Ukraine on the other hand buys all its weapons from the United States at high prices. So, Ukraine would get a lot less than what Russia would get in 6 billion dollars.


Russia has an active force of 1,154,000 active personnel and a reserve force of 2 million. Ukraine has an active duty force of around 255,000 and a reserve force of around 1,000,000.

Armored Vehicles:

Russia has 12,270 main battle tanks of which around 50% are old Soviet era models. Russia also maintains a massive fleet of 26,831 Armored Fighting Vehicles(AFVs), a total of 18,497 artillery units of which 6,532 are self-propelled. A force of 4,359 rocket projectors make it the largest out there.

Ukraine’s Armored force is so outnumbered. It has around 2,105 tanks, 6,990 (AFVs), 3,721 artillery units of which 1,047 are self-propelled. Ukraine’s military also maintains an impressive force of around 630 rocket projectors.


Russia has a massive air force which can completely dominate Ukraine in the skies. It has strategic bombers which can carry out preemptive strikes on Ukrainian bases diminishing their assets. Russian Air Force has 5,552 total aircraft of which 792 are fighter aircraft, 832 are multi-role aircraft.

Ukraine has 70 fighter aircraft and no multi-role aircraft which is a huge difference. If we talk about the rotary-wing aircraft, Russia again dominates Ukraine with massive fleet of 2604 against the 158 possessed by Ukraine. Of the 2,604, 880 are attack helicopters which is quiet impressive.

A Ukrainian MiG 29 in action Picture Courtesy:

To be honest, there is just no comparison between Ukraine and Russia’s navy. One Ukrainian Destroyer is against a massive fleet of Russia’s 18 destroyers, 11 frigates, 83 corvettes, 59 submarines and an aircraft carrier. There might be some patrol craft Ukraine’s navy has, but they wont be of any use. There is one scenario that the European and American warships might Ukraine offshore support. This can change things.

Nuclear Weapons:

Last, but not the least, NUCLEAR WEAPONS. You might be surprised to know that Ukraine once had more than 5,000 nuclear warheads in its possession. This was when the Soviet Union disintegrated. Many of the Soviet missile silos were in Ukraine. Ukraine never produced any of them. Quite ironically, Ukraine got rid of these weapons and gave them to Russian for disassembling and joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1994. If they had not done it, they could have been care-free of any Russian invasion. That’s because nuclear weapons serve as great deterrence. Russia also has the nuclear monopoly in the region (not if the united states takes Ukraine under its nuke umbrella). Unlike some nuclear armed countries, Russia does not have a ‘No First Strike Policy.’ That’s a bad news for the Ukrainians.

Internal Factors hurting Kiev’s chances:

Experts claim that internal feud between authorities, corruption and Russia backed separatist group are hurting Ukraine’s chances. Experts also believe that public morale and sentiment is low in Ukraine. If Kiev wants to offer a fierce resistance, it needs to be strong internally.


Ukraine has no natural boundaries or barriers to stop an invading army. It mostly has plains with black sea in the south, azov sea in the south-east and Carpathian mountains in the south-west. None of this can stop a massive Russian Army from spearheading towards Kiev. Climate is quite similar to Russian climate. So, geographical conditions are not much favorable to Ukraine either.


Ukraine is massively outnumbered and surrounded by a growlingly aggressive Russia. The options it has are diplomacy or western interference. Military actions make no sense for Ukraine.

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