A Year Into War, Ukraine Faces Challenges Mobilizing Troops

A Year Into War, Ukraine Faces Challenges Mobilizing Troops. By Matthew Luxmoore.

One Ukrainian paid almost $10,000 to flee the draft. Another has ignored five military summonses. A third avoids public spaces, fearing a military official will pounce and issue a call-up.
After a year of war, Ukraine is facing increasing challenges in raising the troops it needs to resist Russian forces and eject them from its territory.

When Russia invaded in February last year, thousands of volunteers lined up outside military recruitment centers. With many of them now dead or injured, Ukrainian authorities are scrambling to recruit replacements, often drafting those who have neither the desire nor the training to serve. The result is a growing number of fighting-age men who are attempting to evade service.

So far, Ukraine has managed to replenish its ranks regularly, and has largely succeeded in holding back a months long Russian onslaught in the east as it awaits an influx of tens of thousands of fresh troops, many of them trained in the West, to drive its planned spring offensive.

But while polls show that support for the defense effort remains high, the stock of willing volunteers now appears to be dwindling.

Ukraine’s population is less than one-third the size of Russia’s, not accounting for the exodus of millions since the war began, and the kind of coercion used in Russia’s authoritarian system isn’t an option, Kyiv says.

“We can’t do as Russia does and drive people to war with batons,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters in February, three days after he renewed a decree on mobilization that makes reservists and most healthy men of fighting age eligible for call-up, in place since the war started. He said evasion of military service was a serious issue for Ukraine. …

Ukraine had a standing army of 260,000 when Russia invaded, and around 100,000 have been killed or wounded since then, according to Western estimates. …

With men between the ages of 18 and 60 banned from leaving Ukraine, a small number have resorted to radical means to get out. The country’s border force frequently reports arrests, publishing stories of men cross-dressing as women, paying smugglers to whisk them out and one almost drowning as he tried to cross a river that runs along the border with Hungary this month.

The most reputable source I’ve seen reckons the exchange ratio for casualties is 1 Russian for 0.6 Ukrainians. In the long run, at that rate, Russia will win. (In WWII, it was 1 Russian for 0.33 Germans.)

Let’s see how the offensives go this year. The Russian one has peaked and is passing, but doesn’t seem to have amounted to much. Next up, the Ukrainians will have a go.