2017 Military Strength Ranking: Why Ukraine taking 30th place?

Author : Iryna Sampan

Source :

The Global Firepower international rating annually provides a unique analytical presentation on the military forces of the countries of the world. This year, the US, Russia and China have traditionally divided the first three places among themselves, Ukraine ranked 30th in the list. After seeing that, jokes and skepticism spread in social networks, the message of which was the following - even under Yanukovych, in 2011, when there was no war and the army was in disassembled condition, our rating was higher - 21st place. Why did this happen, when the president Poroshenko assures us that the army has become one of the most powerful in the world? Let's find out.
15:27, 18 September 2017

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First a little about how the rating is drawn up and the power index of the state is determined. There are 50 criteria that determine how effectively a country can fight on land, from the sea and air. There are bonuses and penalties. For example, it is obvious that some countries do not have access to the sea and invest in the development of the fleet is not very suitable for them. But they can have powerful land forces and aviation. Therefore, the small military power at sea in this case does not affect the place in the ranking. However, the authors of the rating, on the contrary, fine the naval power, which does not pay attention to its naval forces.

Also, the rating did not take into account the nuclear potential of states, it is only a bonus. Similarly, membership in NATO. But conditional sanctions are imposed for the country's high level of consumption of oil. Especially if you do not extract it yourself.

During the war, the Ukrainian army has changed markedly, it continues to evolve, security is improving, reforms are being carried out. However, according to the rating, Ukraine has lost several positions in recent years, because in 2014 Ukraine was at 21 place, and now at 30. Why and what does it depend on? How did the analysts calculate this? Why they did not take note of the situation with the occupied Crimea?

Manpower. This is the key criterion in the rating, because the population of the country directly affects the number of military personnel, potential conscripts and reserve personnel. As a rule, countries with a large population on the list receive the first places (China, India, Russia, the United States).

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According to Global Firepower, in 2017 the population of Ukraine is 44 million 209.7 thousand people. Although according to the State Statistics Agency of Ukraine, as of February 1, 2017, without taking into account the occupied territory of Crimea and Sevastopol, this figure is 42 million 558.3 thousand people. According to these indicators, Ukraine ranks 31 among 133 countries.

As for fit-for-service people, the authors of the rankings counted 15.7 million of them (30th place) in Ukraine, and those who reached the military age - 482 thousand people (49th place). The total number of military personnel in Ukraine is 1 million 182 thousand, of which 182 thousand are active servicemen (28th), and 1 million are reservists (10th place, the USA - 11th place!).

According to the data provided in the White Paper of the Ministry of Defense for 2016, during 2016, 70,000 persons were accepted to serve in the ranks of the Armed Forces under the contract. At that, the conscription was retained "as a basis for the formation of a military-trained reserve and the training of contractors." An operational reserve of the first-priority military liable for service has been created - more than 100,000 persons. The military records of about 400 thousand persons have been restored. During 2014-2016 years, the number of the military operational reserve of the armed forces of the first stage increased from about 2,000 to 130,000 reservists.

At the end of 2016, the total strength of the armed forces was 250,000 persons, including 204,000 servicemen, and 46,000 employees of the armed forces.

The Air Power. The level of development of air forces, the number of units of equipment - are serious indicators of the military power of the state in the ranking. These included fighter planes, attack planes, bombers, transport, training aircraft and helicopters. On average, the figures in Ukraine allow Ukrainian military aviation to be in 42 place.

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In addition, in the highly mobile landing troops of Ukrainian Armed Forces, airmobile brigades have been reformed into assault brigades in recent years and this, according to the Ministry of Defense, has allowed to further increase their firepower.

Naval forces. It was the Ukrainian Navy that became the anchor that pulls Ukraine to the end of the rating. The country received a fine for the underdeveloped fleet and found itself on the 75th place: between Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines have zero units; frigates, corvettes and minesweepers - one unit for each. However, I note that only 13 countries out of 133 can afford aircraft carriers, 12 countries have destroyers, and sometimes there are no submarines even in some countries that are more economically developed than Ukraine. Here is the issue of the expediency of acquisition.

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Ukraine has just one frigate - it's "Hetman Sagaidachny", based in Odesa.

There are a large enough number of patrol boats in countries that have access to the sea. Ukraine is 98th in this criterion, this is the worst indicator for us among all 50 measures.

In the Navy of Ukraine there is no class of patrol boats. It corresponds to the class of artillery boats. But, for example, in the State Border Service, similar boats are classified as a class of border patrol boats.

According to the same White Book of the Ministry of Defense, as of 2016, 15 crews of the seafarers were disbanded in the navy, whose vessels are not withdrawn from the occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, while the personnel are distributed among other crews. Also during this time, a separate artillery brigade, a rocket artillery regiment, a separate battalion of marines, and the Institute of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were created.

Tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled guns, MLRS. Ukraine is high enough in the ranking precisely by the number of tanks. The armament that we inherited from the USSR and now actively use in the Donbas conflict zone, even despite the huge "sellout" of the Armed Forces technique in 2014, allowed Ukraine to take the 6th place in the list.

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I want to recall last year's briefing of Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. Then he said that the leadership of the Armed Forces from 2005 to 2014 sold military equipment and weapons worth almost 2 billion hryvnia. Over the years, 832 tanks, 232 helicopters, 202 aircraft, 714 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 4,930 vehicles, 28,555 missile and artillery weapons, 1 million 824 thousand small arms and ammunition were sold – all this amounted 560 million hryvnias.

The vast majority of what is left requires repairs, if not write-offs.

"The State Targeted Defense Program for the Development of Arms and Military Equipment for the Period to 2020" says that last year the main efforts were focused on arming the Armed Forces units in the territory of Donbas conflict. 93% of allotted funds went to modernization of old equipment, and the purchase of new weapons and equipment, and 7% - to design work, sample production, conducting of state tests.

Oil. In the formula, according to which the army's power index of a certain state is considered, there are indicators of production, consumption and reserves of oil. An important factor that shows how long a country can participate in a protracted conflict, wage a war or keep a defense. The equipment needs something "to eat", and the bigger the army is, the more fuel it spends.

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GFP specialists use fines for large oil consumption, the smaller the volumes are - the less punishment the country receives.

According to the rating, Ukraine daily produces 40.5 thousand barrels and ranks 54 out of 133 and is located between Turkey and New Zealand. We consume 317 thousand barrels a day and we have 38th place. Regarding the reserves, Ukraine has another 400 million barrels. The first place in terms of oil reserves has Venezuela, the second - Russia, the third was taken by Saudi Arabia.

Expenses for defense. So far, defense spending in Ukraine is very modest, but in 2016 the amount of financing of the Defense Ministry increased by 8.7 billion UAH compared to 2015 (almost 1.2 times). Last year, the defense department received 59.4 billion UAH (2.63% of GDP).

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Another 2 billion UAH last year, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry received as humanitarian and international assistance from foreign countries. Most of the expenses were spent on increasing the provision of military personnel, combat training, restoration of landfills and repair of military equipment.

If we take a look at GFP data on Ukraine's spending on all power structures, then we are on the 40th place in terms of capabilities.

It is also worth noting that the defense budget in Ukraine grew compared to those years when we were on higher positions in the rating. In 2011, it was 12.7 billion UAH (1.6 billion dollars, 1% of GDP), in 2013 - 18.8 billion UAH (2.4 billion dollars, 1.1% of GDP). But if you look at the dollar equivalent, then in 2013 it was even more than today.

Another problem of each country, and Ukraine in particular, is the size of the external public debt. According to GFP, for 2017 Ukraine's debt is 127 billion 700 million dollars. In the list of debtors, we took 43 place, but it is clear that the higher are all indicators of the country, the greater is its external debt. Moreover, we have only 16 billion dollars in reserves of foreign currency and gold.

* * *

So why Ukraine with its armed forces, which in the past four years have grown developed in the face of real fighting, dropped 10 steps?

- A large number of weapons sold out, the rest was written off, other - destroyed / damaged during the hostilities in Donbas conflict. The big minus we see in the quantitative indicators, which are important for the compilers of the rating; besides, Russia, having occupied the Crimea, did not return part of the Ukrainian equipment and weapons. As early as 2015, the Ministry of Defense reported that the Russian army retained almost 5,000 units of Armed Forces of Ukraine equipment, and in 2014 2,036 thousand units were transferred to Ukraine from the occupied Crimea. This is another negative, which influenced the place in the ranking.

- Ukraine's defense budget in hryvnia is growing, but the authors of the rating count it in dollars. For four years, the hryvnia rate comparing to dollar fell three times. As already mentioned, the $ 2.4 billion budget of 2013 is more than 2.3 billion in 2017. Based on limited financial resources, the Defense Ministry chooses priority areas for the development of the army. So the fleet suffers, but the ground forces are better financed.

- GFP analysts mentioned the length of the Ukrainian border as it was before the war. It is not taken into account that the Ukrainian government does not control part of the territory at all, both in the east of the country, and the entire Crimean peninsula. This indicator also affects the final figure.

- The same situation we see with the population. How did the experts consider the conscripts? On the territory of the uncontrolled Donbas there are also many persons of military age, and they are not fighting in Ukrainian army, but sometimes against it. And these are also citizens of Ukraine.

- Some countries in the top thirty rose above Ukraine not because the Ukrainian army became worse, but because they are also developing their troops, faster than Ukraine. Look at the DPRK - 4 years ago this country was out of 30. However, because of total militarization, it jumped immediately to the 23rd place. And Canada was the 16th, but now only on 26th place. Although it is unlikely that its army has become weaker (the index says it is stronger). The same situation is with our GDP - we are growing, but not enough to keep up with the other countries that are developing better. Yes, indeed, Ukraine has fallen in the rating, but it is worth looking at not only the overall figure, but also the army's power index. And it grows every year. The smaller the figure is, the more powerful the army is. If in 2013 we were on the 21st place with the index of 0.83, then in the current rating the index is already 0.56.

And the last. Despite the existing problems, the fact that the defense budget of Ukraine is limited and authorities are trying to distribute it to priority needs in conditions of combat operations on the front lines, hybrid forms and sabotage in the rear, the defense capability of the state increases, as well as the fighting capacity of the Ukrainian troops. The army ceased to be a stigmatized phenomenon. The future of the Ukrainian army is a professional contract army. How far this future is, depends not only on the ministry itself or the general staff. Good performance by 50 criteria does not only concern the army, it concerns the whole country.

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