According to wikipedia, Russians are fighting in Ukraine with roughly 200.000 soldiers, while Ukraine have 209.000 armed forced + 100.000 paramilitary + 900.000 reserves = 1.200.000 soldiers.

On top of that, Ukraine have the home advantage, the will to fight to defend their country, and a massive influx of money, equipment and other utilities from allied nations. Meanwhile, Russia have received no help from allied nations (China, India, Pakistan, etc), and their economy has been crippled by sanctions.

And yet, it's been about a month's worth of fighting, with Ukraine suffering heavily, their economy in pieces, their people on the run, and there have been very few counter-attacks on Russian soil.

Why is Ukraine struggling so much despite having a much stronger army? I know Russia's army in total is stronger, but they're not fighting with their total army, so that is a bit irrelevant.


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    How many helmets does it take to beat a tank? What about an aircraft? Or a ballistic missile? Apr 1, 2022 at 17:31
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    Your premises, namely that Ukraine is struggling and that it outnumbers the Russian military, are both false. E.g. according global Firepower index Russia's military dwarfs Ukraine's in every aspect, including raw manpower and most, if not all weapons categories, not to mention their incomparable military spendings. Given this, I'd say the fact that Ukraine has been holding on for 30+ days without major Russian advancements is a huge feat, which sort of negates your "struggling Ukraine" thesis. Apr 1, 2022 at 17:34
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    The question could have been formulated much more neutrally. Something like "How does the course of the war so far correspond to the military capabilities of the involved countries?" That would probably have given you upvotes. Apr 1, 2022 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


Strangely enough, actual military capabilities don't always line up with "numbers of men".

So, maybe you could start out reading a National Post article, dated February 25th, outlining why things were never as rosy as you claim? This article was written before everyone suddenly reinvented themselves as experts on Russian military deficiencies.

Second, while 150k men sounds like less than 200k men, that's also ignoring that armies do not have 1 combat soldier for each man-under-flag. There are training troops, base security troops, home logistics troops, etc...

I've written before here that the 150k Russian troops are likely a big chunk of Russia's combat troops, drawing from the pool of 280k of Russia's ground forces, plus assorted satellite arms (naval infantry, paratroops, etc...)

Those 200k Ukraine troops themselves need to be parceled into front line combat and not front line combat, whereas the 150k are front line combat.

Third, since you were also keen on bringing up the Iraq War in your previous question, what was the troop ratio in 2003 when the US invaded? Oh, about 150k (US) to 450k (at least, Iraq). So, a small modern army with command of the air, attacking at a point of its own choosing, armed with the latest weaponry, well-trained, should be able to beat a bigger, less mobile, statically deployed army.

That army was what we all thought Russia's army was until Putin corrected our assumptions. Some of us were curious about logistics, never a Russian strength, others about morale, but overall this is a modern military taking on a much smaller neighbor, with 3x less population and 9x less GDP. Russia defense budget 2020: $60B. Ukraine defense budget 2020: $6B

The sheer tank numbers also don't tell the whole story. Ukraine is only using older - albeit upgraded - Soviet tank models, while theoretically, Russia can draw on fearsome beasts like the Armata.

The story repeats itself with aircraft - Russia can draw on modern aircraft that have NATO worried, Ukraine deploys vintage Mig29s in small numbers. Oh, and Russia can, and has, shoot standoff missiles at Ukrainian airfields while Russian-territory airfields are off-limits.

In almost all weapon systems rather than just men, Russia has a huge theoretical advantage. It can deploy attack helicopters, has a large fleet operating in the Black Sea, etc.

Russia can also attack at any spot of its choosing, including further West, from Belarus. Ukraine is committed to territorial defense.

Also, so far we have been seeing unexpected Ukrainian success in weapon operations that favor defense and morale. ATM teams shooting up tanks and AFVs moving in open country or on roads, with insufficient supporting Russian infantry is one thing. If, has been repeatedly stated, Russian forces are digging in and entrenching their guns within shelling range of major cities then it's going to be entirely more costly to dislodge them without Ukrainian heavy weapons.

This war is far from over and Russia has not been kicked out yet! ISW says it's seeing an increasing stalemate (see WW1 trench warfare as one of many different type of stalemate).

very few counter-attacks on Russian soil ???

Ukraine does not need to provide Russia for more excuses for its war of aggression. Not least because those unmotivated Russian soldiers would actually have a good reason to fight, to defend rather than being aggressors - make no mistake Russian soldiers are tough, when they get going. And, has many have noted before, the West has been very careful not to give Ukraine much in the way of weapon systems that have offensive capability.

Those nifty ATMs and SAMs would not perform well in taking the war to Russia itself. That is by design!

  • @Fizz "can't maneuver except as light infantry" good point and if you read up the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the German armor suffered horribly from air attacks moving from its staging areas near Pas-de-Calais to where the actual combat was taking place. Russia might have wanted to concentrate its attacks, on fewer axes so that Ukrainian troops were forced to move towards them on the roads. I mean there is so much wrong with this mess that that seems barely worth mentioning but... Apr 1, 2022 at 18:32

Russia has superior forces in many aspects: airplanes, tanks, armored vehicles, missiles, nuclear arms (Ukraine has none), trained soldiers, military ships, submarines, guns, artillery, etc. They also attack civilians, which by definition are not armed with much.

Not sure why you think Russia is so weak. It has one of the strongest armies on the planet!


I'll give you a simple analogy, the Bosniaks were unable to break the siege of Sarajevo for years, despite being in numerical superiority within the city. The Serbian forces were better equipped with artillery, tanks etc.

the Bosnian Serbs—whose strategic goal was to create a new Bosnian Serb state of Republika Srpska (RS) that would include Bosniak-majority areas—encircled Sarajevo with a siege force of 13,000 stationed in the surrounding hills. From there they assaulted the city with artillery, tanks, and small arms. From 2 May 1992, the Serbs blockaded the city. The Bosnian government defence forces (ARBiH) inside the besieged city, approximately 70,000 troops, were poorly equipped and unable to break the siege.

The siege lasted until 29 February 1996, i.e. nearly 4 years.

On paper, Ukraine has a lot of tanks, but show me some video where they maneuver anything larger than a tank platoon (3-4 tanks), in this war. The Russian airforce would quickly smash any such concentrations. According to one source, Ukraine had some 98 aircraft the beginning of the war. Supposedly they're down to 50 now, managing some 5-10 sorties per day compared to Russia's 200 or so. (Some Ukrainian aircraft were taken out quickly in ground strikes in the early days. Such footage was not publicized much by the Western press, but can be easily found on youtube.) You can see here an Ukrainian lieutenant describe how what was probably a typical skirmish took place: the Russian sent a probing force of light armor, Ukrainians destroyed one vehicle with man-portable weapons, and a couple of Ukrainian tanks were called for support. Then the Russian airforce was called in.

By Russia's own accounts, they've launched hundreds of ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukraine. Ukraine has managed maybe a couple of retaliatory strikes in Russian territory (one on a airbase, and one a fuel depot).

Likewise, the little navy Ukraine had is already sunk. (Their flagship was a Krivak III which had no missiles.) And Russia has imposed a total naval blockade on all commercial traffic in or out of Ukraine.

The substantial armor (and life) losses the Russian incurred were largely due to them trying the Gronzy '94 strategy (again) of just driving through with large armored formations in fairly built-up areas, supported by little if any dismounted infantry. (Videos of these are much more numerous, e.g.; more here.) In areas where Russia has switched to Gronzy '99 methods, i.e. levelling the city block by block with artillery and airpower, like in Mariupol (which is about twice the size of Gronzy), they've been making steady progress, but it's worth recalling that the Gronzy '99 siege took like a month. (And even after that an insurgency continued for a couple of years, at least.) According to the Economist, a week ago (March 26) there were 14,000 Russian or proxy troops surrounding 3,500 defenders in Mariupol. Around the same time TASS claimed that there were 14,000 defenders in the beginning in the city, and that half of them had been eliminated one way or another after a month of fighting. (No size of the Russian & allied forces in the region was mentioned in the latter source.)

N.B. news is that now Russian forces in the east have resumed maneuver warfare, trying to encircle various pocket of Ukrainian resistance, which is a far more suitable strategy given the advantages they have. Ukraine is pretty good "tank country" for such maneuvers. The largest pocket of Soviet troops surrounded in 1941 was in Ukraine, surrounded by a nearly comparable number of (more mobile) German forces. For what's worth it, Wesley Clark agrees with this last point of mine, i.e. that Russia could still win big in the Donbass if they manage to surround a large number of Ukrainian forces through a pincer maneuver.

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