Report to Congress on Ukrainian Military Performance

The following Nov. 3, 2022, Congressional Research Service Infocus report: Ukrainian Military Performance and Outlook. From the report Since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) have successfully defended against and pushed back Russian forces in many regions, despite several apparent disadvantages. The UAF has demonstrated a great deal […]

The following Nov. 3, 2022, Congressional Research Service Infocus report: Ukrainian Military Performance and Outlook.

From the report

Since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) have successfully defended against and pushed back Russian forces in many regions, despite several apparent disadvantages. The UAF has demonstrated a great deal of flexibility over the course of the conflict to date, as well as an ability to integrate Western security assistance and training in its military campaigns. The UAF continues to face obstacles sustaining momentum against Russian forces. Ukraine’s resistance has come with losses in personnel and equipment, and both sides face risks entering the winter season.

Since early 2022, the Biden Administration and Congress have firmly supported Ukraine’s defense of its territorial integrity against Russia’s invasion. The UAF’s evolving state may be of interest to Congress as Members continue to weigh options and conduct oversight over policies to support Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

Personnel

Some observers note that the UAF’s impressive overall performance to date has been due in part to the experience and motivation of its personnel. The UAF continues to benefit from high levels of recruitment and motivation. High losses, however, pose a continued challenge to the UAF’s ability to maintain effective, sustained operations.

After Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, the UAF gained important combat experience fighting Russian-led forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk (known as the Donbas). This led to a large proportion of trained and experienced veterans among Ukraine’s population. These veterans and other volunteers (including foreign recruits) were quickly mobilized into Ukraine’s new volunteer Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) and Reserve without the need for lengthy training. The high level of experience and training among recruits meant they were able to operate artillery, tank, and support systems that traditionally require more time for reservists or volunteers to master. These units have been crucial in supporting regular UAF units and enabling them to spearhead operations and counteroffensives.

Since the beginning of the 2022 war, the UAF reportedly has suffered high levels of casualties. Losses are likely higher among regular UAF and Special Forces units, leading to a greater reliance on TDF and Reserve units. Unlike the initial period of the war, when most recruits were veterans, most new recruits and volunteers have little military experience and, as a result, take longer to train.

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