- So far at least, the military is loyal. Ukrainians view their military with significant national pride: When the Guardian's Shaun Walker visited a Ukrainian marine base in Crimea recently, he spoke to one marine — an ethnic Russian, no less — who explained why he had to fight. "I am Russian myself, I was born there," he said. "But we are professional soldiers and we have given an oath of duty. We will not give up this place without a fight." While there have been defections in the Ukrainian navy already, so far they seem to be limited, a pretty remarkable thing when you consider the ethnic divides in the country. In fact, Russian aggression might be something that actually unites the country behind the military. "If the military is unified against a foreign invader," said Matthew Clements, deputy head of Europe/CIS Analysis at IHS Country Risk, "with the support of the majority of the population, then that would be an important morale booster."
- Russia's military might be bigger, but they are also more extended. Mark Galeotti, a professor at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University, has argued that though Ukraine's military is smaller than Russia, it's still "big enough." Why, exactly? Well one reason is that while Russia has a huge military, that huge military isn't just for invading Ukraine. "[Russia] cannot afford politically or even economically to assemble more than a fraction of these forces for a war," Galeotti explains in an article for Blouin News. "It cannot denude its other borders, nor strip the North Caucasus of troops. Many are also unsuited to such a conflict, such as the nuclear forces or the Pacific Fleet." All told, Russia might be able to muster twice the amount of troops as Ukraine, Galeotti argues. And that might not be enough.
- Ukraine's military leaders can play it cool. As my colleague Will Englund has pointed out, for all the similarities in the situation between Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, there is still one big difference: Georgia fired first. Yes, back in 2008, it was Georgian troops who attacked posts in breakaway republic South Ossetia, thus drawing the wrath of Russia. So far, Ukrainian troops and their leaders have kept their cool and not given any reason for Russia to react. Remember: Russia trounced Georgia in 2008, but their victory wasn't as easy as many would have expected. The Russian military has spent the past six years modernizing, but doubts may still linger in commanders' heads. They may not want to attack unless they truly have to.
March 3, 2014 at 3:40 PM EST