This week, Ukraine made history when it climbed from 22nd to 15th place in the list of the
world’s strongest militaries, with an estimated total 500,000 total military personnel,
according to the 2023 Global Firepower (GFP) report.
In previous GFP rankings, Ukraine had never scored higher than than 20th place in 2011,
making this the strongest its military has ever been since GFP began collecting data in 2005.
Despite being stretched thin in recent months due to the ongoing conflict with the Russian
Federation, Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), have demonstrated their capabilities and determination to defend the country’s sovereignty.
When the invasion began on February 24th, 2022, Ukraine had 196,600 active military
troops, according to The International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) reports. These
numbers have been reinforced as males between the ages of 18 and 60 have been conscripted
and additional citizens have volunteered to bear arms, increasing the total to between 500,000
and 700,000 troops, as estimated by specialists.
According to reports, the UAF has sustained significant casualties. Territorial Defense Forces
(TDF) and Reserve units have been used with increasing frequency due to higher losses
among regular UAF and Special Forces troops. In contrast to the early stages of the conflict,
when most recruits were veterans, recent recruits and volunteers have minimal military
experience, which makes training more difficult.
To expand on these challenges, Strike Source asked a commander on the ground in Eastern
Ukraine how they had withstood Russian forces for so long. He said, “With our spirit, will,
and a sea of blood. We [have] lost many guys in this fight. [The Russians] use many missiles.
They use irregular forces like the Wagner Group. Wagner Group has elite guys with good
equipment and basic mercenaries. They are using Wagner in Bakhmut. We think the basic
mercenaries may be on drugs, because they don’t react to artillery. But we have a problem
now, many of our guys with experience are dead and wounded. Many new guys don’t have
enough strength, knowledge, or the will to fight.”
In addition to these disadvantages, it is also worth noting that the top 14 countries in the GFP
rankings are all major global powers, with the United States, Russia, and China taking the top
three positions respectively. While Russia ranks 13 places ahead of Ukraine in terms of
overall firepower and war-making capabilities, Ukraine has continued to consistently respond
to and defend against Russian advances and attacks, even managing to liberate more than
2,300 square miles of their country from Russian forces.
All this being said, it takes more than just a number on a list to truly evaluate the strength of
the UAF. Ukrainian citizen Olha Reshetylova shares such an opinion when she says, “I think
this [ranking] is not [a] relevant assessment, because no other army in the world [has been in
such a] situation as [the] Ukrainian one is. I mean, the biggest armed conflict since the
Second World [War]. So we can estimate other armies only theoretically.”
Reshetylova also shares how Ukraine’s actions may be observed on the global stage, the most
attentive audience likely being smaller nations bordering authoritarian regimes. She says,
“[At] the same time we see all the advantages and disadvantages practically. Of course, there
are still a lot of problems, but the Ukrainian army is the one which shows the world new
methods and new [combat] practices. Others just watch and learn [from the] Ukrainian
It’s been almost a year since Russia launched a full-scale assault on Ukraine.
Yet more surprising than Russia’s initial invasion of the former Soviet territory may be its
significant setbacks. Despite vastly outnumbering Ukraine in active-duty troops, air and naval
forces, and ground combat vehicles, Russia has not been successful in achieving the goals of
its so-called “special operation”.
Even with the ongoing conflict, the Ukrainian people have shown a united and resolute front
in defending their borders. This resilience and determination have no doubt had a positive
effect on the situation. Additionally, Western aid, including the recent pledge of 1.85 billion
dollars in security assistance from the Department of Defense, has been critical in supporting
Ukraine throughout the struggle.
As the conflict rages on, 2023 promises to be a defining year. While the United States and
Europe rally around the UAF with crucial training, logistics, and information support,
Russia’s aggression will likely intensify, manifesting in both physical and cyber warfare.
This pivotal year will undoubtedly shape the future of the conflict and its resolution.