It's been a little over two months since things started getting crazy in Ukraine, and Russia decided to invade Crimea. Though progress has been steady and at times seemingly slow, the situation has continued to escalate and just this week, the "worst case scenario" started to become a reality when we witnessed what appeared to be the beginnings of an all-out war.
Since it seems like the conflict is becoming more serious by the day, you probably want to know what the hell is going on and how it happened. Trying to boil down a complex and heated international conflict down to one chart or graphic should be pretty difficult, but that's exactly the goal the Washington Post had in mind with this map. Take a look.
Image Credit: The Washington Post
Using information from the Royal United Services Institute and the Post's own analysis, the map details recent troop movements in the region and shows how "military exercises" conducted on various parts of Russia's gigantic border led to a situation in which Ukraine is effectively surrounded by Russian forces.
How did this happen? You mean how did Russia so easily and relatively quietly assemble 45,000 combat troops on Ukraine's borders? Some of the biggest factors are the five locations highlighted on the map: Kaliningrad, Transnistria, Georgia, Armenia and Chechnya. Each of these places are either directly controlled by Russia or house Russian troops from past conquests, invasions and occupations. Because of their locations around the area, there are few parts of Ukraine completely safe from Russian incursion. However, even with these five points, the brunt of Russia's forces are still directed at Eastern Ukraine, which is the most fragile and already has the most leanings towards Russia. Ukraine knows this and has concentrated many of their forces here and in the south near Crimea. However, this pulls troops away from parts of the country that were already spread dangerously thin.
There are other issues to consider as well. Russia has one of the most powerful armies in the world and practically dwarfs Ukraine's forces. As Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty explains, "Russia has about four times as many soldiers as Ukraine, twice as many tanks, and more than six times as many combat aircraft. The huge imbalance in forces reflects the defense budgets of the two countries. Russia spends about $78 billion on its armed forces annually, Ukraine $1.6 billion." Russia has about 285,000 ground troops, though only 92,000 are currently mobilizable and just 45,000 of those are combat troops. Nevertheless, those figures only represent the current situation, and given Russia's ever-heightening interest in pursuing this invasion, don't be surprised if those numbers grow quickly. On top of that, because of Russia and Ukraine's shared history and one-time close relationship, some believe that many Ukranian troops (and civilians) would have no problem jumping ship to Russia if the going gets tough.
In terms of raw numbers, this infographic is a pretty handy way to compare the countries' armed forces.
At this point, the whole situation is escalating, but that escalation's final destination is still somewhat unclear. However, with the continuing buildup of forces on the Ukraine/Russia border, it seems that something is bound to happen soon.
Of course, with the various issues that would come from ruling an already-massive piece of land, the Daily Beast points out that holding on to any territory it takes post-invasion will be just as difficult, if not more so, than the initial invasion. Just wait for that crazy map.