Putin had been deploying a massive arsenal of missiles and rockets along the border with Ukraine for weeks. Russia is the world leader in missile technology.

More than 100,000 Russian troops – nearly 200,000 in recent days – had been wrapped around Ukraine like a crescent for weeks.

On Thursday morning, they entered Ukraine from the southwest as President Vladimir Putin announced what he called a special military operation in the Donbass.

Even as Putin made his announcement, explosions were reportedly heard across Ukraine, including in the capital, Kiev, and in Kharkiv in the northeast, the country’s second-largest city.

Putin had been deploying a massive arsenal of missiles and rockets along the Ukrainian border for weeks. Russia is a world leader in missile technology.

It can use its missiles to knock out Ukrainian air defenses as its land forces move in, capturing key facilities such as ports and airports and overwhelming Ukrainian forces and infrastructure.

While Western European countries have provided military equipment to Ukraine in the recent past, the country’s military capabilities pale in comparison to those of Russia, which has one of the strongest armed forces in the world.

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According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks global arms trade, Russian military spending in 2020 was $61.7 billion, more than 10 times the $5.9 billion Ukraine spent.

In a direct comparison of the two nations’ military capabilities, Russia is superior to Ukraine in almost every area. According to Global Fire Power, which has been analyzing the military capabilities of countries around the world since 2006, Russia is the second most powerful country militarily, while Ukraine ranks 22nd out of 140 nations.

Personnel and equipment compared

Russia has nearly 850,000 active personnel, which is more than three times 250,000 for Ukraine. In terms of airpower, Russia has more than 4,100 aircraft, with 772 fighters, while Ukraine only has 318 total aircraft, with just 69 fighter aircraft.

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Similarly, in terms of ground forces, Russia has around 12,500 tanks and more than 30,000 armoured vehicles, while Ukraine only has around 2,600 tanks and 12,000 armoured vehicles. While Russia has around 14,000 towed and self-propelled artillery guns, Ukraine’s total number is just over 3,000.

Although navies are unlikely to make any direct contact in this conflict, still, Russia has more than 600 naval vessels, including one aircraft carrier, compared to the total 38 naval vessels with Ukraine. For stealth capabilities in the sea, Russia has 70 submarines, to zero for Ukraine.

Missiles and help from the West

Ukraine had been arming itself with anti-tank missiles taken from the US, though. Hundreds of the Javelin missiles have been given to Ukraine since December, which will help Ukrainian troops to target Russian tanks. It is a man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile, which means that a soldier can fire it from his shoulder, and its automatic infrared guidance system will target the tanks from above, which is the weakest part of any tank.

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Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov had tweeted incoming military supplies from various Western powers, which included Javelin missiles as well as Stinger portable surface-to-air missiles, tons of ammunition, rifles, machine guns with optical sights, night vision and surveillance systems, and other military equipment.

On Feb. 11, Reznikov had tweeted the arrival of 90 tons of U.S. munitions, bringing the total military aid to date to more than 1,300 tons.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. has pledged more than $2.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, including a $200 million package in December that included “equipment such as Javelin and other anti-tank systems, grenade launchers, large quantities of artillery, mortars and small arms ammunition.”

But now that Russia’s “invasion” has begun, all of this will hardly matter, given Russia’s military superiority over its much smaller neighbor to the west.