Ukraine orders massive military expansion
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed an order to expand the country’s military, including bolstering the ranks of its army by at least 100,000 soldiers over the next three years, prolonging service contracts, and boosting pay.
Zelensky announced the news on Tuesday at an open session of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, saying, “I’ve signed an order to strengthen the defense capabilities of Ukraine. It stipulates an increase of 100,000 in the size of the army, an expansion of the program for housing troops, and an increase in their salaries.”
He clarified that the order is intended to help professionalize the Ukrainian army, “and not because there is war.”
In addition to adding 100,000 troops, the plan will extend their contracts and create 20 new brigades within the armed forces. It will also bump up service members’ pay to a minimum of three times the minimum wage, which is currently 6,500 hryvnias ($225).
The Ukrainian army currently consists of around 260,000 troops, making it the 22nd largest in the world. An increase of 100,000 would put it about equal with Turkey and Thailand, in 15th place. Russia has the fifth-most active military personnel in the world, at just over one million, and the US is third, with 1.4 million, after India and China.
In 2021, Ukraine spent $5.4 billion on its military, Russia spent $48 billion, and the US spent $750 billion, more than the next 10 countries combined.
Western leaders have been warning for months that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine in the near future, citing reports of a buildup of around 100,000 troops near the two countries’ border. Moscow has denied that it has any aggressive intentions, and has called for security deals that would limit the expansion of NATO, the US-led military bloc, in eastern Europe.
Last week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that President Joe Biden had authorized an additional $200 million of military assistance to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and “large quantities of artillery.”