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The War Nerd October 28, 2003
Ukraine vs.Russia: Get Off My Mudflat!
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
If you really want to see how lame the current standoff is, just ask yourself, what would Stalin do if he wanted to take this mudflat? It's simple. One thing Soviet-equipped armies can do is armored amphibious assaults. Stalin would just order an immediate attack by massed tanks and APCs, after a really merciless, 10-hour massed artillery and rocket bombardment. Some of the attacking vehicles would get picked off, but that never bothered the Soviets back when they had guts. Enough would get through to take the island and make the point. APCs have always been the strong point of Soviet-style armies.

As a matter of fact, the one world-class product coming out of Ukraine these days is an APC, the BTR-94. It can carry a squad of ten infantry along with the crew of three. It's fast, tough and way better armed than most APCs, Western or Soviet. The turret features a ZU-23-2 autocannon -- that's right, the same paired 23 mm's that made the ZSU-23 (4) anti-aircraft tracks the favorite weapon of every Beirut guerrilla. These cannon are slaved to a laser rangefinder/target designator so quick-reacting that the vehicle can hold its own against ground-attack aircraft. You have to admit it would be pretty damn cool to see a duel between massed Ukrainian APCs and Russian CAS aircraft.

And it'd be profitable for Ukraine too. Nothing ups your sales of military vehicles like showing what they can do in real combat. And nothing gets the locals feeling patriotic like a good war. So if Ukraine was really an independent country, it couldn't dream up a better showcase for BTR-94 export sales and the government's poll numbers than ordering a massed assault against the Russian border guards and bulldozer crews working on the causeway to Tuzla.

And if the Russians still had any real blood left in their veins, they could use the fight for this crummy island to show what their new MBT, the T 90S, could do on flat terrain like the Ukrainian plain. I've seen some footage of the T 90S going cross-country, firing on the move, and I have to say it's the most beautiful tank ever built. It's got that low silhouette all the T series have, so you have to assume that like the rest of the T's, it's not exactly as comfy as a Caddy-Hell on earth for anybody bigger than a jockey. But with a good crew of short guys with attitude, the T 90S could probably take on the M1 and hold its own. (It even fires the AT-ll "Sniper" missile, designed to defeat explosive reactive armor.)

Jesus, just imagine it! Tuzla, this worthless mudflat, suddenly becomes a big tornado of armor firing on the move, Ukrainian APCs and Russian MBTs fighting in and out of the water, a hundred vehicles destroyed in a few seconds and new waves coming in on the flanks with CAS mixing it up through the smoke. I'd give a few fingers or toes to see that.

There'll be a battle like that, one of these years. But not between Ukraine and Russia. They're used up.

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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.

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