September 24, 2022

  • On Wednesday, Putin announced a partial order for military mobilization seven months into the war in Ukraine.
  • But experts say the move is unlikely to boost Russia’s military performance.
  • Mobilizing troops requires time, training and infrastructure — all of which Russia lacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of the Russian military on Wednesday in an effort to deal with the country’s apparent manpower crisis amid the war in Ukraine. But more than seven months into the conflict, experts say Putin’s late-game decision is unlikely to change the course of the war anytime soon.

Putin launched his unprovoked war against Ukraine in February, but it took seven months and a string of recent Ukrainian victories for the president to publicly escalate his country’s war effort.

Russian experts and foreign countries agree that Putin’s speech Wednesday morning — which included threats of nuclear force — was a sign that the country’s invasion was going badly, and Putin knows it.

The president announced this week that Russia would call up 300,000 reservists to join the fight, but a mobilization at that level could take months to produce results, experts say. Ukraine, on the other hand, ordered full military mobilization just days after the start of the war and is reaping the rewards right now.

“It’s really hard to imagine how this actually has a big impact on the battlefield,” Simon Miles, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a historian of the Soviet Union and US-Soviet relations, told Insider. .

It could take more than a month for the reservists to deploy

One of the main obstacles to Russia’s mobilization aspirations is the country’s depleted military infrastructure.

“It’s one thing to call up the reservists, but in order for them to be effective in combat, you need to put them through some kind of training that lasts at least a few weeks,” Miles said. “But the Russians basically cannibalized their ability to do that.”

As Russia first began to face its manpower problem early in the war, military divisions short of manpower turned to the country’s training infrastructure, Miles said. Officers who had spent years working in training facilities were suddenly thrust back into combat roles and forced to take their training gear with them.

“As a result, all those training resources are empty,” Miles said, meaning Russia will be forced to send “undertrained” people to the front lines.

The country will also have to contend with the bureaucratic logistics of mobilization: “We haven’t seen a lot of evidence in the last six months that they can do that,” Miles added.

A Ukrainian soldier stands among ammunition.

A Ukrainian soldier inspects ammunition left behind by Russian troops in a recently retaken area near Izium, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.

AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak

The motivation of the Russian soldiers is weakening, while the Ukrainian one is “high to the sky”

Even if Russia can train and deploy hundreds of thousands of troops in the coming weeks, that may not be enough to address the underlying problems plaguing its war effort, said Robert English, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies Russia, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. .

“It’s not a problem that can be solved by a few hundred thousand troops. It’s kind of a finger in the dyke of something bigger that’s very shaky right now,” English told Insider, explaining that another successful Ukrainian counteroffensive could collapse Russian targets.

In addition to needing more manpower, Russia is also at a technical military disadvantage, he said. The US and the rest of the West have provided Ukraine with abundant military aid in the form of weapons, training and intelligence, which Russia has struggled to match. While Ukrainian strikes are precisely targeted to hit Russian command posts or artillery emplacements, Russia’s are much less reliable and scattered, English said.

He also agreed that it could take several weeks or months to prepare the reservists, and even then they are unlikely to be as effective as their Ukrainian counterparts.

“These people who get called up don’t want to be called up,” English said, adding that the new soldiers will rally an army that reports say has been demoralized almost since the start of the war.

“Russian motivation is weak among ordinary soldiers. Ukrainian motivation is sky-high,” English said, adding that between different levels of morale and advanced military power, one Ukrainian soldier is worth as much as five Russians.

And while Putin has only called in a few hundred thousand troops, for now Russia will need much more than that to address the imbalance with Ukraine, he added.

A Russian activist holds a sign among protesters.

A female activist takes part in an illegal protest on Arbat Street on September 21, 2022 in Moscow, Russia.

Photo Contributor/Getty Images

The resistance of the Russian public is growing

It is not only military experts who doubt Russia’s mobilization. It is the Russian people increasingly cautious also.

During the war so far, Putin has benefited from the reality of warfare that has remained in Ukraine, seemingly out of sight and awareness of the Russian public. But Wednesday’s announcement was a wake-up call, Miles said.

Russians across the country took to the streets after Putin’s speech, sparking protests and chants of “no war”. OVD-Infoan independent monitoring group, reported more than 500 arrests in various cities since Wednesday evening in Moscow.

Meanwhile, several one-way plane tickets from Russia sold out hours after Putin’s speech, while prices for other tickets from Moscow skyrocketed.

These are all signs that attitudes in Russia are changing.

“Who wants to spend the winter in a trench in Ukraine under shelling?” Miles said. “Nobody.”

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