Counting devastating Ukrainian losses and rapid Ukrainian gains more than 200 days after the start of its broader war against Ukraine, the Kremlin hinted on Tuesday that it could take a step that would be a profound change in its posture: a mobilization general on a national scale, which could enter service in time of war. potentially millions of Russians.
But this mobilization, if it materializes – and to be clear, it is a big if— would almost certainly fail to reverse Russia’s shaky situation in Ukraine. Indeed, a mobilization could very well accelerate The defeat of Russia.
“Mobilization in Russia solves nothing for them”, tweeted Mike Martin, member of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.
The main sign of mobilization came in the form of a bill that was presented to the Duma, Russia’s legislative body, on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin did not approve the bill. A speech Putin was supposed to deliver on Tuesday has been postponed until Wednesday.
Mobilization could make military service compulsory for millions of Russians who, at present, can easily avoid biannual conscription into the armed forces. In theory, the mobilization could swell the ranks of the Russian army by the millions.
In practice, these throngs of new troops would lack the instructors to train them, the units to absorb them, the commanders to lead them, the non-commissioned officers to mentor them, and the equipment to give them useful combat power.
The main effects of mobilization would be to clog the fragile internal army garrisons, to undermine the legitimacy of Putin and his regime, to deplete the federal treasury and, in the best of cases, to fuel a large number of untrained, under-equipped and poorly led soldiers. men who, more likely than not, would quickly surrender, desert, or die.
Even a successful mobilization would be too late. “It takes months and months to turn civilians into soldiers,” Martin explained. “Russia needs soldiers yesterday, not in six months.”
In fact, the Russian military no longer trains new recruits to a useful level before sending them to the front lines. This summer, as the Kremlin made its first attempt to train new units to replace some of the estimated 50,000 casualties Russia had then suffered in Ukraine, trainees received just 30 days of training before deploying.
Months later, the army is even After desperate for fresh troops. Its casualties – dead and wounded – could now exceed 80,000. The Wagner Group, a mercenary company that represents the last unequivocally effective fighting force on the Russian side in Ukraine, recently lured volunteers from Russian prisons and did not supply them. given only a few days of training before deploying them.
Predictably, some of these untrained ex-convicts quickly surrendered to the Ukrainians. Now imagine a young Russian, who has never even sought fight, show up at the front with even less coaching. “Cannon meat” is how Mark Hertling, a retired US Army general, describe this hypothetical recruit.
This lack of training is not strictly a choice. Months ago, the Russian army attacked its training base – instructors and garrison troops – in order to form a few frontline battalions. These battalions, while still intact, are busy trying and mostly failing to hold back the twin Ukrainian counter-offensives in southern and eastern Ukraine.
All this to say that currently the Russian army could not train millions of new recruits, even if it sought at. She couldn’t equip or direct them either. The mass mobilization infrastructure that the Soviet Union built during the Cold War no longer exists.
” To execute [mobilization] in case of war, you must maintain excessive capabilities in … peacetime”, tweeted Kamil Galeev, independent expert on Russian politics. “And the Soviet Union did. A reason why [the] The Soviet army was so horribly oversized that it maintained enormous overkill just in case of mobilization.
But the military sold off all that excess capacity in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. “There are no excess schools and land to train… new recruits. There are no excessive accommodations to house them. There are no excessive officers to lead them.
And after losing 2,000 tanks and thousands of other armored vehicles in the first seven months of the war, the army can no longer arm new troops, at least not with reasonably modern weapons. Those old T-62 tanks the Russians pulled from storage this summer were just a glimpse of the technological regression to come.
“This does not mean that Putin will not declare mobilization,” Galeev reflected. “It just means it would be really stupid for him to do that.” While clogging depleted army training bases with reluctant conscripts would not produce useful combat power, it is almost certain would have to inspire fierce resistance in a population that, so far, the Kremlin has managed to isolate against the worst effects of a lost war.
In this sense, the Ukrainians should almost hope for Putin to start recruiting millions. Mobilization, more than any success for Ukraine on the battlefield, could hasten the end of Putin’s rule…and the end of the war too.