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War in Ukraine The slow and uncertain impact of Russian mobilization

Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Wednesday of a partial mobilization raises many questions because its effects should take place in several months, according to experts.

A billboard promoting enlistment in the Russian army, in Saint Petersburg.

A billboard promoting enlistment in the Russian army, in Saint Petersburg.

AFP

The partial mobilization decreed Wednesday by Russia in Ukraine is a symbolically strong announcement but its effects will probably not occur for months and will be compensated in particular by significant problems of logistics and training. President’s announcement Vladimir Poutine initially concerns 300,000 reservists.

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“No mobilization overnight”

A volume that could seem major in view of the some 220,000 soldiers – including rotations – sent to the front since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, according to estimates by James Rand, analyst for the private British intelligence agency Military Janes.

But there is a long way from Moscow’s rhetoric to its actualization on the battlefield, according to Western observers. “No mobilization is possible overnight,” assures James Rand to AFP, referring to an incompressible period of three months between the issuance of the mobilization order and the sending of the soldier trained in combat.

Difficulties

“It will take months to make a difference if it ever does,” confirms Christopher Miller, Russia specialist at the International Relations Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia. “What we have learned so far about Russia’s manpower suggests that they will have difficulty mobilizing and training, and deploying forces to the front with the necessary equipment.”

Logistic problems

From the first days of the conflict, the former Soviet army showed great difficulty in coordinating its units and its armies (Land, Air, Sea) and in deploying the material logistics essential to the conduct of combat. Ditto for the circulation of orders from the staff to the field, or the feedback of information in the other direction. However, mobilizing 300,000 men will force the Russian army to make immense efforts in these areas.

Simple tasks

Some observers note that reservists can be sent quickly to supplement partially destroyed units and perform simple tasks such as driving trucks or carrying out surveillance patrols. On the other hand, training a soldier – and ensuring that he is motivated – to go on the attack is much more complex. Especially if his equipment is basic.

“There are not many winter uniforms, medical equipment and rations”, enumerates James Rand. And the framework seems approximate: “How are they going to mobilize officers and non-commissioned officers for this force?” he wonders, also citing some major essential functions such as reconnaissance agents or gunners.

Focus on weight

In fact, the mobilization decreed on Wednesday underlines as much a desire to increase in power as to fill in the weaknesses. “The Russian army is militarily defeated”, slice the French military historian Cédric Mas, on Twitter. “But Russia has more strategic and demographic depth than Ukraine. And she intends to win “by weight”.

conscripts

For fifteen years, Moscow has reduced the time of conscription to one year and tried to promote the emergence of an 80% professional army. The reality is far below. Conscripts, in Russian law, are not supposed to be sent to the front. But the general staff ignored it, going so far as to have contracts signed in Ukraine – more or less under pressure – for conscripts who had become overnight, at least administratively, professional soldiers.

Dead, wounded, deserters

Today, they find themselves cornered by the order of the Kremlin. “Putin’s decree effectively forbids anyone to leave,” assures independent historian Chris Owen, who believes that the mobilization also aims to “stop the erosion of the Russian army”, whether dead, wounded, traumatized and other deserters.

“Substantial evidence shows that combat effectiveness breaks down quite quickly – between 140 and 180 days. Many have been fighting today for more than 200 days,” he adds.

Slow operations in winter

On the military aspect of the conflict alone, Vladimir Putin’s announcement therefore brings less certainty than questions. With a fact that will weigh in the balance: each passing day brings the fighters closer to the terrible rigors of winter.

“Offensive operations will be slowed down. The two camps will bury themselves in the weeks to come until the thaw in February-March,” said Chris Owen. “It’s not a bad time for rotations,” he assures, considering that Putin can “rest and reorganize his army which is now exhausted” during the severe cold.

Luck of Ukrainians

In the meantime, the Ukrainian army, which has been continuing its counter-offensives in the north-east and south of the country in recent days, should continue its effort. “The Ukrainians have a real chance of recovering additional territory in the coming weeks in the Donbass and in the south,” said Chris Miller.

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(AFP)

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