In his darkest hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin has faced the main setback he has in the Ukraine war: the lack of soldiers. Aside from casualties, too many surrender or abandon their units and few are willing to join the fight. The invasion began in February, if rotations are necessary in a soccer tournament, imagine in a war. But for the Russians there have hardly been any and as of April they have been exhausted. Now, the Russian Defense Minister, General Sergei Shoigú, has estimated at 300,000 the new soldiers that Russia is going to send to Ukraine after Putin announced the mobilization of “citizens who are currently in the reserve and especially those who have served in the Armed Forces and have certain knowledge and relevant military experience.” Those who fit that definition detailed by Putin in his speech this Wednesday, may be forced to go to Ukraine. Russia has detailed that it will first recruit soldiers up to 35 years old and non-commissioned officers up to 45, as stated by the chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, Andréi Kartapolov. What is Russia’s ability to mobilize reservists? Can they be decisive in war? How many reservists does Russia have? Historically, the Russian military had a reputation for being an inexhaustible source of soldiers; but that time has passed. “In Soviet times, the Russian Army was designed to put a large number of men into combat in a few months. They had many barracks and the equipment prepared to train them. That does not happen anymore. The Russian Army is medium in size and worn out” explains Guillermo Pulido, an analyst for the magazine Ejércitos. The exact number of reservists in the country is unknown because it is classified information. Shoigú said this Wednesday that he has 25 million troops at his disposal; but the International Institute for Strategic Studies puts the figure at about 2.2 million, if you count those who have received military training at some point in their lives. Of that total, most do not receive frequent training or are prepared to fight. A 2019 RAND Corporation report stated that Russia was only capable of keeping around 5,000 reservists trained. The Russian Defense Ministry has addressed the lack of human resources in recent years. Shoigú has explained on several occasions that his goal was to have between 80,000 and 100,000 reservists with operational capacity. Now they want to put 300,000 on the ground. Putin, surrounded by veterans, celebrates the day of victory over Nazism. Kremlin / dpa The challenge of training 300,000 soldiers Until yesterday Russia had a voluntary system, with different incentives, to get recruits. Putin’s announcement is proof that this effort has not been up to the task of invading Ukraine. Going to war will be mandatory, but how do you get those 300,000 soldiers to know how to fight? Analyst Michael Kofman doesn’t think it’s likely that those troops will be seen on the ground before 2023. coordinated to these soldiers and officers, even if they are people with prior knowledge and experience. “Basic training for a soldier takes between six and eight months,” explains Pulido, “but forming an entire unit well trained to fight takes years.” It is necessary to create training units, find officers and non-commissioned officers who are not currently fighting to direct them, have the necessary equipment and in good condition (if you have a lot stored, it will not be). Kofman doubts that these structures needed to train recruits have lain dormant: “Russian political commissars have been calling people to update their training since April.”Russian military training.Russian Defense MinistryWill reservists be decisive?”No we know if they go to combat,” says Pulido cautiously. It is not clear what fate the Kremlin will give to the new soldiers. Those 300,000 men can mean the formation of new army corps, but also the sending of personnel to fill gaps and, relevantly, compulsory mobilization can be used to send technical specialists to Ukraine that are difficult to get from the civilian sector. explained that they will gradually bring the reservists to Ukraine. It is important that regardless of the number of soldiers that can be mobilized, the Russian Army also has limits to command and organize troops. Kofman points out that expanding this capacity has been one of the great problems for Russia in the war. “That is why, in part, the coming months continue to be a window of opportunity for Ukraine to recover territory,” says the US analyst. “During the winter, the confrontation is probably marked by attrition and rebuilding [de las tropas]. It is not clear to what extent the Russian mobilization can serve to rebuild its troops [diezmadas]”.Russian soldier captured by the Ukrainians in KharkovCarol GuzyThe partial mobilization exposes the personnel problem that Russia is having in Ukraine. It is difficult for it to retain the military that is on the front and recruit new ones for rotations.A morale for the SoilsNot only has the voluntary system of incentives failed – prisoners who serve six months in the Ukraine have even been promised freedom – the pressures have not worked either. Hundreds of soldiers have refused to participate in the contest because it is not officially a war but only a “special operation”. In retaliation, their official documentation has been marked with stamps so that they appear as reluctant and the photographs of some have been exposed in public urinals. The reaction of the candidates to be recruited is key and for the moment is not promising for Moscow.There have already been protests and flights to the capitals of Georgia, Turkey and Armenia, where the entry of Russians without a visa, sold out minutes after Putin’s announcement (the price of the ticket was multiplied by ten). Whether Russia closes its borders to reservists remains to be seen. Quantity and quality Will new recruits show higher morale? To begin with, they are going to be paid a relatively high salary. But in anticipation of the tensions that may arise, this week the criminal code has been tightened. Leaving a military unit is punishable by five years in prison and surrendering to the enemy with up to ten years, the same as failing to appear when a reservist is called to combat. They are wartime measures, although Putin does not want to call this invasion by his name. As important as getting new soldiers is to prevent those on the front lines from leaving. The partial mobilization is likely to increase the number of Russian human resources, but it is not expected that the same will happen with their quality at the front. The measure seems to be designed, first of all, to sustain and prolong the war. Changing its course is another matter.
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