Russia can summon all the forces it wants, but it cannot train or support them

With his invasion of Ukraine faltering badly, the Russian president announced on Wednesday the immediate “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian television that his country would call up 300,000 reservists.

If they did end up facing Ukrainian guns on the front lines, they would likely become the latest casualty in the invasion that Putin began more than seven months ago, which has led to the Russian military’s failure in nearly all aspects of modern warfare.

“The Russian army is currently not equipped to quickly and effectively deploy 300,000 reservists,” said Alex Lord, a Europe and Eurasia specialist at strategic analysis firm Sibylline in London.

“Russia is already struggling to effectively equip its professional forces in Ukraine, after the heavy losses of equipment during the war,” Lord said.

The recent Ukrainian offensive, which saw Kyiv regain control of thousands of square meters of land, resulted in heavy losses.

The Institute for the Study of War said earlier this week that analyzes by Western experts and Ukrainian intelligence found that Russia lost 50% to 90% of its strength in some units due to this attack and massive amounts of armor.

This comes in addition to the massive losses in equipment over the course of the war.

The open-source intelligence website Oryx, which used only confirmed casualties through photographic or video evidence, found that Russian forces had lost more than 6,300 vehicles, including 1,168 tanks, since the fighting began.

“In practical terms, they don’t have enough modern equipment… for that many new forces,” said Jakub Janowski, a military analyst who contributes to the Oryx blog.

JT Crump, CEO of Sibylline and a 20-year veteran of the British Army, said Russia is starting to run short of ammunition in some calibers and is looking to source key components so it can repair or build replacements for weapons lost on the battlefield.

Not only tanks and armored personnel carriers were lost.

In many cases, Russian forces did not have the basics in Ukraine, including a clear definition of what they would risk their lives for.

Despite Wednesday’s mobilization order, Putin still described Ukraine as a “special military operation,” not a war.

Ukrainian soldiers know that they are fighting for their homeland. Many Russian soldiers do not know why they are in Ukraine.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis noted this on Wednesday, calling Putin’s partial declaration of mobilization a “sign of desperation”.

A billboard promoting military service in Saint Petersburg on September 20 contains the slogan,

“I think people certainly don’t want to fight a war they don’t understand. …People would be imprisoned if they called the Russian war in Ukraine a war, and now they suddenly have to go in and fight it unprepared, without weapons, without body armor, without helmets.”

But experts said that even if they had all the equipment, weapons, and motivation they needed, training 300,000 soldiers quickly for battle would be impossible.

“There are no additional officers and no facilities necessary for mass mobilization in Russia right now,” said Trent Tlinko, a former quality control auditor for the US Defense Contract Management Agency who has studied Russian logistics.

Reforms in 2008, aimed at modernizing and professionalizing the Russian army, removed many of the logistical and command and control structures that had previously enabled the forces of the old Soviet Union to rapidly train and equip large numbers of enlisted conscripts.

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It would take at least three months to collect, train and deploy Russian reservists, Lord said.

“By that time we will be in the depths of the Ukrainian winter,” Lord said. “As such, we are not likely to see the influx of reservists have a serious impact on the battlefield until the spring of 2023 – and even then they will likely be poorly trained and ill-equipped.”

Mark Hertling, a former US Army general and CNN analyst, said he has seen firsthand how poorly Russian training has been during his visits to the country.

“It was awful… rudimentary band-aid, too few simulations to conserve resources, and most importantly… horrible driving,” Hurtling wrote on Twitter.

“Putting ‘newbies’ on the front line under attack, low morale and who don’t want to be (there) portends further (Russian) catastrophe.

“Amazing,” Hurtling wrote on Twitter.

Tlinko said the newly mobilized forces would likely become the last casualty of Putin’s war.

“Russia can formulate the bodies. It cannot train, equip and lead them quickly.

“Untrained waves of 20-50-something men with AK-type assault rifles and no radios would collapse at the first attack by Ukrainian artillery or armored vehicles,” he said.

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