Can Russia mobilize its forces in time?

The hundreds of thousands of Russians being conscripted into the army could change the course of the war, but not quickly, and Ukraine still has time for victory, writes Andrzej Łomanowski for Polish news outlet Rzeczpospolita

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Andrzej Łomanowski
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend the opening of the Army 2022 International Military and Technical Forum in the Patriot Park outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Putin has announced a partial mobilization in Russia as the fighting reaches nearly seven months. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

The mobilization announced by Vladimir Putin will cover at least 300,000. That number could be a critical mass giving the Kremlin the advantage in the coming battles. No one, apart from the Ukrainian high command, knows how many people Ukraine has available, but it is likely that the Russian mobilization will give them a numerical advantage on the ground. 

Still, the devil lies in the details. We do not know if and how quickly the Russians can provide the mobilized soldiers camouflaged uniform, boots, bulletproof vests, helmets, and of course arms. For the time being, there are problems with supplies of bulletproof vests, and even socks. The officers needed to manage the training are already on the frontline. 

Maybe the Kremlin just needs cannon fodder to break through the Ukrainian defenses, but an offensive by poorly trained and ill-equipped troops will mean huge losses. This is politically risky and Moscow realizes this. No one knows exactly how the families of the fallen would react just as it is not clear whether demonstrations against the mobilization may not stop it dead in its tracks. 

What we do see is that Putin has already compromised to avert protests and please his generals. The mobilization is modest in scale given Russia’s population of over 140 million. But even then, it takes the bureaucracy two to three months twice a year to call up 11,000 to 14,000 conscripts for their military service.

This means that the mobilization of 300,000 could take up to six months. 

From a military perspective, such a long time is nonsense. This is because it gives Ukraine time to actually get back their lost territories. This is what Putin is afraid of, and it explains his use of nuclear blackmail.

He wants Ukraine to question itself before launching further offensives so that he can get his reservists in place. 

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