Russia decreed partial mobilization on Wednesday to strengthen the campaign in Ukraine, but its effects will probably not be felt for a few months and will be offset by significant logistical and training problems.
The highly symbolic announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin initially affects 300,000 reservists.
This volume might seem significant compared to the 220,000 troops that have been sent to the front since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, according to James Rand, an analyst at the British private military intelligence agency Janes.
But “no mobilization is possible overnight,” Rand told AFP, citing a minimum period of three months between the issuance of the mobilization order and the dispatch of a trained soldier.
“It will take months to change things, if they can be done at all,” confirms Christopher Miller, a Russia specialist at the Philadelphia Foreign Relations Research Institute (FPRI).
For Miller, based on current knowledge, Russia could have “difficulties in mobilization and training, as well as in deploying forces to the front with the necessary equipment.”
– Train a stormtrooper –
In the first days of the conflict, the former Soviet Army had problems coordinating its units and armies (land, sea, air), and deploying the essential material logistics for combat.
Mobilizing 300,000 troops will require a great effort in precisely those fields.
Some observers believe that Russia could quickly send reservists to complete partially destroyed units and perform simple tasks such as driving trucks or conducting surveillance patrols.
On the other hand, training a soldier and guaranteeing his motivation to attack is much more complex, especially if his equipment is basic.
“There are not many winter uniforms or medical equipment or food rations,” James Rand lists.
And regarding the commanders, the question is not very clear: “How are they going to mobilize officers and non-commissioned officers for this force?”, he asks, citing some functions that are needed as reconnaissance agents and gunners.
In fact, the mobilization decreed on Wednesday shows both a desire to strengthen the offensive and to compensate for weak points.
“The Russian army is militarily defeated,” but “Russia has more strategic and demographic depth than Ukraine. And it intends to win ‘by weight,'” French military historian Cédric Mas tweeted.
– Dead, wounded, deserters –
For about 15 years, Russia reduced the time of military service to one year and tries to create an army with 80% professionals. However, the reality is far away.
Under Russian law, conscripts should not be sent to the front. But the General Staff even forced to sign more or less under pressure in Ukraine conscript contracts who became professional soldiers overnight, at least at the administrative level.
The reservists are now trapped by the Kremlin’s order. “Putin’s decree prohibits anyone from leaving,” says independent historian Chris Owen, for whom the mobilization seeks to “end the erosion of the Russian army,” whether in terms of deaths, wounded or deserters.
“Founded evidence shows that combat effectiveness falls off fairly quickly, between 140 and 180 days. Many today have been fighting for more than 200 days,” he adds.
In the military field of the conflict, Putin’s announcement generates more doubts than certainties, in a heavy context: each passing day brings the dreaded winter closer.
“Offensive operations will slow down” progressively “until the thaw in February and March,” estimates Chris Owen. “This is not a bad time for rotations,” says the historian, for whom Putin can “reorganize and rest his exhausted army” during the winter period.
Until then, the Ukrainian army should continue with the counter-offensives in the northeast and south of the country that it has been developing in recent days.
“The Ukrainians have a real chance to win back additional territory in the coming weeks in Donbas and in the south,” according to Miller.