300,000 Reinforcements Will Repair Kremlin’s Credibility With the Rank-and-File Military
Abandoned no more
Putin was careful to say he was ordering a “partial mobilization” and Shoigu specified the military was looking for 300,000 men.
However, there is no mention of 300,000, or it being partial, in the actual mobilization decree.
Thus the decree actually establishes the legal groundwork for the authorities to eventually conscript as many as they want.
The figure of 300,000 may not look high next to Russia’s population of 145 million, or next to Russia’s Armed Forces size of 0.9 million, but it is actually enormous.
300,000 represents the upper bound of how many men the Russian military can assimilate in short order.
Russia no longer has skeleton, officer-only divisions that could quickly absorb gargantuan numbers of conscripts.
Pre-war Russia’s military only had about 200,000 slots that were kept empty and that were to be filled in case of a major war through mobilization. For example, during peacetime mortar teams don’t really need the 3rd crewman, artillery guns don’t need the 6th and 7th crewman, and ammo trucks don’t need assistant drivers. But in war, all of these become enormously useful, critical even. (How the SMO dealt with this was often through consolidation, instead of mixed kontraktniki-conscript-mobiki teams called for by doctrine it created fewer kontraktniki-only teams.)
It is for this reason that I thought Russia’s first mobilization wave (if it ever occurred) would be at most 250,000-strong. (200K to fill the empty slots and another 50K to replace prior and future casualties.) Instead RUMOD went with 300,000 right away which implies that they will also be forming some new units (eg adding battalions to brigades).
There is another way in which the 300,000 figure is enormous. Assuming 250K will go into land combat arms that immediately doubles the number of men on whose shoulders the war is sustained. (If the 150K serving conscripts in the land arms are also added that takes the number further to 650K.)
That is important in the sense that available combat power is immediately nearly doubled. And it is consequential in the sense that finally the kontraktniki who have so far been carrying the entire weight of the war will finally get some respite and rotation.
But the importance of mobilization goes even beyond that.
For the pro soldiers in the trench it answers two key questions. One, is Putin actually serious about this war? And two, does he have our backs?
The ideological motivation of Russian pro soldiers to restore the Black Sea to Russia does not need to be questioned. But ideology is only the most minor part of why people fight. Nobody is eager to fight if they feel that they have been abandoned, thrown into a war the authorities no longer care about.
Or if they feel that they have been maneuvered into bearing enormously disproportionate sacrifices to everyone else in the society.
By sending them 300,000 reinforcements Putin proves (finally) that he has the pros’ back. That he will get them what they need to attain a favorable conclusion. That their lives won’t be thrown away for nothing in a crappy little inconclusive war betrayed by the authorities.
And he also proves to them that it is not only their military caste that will be made to sacrifice (and be consumed) for this all-national goal, but that the sacrifice will be spread around the entire society.
After all, it is one thing to be told that because you are professional military that is appropriate for the 250,000 of you to spearhead a war against a state of 35-million. And it is an entirely different thing to be told that the 250K of you must accomplish it all on your own with zero reinforcements ever.
Until now the Russian military actually had a significant deployment refusal problem. Not just contract soldiers, but even officers would refuse to deploy to Ukraine. I entirely understand why, and they were completely right to.
When you sign up to become a soldier you promise to go to war if ordered and lead your men into one. But the authorities also promise that they will only throw you and your men into military undertakings that at least halfway make sense.
Being sent to conquer a nation of 35-million without notice and simultaneously being ordered to shed one-third of your uniformed manpower (serving conscripts), and then not be reinforced for 7 months is the exact opposite of anything that makes sense. Under the circumstances, I am surprised that anyone at all followed orders.
Sending them 300,000 reinforcements will go a long way toward repairing the morale of the professionals, and of solving the deployment refusal problem.
It represents the dilly-dallying Kremlinboomers finally restoring their credibility with the rank-and-file military.
That is the number for now. That is how many the military is capable of assimilating in short order. But the legal groundwork is there to mobilize more in the 2nd wave (in the spring?).
However this would mean forming many new units and the biggest obstacle and challenge would be providing them with semi-decent officers and leadership.
(Sending people to war without semi-competent leaders is a waste of human life. Probably you would need to beg the oldtimers cut by Serdyukov to come back, and start numerous junior lieutenant classes right now to have them ready by spring…)
This text ended up being mostly about what the mobilization means for the Russian contract soldiers, their morale, and their faith in the authorities, so I’ll have to write another one about what it could mean for the battlefield.