Russia Has 17 Percent More Defense Jobs Than at War Start

WW2 rhetoric for a very post-modern war effort

In February Putin traveled to a defense plant in Tula, a city famous for defense plants (way back in the Napoleonic wars the Tula armory produced most of Russia’s muskets).

There the government was staging an event titled “Everything for Victory!” This of course, is a reference to the famous Soviet WW2 slogan “Everything for the Front! Everything for Victory!”

At the event, Putin shared that the defense sector has added 520,00 jobs and is now at 3.5 million workers.

Sounds impressive in a vacuum, but that is just 17 percent more than what the defense complex had at the start of the war two years ago. And we’re talking about a military-industrial complex that has been steadily shedding jobs for years. (Uralvagonzavod, the largest and most famous tank producer entered 2022 with 20,000 workers, but employed 30,000 as late as 2014.)

To be fair, many other industrial, mining and construction jobs are supporting the military complex but aren’t included in the calculation. (Putin estimates 10,000 such enterprises supply 6,000 defense plants.) Also to be fair, there is a labor shortage in Russia currently. And again to be fair, some of the biggest defense plants are for strategic reasons located in far-away places that are difficult to lure workers to. Nonetheless, the total employed workforce in Russia counts 73 million!

73 million, and in two years of war a mere 0.5 million have been reallocated from other jobs to production for the war!

This is not “Everything for Victory”. This is “We talk big, but we’re still trying to get away with doing things on the cheap”.

What’s funnier is that at the event Putin shared his thoughts that victory in a modern war requires quick reactions:

“To be successful on the battlefield today, you need to quickly and adequately respond to the events taking place on the battlefield. Success is achieved by those who quickly respond to the means of destruction, reconnaissance and suppression that the enemy uses, quickly react to this, and not only find the opportunity to suppress them, but also make their own more effective means.”

What could be funnier than the world’s champion in procrastinating on difficult but urgent calls lecturing his captive audience on the critical importance of speed in wars?

The glaring thing about Putin’s defense-industrial mobilization isn’t even its modest scale, but how late it comes.

A 17 percent uptick up would be a lot more impactful if it materialized within the first nine months of the war, and had been churning out equipment at this elevated rate for the whole time since then. But for such a modest expansion to take 2 years??

This of course is the result of Russia losing the entire 2022 to Putin’s decision-making paralysis. The partial industrial mobilization did not start until sometime in 2023. Putin ran a whole peacetime budget in 2022, and didn’t visit an arms factory (also in Tula) until December 2022!

Even this only happened once his arm had been forced by the wildly successful Ukrainian offensive against the outnumbered Russians in Kharkov. (An offensive that caught Putin overseeing the biennial Vostok military exercise with Shoigu and Gerasimov in the Pacific! So desperate he was to show that Ukraine was a non-war that didn’t require any special effort or attention that he was attending to military matters… in the Far East! And tying down badly needed manpower for the show.)

This leads to urgent mobilization of 300,000 for the army, and down the line to a partial industrial mobilization.

Such a lack of urgency in a war in which nearly 100,000 Russians have already died and to which no end is visible is quite peculiar. One might think that once launched, the driving logic of the war would be to mobilize manpower and industry as quickly and as radically as possible, to achieve the biggest advantages as soon as possible and get the war over with quickly and decisively with fewest victims on both sides. (Hitler knocked Poland out in 1939 with fewer Poles dead than Putin has killed Ukrainians, and that’s with Hitler hating Poles and being the worst guy in history, whereas Putin proposes that Ukrainians are one with his own people.)

Instead valuable time was and is being afforded to the West to slowly ramp up its own production for Kiev. Will the West take advantage of the opportunity afforded to it, and to what extent? Only seers know the answer to this question, but it’s not the job of a responsible leader to gamble the fate of his nation on decisions to be made in Washington and Berlin.

The collective West of course dwarfs Russia in riches, population, technological advancement, and manufacturing output. But one thing Russia supposedly had going for her is that Ukraine was much more important to Russia than it is to the West. Thus while Russia could never overpower NATO directly, she could steal a march on it — be far quicker and decisive in her mobilization than the more indifferent West and present it with a fait accompli.

So far this has not been the case. Putin has talked about how Ukrainians and Russians are really one people, and how intolerable it is for Russia for her own former Russian people to be turned against her so, but his actions do not match this rhetoric.

So far his actions have been of someone who is very comfortable with giving the West ample opportunity to make the Kiev-Moscow conflict an even one, and therefore particularly bloody and long, with the greatest losses for East Slavs possible. The scale at which Russia fights, and the low speed with which it escalates that scale seem almost geared toward allowing Kiev and the West to keep up.

Do I think Putin is a party to a conspiracy to cull the Russians and Ukrainians? I actually don’t believe that, I think the reasons for his feckless leadership lie elsewhere and I will write about them in the future. But I also don’t think it matters. If you lead as a CIA agent would, your motives aren’t nearly as important as the catastrophe you’re causing your East Slav nation.

And I’m talking here as someone who didn’t even want the war. I warned there would be a war and I warned against having one. But wars are wars, and wars come with their own rules that participants can’t just wish away, but become hostage to. That’s a very good reason not to start them. But if like Putin you do it anyway it’s not a mercy to anyone to make sure the other side can match your pace in escalation of effort.

As Putin lectured at Tula there is a temporal dimension to war, and the speed of mobilization is just as important as mobilization potential.

Comments (0)
Add Comment