Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute in Arlington, Va., said the Kremlin’s first step would likely be to call up reserve officers and others with more recent military experience to replenish badly depleted units in the field, perhaps in the next month or so. The Russian military has been identifying such personnel for months in anticipation of Mr. Putin’s order, he said.
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“Bottom line, it’s not going to change a lot of the problems the Russian military has had in this war, and the military will be limited as to how many additional forces it can deploy in the field,” Mr. Kofman said. “But it does begin to address the structural problems that Russia has had with manpower shortages and will extend Russia’s ability to sustain this war.”
Crucially, Mr. Kofman said, Mr. Putin’s announcement extends indefinitely the service contracts of thousands of soldiers who signed up thinking that they would only serve several months, and enacts policies and penalties to prevent them from refusing deployment to Ukraine or leaving the service.
Even if Moscow can mobilize some reservists quickly, the Russian military faces serious longer-term shortages in equipment, vehicles and weaponry, and generating entire new units to replace those lost in battle might not happen until early next year, some officials said.
“It will be many months before they can be properly equipped, trained, organized and deployed to Ukraine,” said Frederick B. Hodges, a former top U.S. Army commander in Europe. “And without massive artillery support, these new soldiers will be pure cannon fodder, sitting in cold, wet trenches this winter as Ukrainian forces continue to press.”
Mr. Putin’s struggles to mobilize enough regular troops has forced the Kremlin to rely on a patchwork of impoverished ethnic minorities, Ukrainians from the separatist territories, mercenaries and militarized National Guard units to fight the war.