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The Russia-Ukraine war appeared nowhere close to its end after Vladimir Putin announced mass mobilization in September 2022, which caught the world’s attention. The main reason behind this move was to address the growing shortage of soldiers on the battlefield, which reduced the effectiveness and power of the Russian army. Nonetheless, some observers, such as Axe (2022), argue that Russia’s mass mobilization would face many training and equipment challenges as the country’s ability to equip, induct, train and move troops is limited. Notwithstanding, Soldak (2022) notes that Putin aims to win the war and will stop at nothing. Various speculations from the media report about the number of troops being activated, with some claiming that the number is 300,000 while others report that it is about 1 million (Axe, 2022). The purposes of mass mobilization in Russia are to use it as a political tool to push the war into winter, pressuring Ukraine and its allied European countries to cede to Russia’s demands to increase the number of soldiers in Ukraine without compromising the country’s domestic defense capacity. However, this mobilization has been linked to far-reaching effects, particularly by threatening to cut family ties and increase fears among citizens who do not want to be drafted, making Russian society express strong opposition against it.
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Purposes of Mass Mobilization in Russia
Russia’s mass mobilization can be linked to two major purposes. The first purpose is to use it as a political tool to sustain the war into winter and thus pressure Ukraine and its European supporters to yield to Russia’s demand. Putin’s announcement of mass mobilization in the country is largely political rather than a strategy to wage an offensive assault on the battlefield. The Russian generals are most likely not taking the mobilization as an initiative or a plan for Russia to launch major attacks against the Ukrainian forces (Soldak, 2022). Instead, according to Soldak (2022), Putin’s mobilization strategy aims at helping the Russian troops to hold onto what they have already captured in Ukraine and push the war into the winter. During the winter, Ukraine and her European supporters require a lot of energy to keep their citizens warm. If the war extends to the winter, populations across Ukraine and its allied European countries will be stressed from cold and high energy prices, forcing many citizens in these areas to demand the war’s end. In this sense, mass mobilization is a political tool by the Russian government to push the war into the winter to force the masses in Ukraine and its allied European nations to pressure their respective governments to embrace a ceasefire or negotiations.
The second purpose of Russia’s mass mobilization is to add the number of Russian troops in Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, the Russian army has had many casualties, with close to 80,000 soldiers having been injured from the initial invasion force of about 190,000 troops (Shagdurova, 2022). The Russian government has taken various measures to ensure that there are soldiers in every unit in Ukraine, including bringing in ethnic minorities, especially Chechens. The Russian government is also offering huge bonuses to people enrolling in the service, including those from prisons. Although the Russian forces have been effectively operating on the field, the quality of replacement personnel has been low. According to Shagdurova (2022), the Russian army is trained and structured to defend the country from any external attack and not to invade other countries. This means that Russia had limited troops to deploy for a special military operation. The mass mobilization will help add to the number of Russian soldiers undertaking the special operation in Ukraine and maintain enough forces for the defense of the homeland.
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The Effects of Mass Mobilization and the Reaction of Russian Society to It
The mass mobilization will lead to the separation of many Russian men from their families, threatening family ties. Moreover, it induces fear among the citizens that they might be called to go to war. As a result, the country’s widespread opposition may affect the ongoing efforts toward mass mobilization (Sheftalovich, 2022). This resistance threatens to reduce the number of personnel available for mobilization. Furthermore, there have been mass demonstrations in the country, with people opposing the government’s move to recruit civilians into the military. The mobilization also forces some citizens to flee the country as they fear being drafted into the army by force.
In summary, the Russian government aims to use mass mobilization as a political tool to ensure that the war extends into winter. This event may force Ukraine and its allied European countries to yield to its demands and boost the number of Russian forces in Ukraine without compromising its domestic defense. The announcement of mass mobilization by the Russian government is primarily political rather than a strategy to escalate its offensive war on Ukraine. Nonetheless, the mobilization has faced severe opposition from many Russian families whose ties are threatened and who fear for their lives and their loved ones. This opposition has significantly reduced the number of personnel available for mobilization.
- Axe, D. (2022, September 20). Russia mulls mass mobilization. It won’t save its army in Ukraine. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2022/09/20/russia-mulls-mass-mobilization-it-wont-save-its-army-in-ukraine/?sh=3e78cb1450e7
- Sheftalovich, Z. (2022, September 21). Russia has mobilized. What happens now? POLITICO. https://www.politico.eu/article/putin-mobilizes-russia-ukraine-war-options/
- Shagdurova, A. (2022, September 22). “It’s a 100% mobilization”: Day one of Russia’s drive to build its army. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/22/russia-mobilisation-ukraine-war-army-drive
- Soldak, K. (2022, September 26). Monday, September 26. Russia’s war in Ukraine: News and information. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/katyasoldak/2022/09/26/monday-september-26-russias-war-on-ukraine-news-and-information/?sh=f7b3da530a23