What Does Mobilization in Russia Mean?

September 22, 2022
UkraineWorld spoke to Oleksandr Musiienko, military expert, head of the Centre for Military and Legal Studies.

Key points — in our brief, #UkraineWorldAnalysis:

1. On the meaning of mobilization

  • Mobilization means that Russia has faced colossal resistance from the Ukrainian people. As a result, Russia has not achieved victories in this war and is suffering serious losses. This order stems from Russia's flimsy positions, especially after the successful counteroffensive in Kharkiv Region. Russian troops are now taking up defensive positions, they are no longer capable of attack from many directions, and it is difficult for them to hold the front line. 
  • Against a background of defeats and lack of victories and even greater embarrassment in the international arena, Russia has taken another irresponsible step to continue its war. In this way, Russia is demonstrating to the world community that they do not care about the norms of international law and world order. These events are taking place at the same time as the meeting of the UN General Assembly. 
  • Putin's leadership is determined to continue their  aggression, even at significant cost. They have a simple, primitive logic: might makes right. Demonstrating strength is the only argument Russia has to make others take their interests into account. Russia seeks to  export fear, destruction, and aggression.

2. On Shoigu`s report

  • Shoigu struggles with math. He believes that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have suffered  more dead than wounded. This is not how war works. Listening to Shoigu raises the question among ordinary Russians of how they could justify fighting under  a "great commander" like Shoigu, who interprets every defeat as a tactical retreat, and sees a path to victory in any battle simply by accepting huge  numbers of casualties. 
  • Russia is resolving gaps in troop management and strategic planning by mobilizing ordinary people into cannon fodder. The announced mobilization of 300,000 reserve troops is an empty declaration. This number cannot be achieved, because Russia has not been able to complete it through covert mobilization. There has been no enthusiasm or long queues at military enlistment offices. 
  • Secondly, the number of people who will use any pretext to avoid being mobilized will skyrocket. Thirdly, there will be sabotage and protest movements by Russians who reject these decisions by the regime.

3. On which groups of people are liable to be mobilized

  • It is difficult to say who falls under this partial mobilization, because Putin's decree does not offer a complete answer. Employees of the military-industrial complex may not be covered, but everything beyond that is a gray area. 
  • According to Shoigu, we are talking about people who have military experience of participating in hostilities. But we can not rely upon Russia's statements.

4. On the expanded powers of Russia's military authorities

  • Measures like criminalizing evasion of mobilization, desertion, and voluntary abandonment of military units represent an increase in administrative pressure and the use of administrative vertical and repression against those who disagree with the regime. 
  • Centralization of the system and the extension of additional powers to the Russian Ministry of Defense does not change much, as we see that the centralized Russian system of military management does not fall under expectations of its leaders. 
  • The Western NATO system is better and more effective in distributing the powers of nations' Ministries of Defense  military commands, as well as ensuring joint democratic control over these bodies.

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.