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Russian Mobilization May Be Reinforcing Failure in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin's mobilization of 300,000 reservists may just be reinforcing failure, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a news conference today.

Press secretary listens to questions.
Press Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press briefing, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 220922-F-BM568-2085
 

Putin has called up 300,000 Russian reservists for his unjust and unprovoked war in Ukraine. He also indirectly rattled his nuclear quiver.  

His action follows a Ukrainian counteroffensive that pushed Russian forces from Kharkiv and liberated more than 3,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory. In August, DOD Policy Chief Colin Kahl said the Russians have lost between 50,000 and 70,000 service members in its war on Ukraine.  

Putin's mobilization "would primarily be reservists or members of the Russian military that had retired," Ryder said.  

These are not like reserve formations in the United States. The reserve components in the U.S. military are trained and ready to move in hours, days or weeks, as needed.  

In the Russian model, these are people who have finished their service commitment and are being called to come back. "It's our assessment that it would take time for Russia to train, prepare and equip these forces," Ryder said.

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Russian actions in the war on Ukraine indicate severe command and control problems and a breakdown of logistics since the invasion began February 24. These problems have not been solved and have contributed to the failure of Russian operations to take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in March and in the Russian inability to make much headway in the Donbas region in April.  

The mobilization "may address a manpower issue for Russia," Ryder said. "What's not clear is whether or not it could significantly address the command and control, the logistics, the sustainment and importantly, the morale issues that we've seen Russian forces in Ukraine experience." 

If Russia cannot command, sustain and equip the roughly 100,000 troops they have in Ukraine, adding 300,000 more troops to the mix is not going to make the situation better. "If you are already having significant challenges and haven't addressed some of those systemic strategic issues that make any large military force capable, there's nothing to indicate that it's going to get any easier by adding more variables to the equation," Ryder said. 

The United States and its partners are going to continue a very open and rigorous dialogue with Ukrainian counterparts to understand the country's needs. "I don't see those conversations as being impacted by the situation [with mobilization]," the general said. "I think it's important here to provide a little bit of context. If we go back in time a little bit, Russia invaded Ukraine and attempted to annex all of Ukraine.

"They failed in that strategic objective, and so they scaled down the scope of their operational objectives," he continued. "Even those aren't going well due to Ukraine's counter offensive and the issues that I've highlighted in terms of logistics and sustainment."

A man in a military uniform is standing at a lectern. The sign behind him indicates he is at the Pentagon.
Press Briefing
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder speaks during a press briefing, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2022.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brittany A. Chase, DOD
VIRIN: 220922-F-BM568-2079

Putin making the announcement on mobilization, scheduling sham referenda in captured areas of the Donbas or threats about attacking territory, "it doesn't change the operational facts on the ground, which are that the Ukrainians will continue to fight for their country," Ryder said. "The Russian military is dealing with some significant challenges on the ground and the international community will stand behind Ukraine as they fight to defend their country from an invasion."

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