Political strategies

The divergent war strategies of Ukraine and Russia

Russian mobilization guarantees little except massive Russian casualties and fewer heroes

On September 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a mobilizationwith Sergueï Choigou, his Defense Minister, announcing that three hundred thousand people will be mobilized.

At first glance, the move looks very formidable considering the sheer size of the number. For context, Russia has so far deployed between two hundred and two hundred and fifty thousand troops in Ukraine since the start of its full-scale invasion, according to defense analyst Yago Rodríguez Rodríguez.

However, this news is by far not as bad as it seems. According to a explanatory by Reuters,

Western military analysts are divided on whether a partial mobilization is too little too late to change the tide of the war in favor of Moscow. Most say they think it’s too late, but a few say it could help Russia in some way, but not immediately and conclusively.

That should be enough to ease most people’s hearts. After world military analysts predicted a rapid Russian victory in the event of an invasion of Ukraine and totally lack anticipate the rapid counter-offensive which taken back an “area half the size of Wales” of Russia, it should be clear that this is an expert community that tends to overestimate Russia and underestimate Ukraine. Therefore, this new consensus is very unlikely to reflect wishful thinking.

A specific comment has come by Sean Bell, former air vice-marshal and frequent contributor to Sky News. In his words, three hundred thousand “seems like a lot but these people are untrained, they don’t have experience, they aren’t ready, and it’s an incredibly hostile environment.”

This comment reveals an assumption that likely informs the assessments of many other military analysts, namely the idea that the Kremlin will indeed be able to conscript three hundred thousand people. Russian opposition figures, with their intimate understanding of governance in their country, are not sure that will be the case. In a interview shortly after the declaration of mobilization, lawyer and long-time political activist Marc Feygin was decidedly skeptical. Since the implementation of partial mobilization was to be the responsibility of Russia’s governors, he reasoned, the task of meeting declared quotas would be delegated further and further down the chain of command, creating shortcomings for which the governors would then apologize to the federal government. (2:40 p.m.–3:45 p.m.). “After all,” Feygin remarked, “we know how it works in Russia.” Ivan Zhdanov, a major partner of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, intervened, adding that “the whole country has learned to dodge conscription” (16:14-16:22).

In this context, it is interesting to note that, according to the Russian government, the part of the presidential decree ordering the partial mobilization which specifies that three hundred thousand people must be mobilized is maintained secret. This may be a way to avoid an ironclad commitment to that number, in case it is not reached.

If the experts who are overwhelmingly convinced that Moscow’s mobilization will be ineffective based their conclusions on the Russian government’s ambitious figure, Russia’s success rate is likely even lower.

Ukrainians, for their part, do not seem at all intimidated by the Kremlin’s decision. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, President Zelensky commented that the Kremlin had already carried out a secret mobilization. Mykhailo Podolyak, one of his advisors, called the “predictable” stage, stating that it looked like “an attempt to justify their own failure”.

Meanwhile, the operator Starsky, a popular commentator on the war and Press officer for the National Guard of Ukraine, published a humorous message Tweeter implying malevolent glee at the thought of fighting untrained Russian conscripts.

Another aspect of Putin’s new scheme is that it may be intended to intimidate Western nations. Just as Ukraine’s recent counter-offensive may have been motivated in part by a desire to To display the West that the war is winnable, perhaps the timing of the Russian announcement of the mobilization was meant to rain down on this parade and spread defeatist attitudes among the countries that support Ukraine. Yet this effect is likely to be mitigated by the announcement’s lack of immediate results, as Rodríguez estimates that the full effects that the Russian mobilization will have on the course of the fighting will begin to appear in October at the earliest, but more likely in December and fully only in February or March next year. Therefore, it seems unlikely that this Kremlin ploy would have anything resembling a “shock and awe” effect. In fact, if the flooding of the front lines by unprepared new recruits results in exorbitant Russian casualties, as Air Vice-Marshal Bell’s assessment suggests, the real effect may be to render the Russian armed forces weaker than ever.

Against the background of imminent mobilization, certain writings of Reinhold Niebuhr are becoming more topical. In a 1916 article, the great theologian wrote of the First World War that it showed “that the forces of history have not favored individual life as much as we thought”. There is a lot of truth in this conclusion today, as a fairly developed nation seems ready to deploy tens or hundreds of thousands of people as cannon fodder. On other Niebuhr statements, the war in Ukraine offers a different perspective. On “modern warfare,” this article asserts:

The courage needed today is the submissive courage that executes strategic plans without understanding them and obeys orders without penetrating their purpose. Thus, grimness eclipses the romance of war, and mechanical precision has become more necessary than spectacular heroism.

It doesn’t have to be like this, as we have seen in recent months. The invading troops’ lack of purpose to fight was a substantial factor problem for the Russian army. On the defense side, heroic Exploits played an important and significant role role. That brutal and thoughtless collectivist modes of warfare can be a matter of choice, even in our modern times, reflects Niebuhr’s view. design humans as possessing a certain degree of freedom and agency by the spiritual element in their nature.

Hopefully, a Ukrainian victory will demonstrate the value of the individual and the dangers of a culture of blind submission to the world. Yet Niebuhr was once again right to remark that “the assurance that the nations of Europe would arise purified” offered “little comfort” in the face of “thousands of graves”.