A few incomplete thoughts on the question of mobilization. It won't solve many of the RU military's challenges in this war, but it could alter the dynamic. Fair to say that these are uncharted waters, and so we should take care with deterministic or definitive claims. 1/
I wouldn't suggest that this can turn around Russia's fortunes in the war. However, I would take care being overly dismissive, especially looking out towards the medium term of this winter and 2023. Force availability and manpower matters, hence the implications can vary. 2/
The Russian military has had structural manpower deficits throughout the war leading to problems with recruitment, retention, and rotation. Units can't be rotated, leading to exhaustion. Number of refuseniks grew. Hiring short term volunteers exacerbated retention issues. 3/
Piecemeal solutions have led the Russian military to steadily cannibalize the force, using up officers, equipment, and enlisted professionals for reserve and volunteer units. Hence force quality degraded over time, as did morale, retention & exhaustion problems grew worse. 4/
Mobilizing LDNR personnel, and using them to absorb losses led to a variegated force that lacked cohesion, interoperability, and suffered from weak morale. This approach seems to have largely exhausted itself in July, few men left to forcibly mobilize in LDNR. 5/
The first and more important implication is not mobilization but enactment of stop-loss policies. Service contracts extended indefinitely, right to refuse deployment suspended, new criminal measures enacted to enforce what is a de facto introduction of wartime measures. 6/
Caveat, this is an initial interpretation of the order. But it implies that you can no longer tear up your contract in the Russian military or leave service. Volunteers who signed up for short tours (4-6 months) are now extended for the duration of the mobilization period. 7/
All mobilized personnel will be treated as contract servicemen, subject to these conditions. The situation with conscripts appears unchanged, but if Russia annexes these 4 UA regions, then it can technically deploy conscripts in those territories as well... 8/
The optimal time for Russia to conduct mobilization was in April, before significant parts of the force and mobilization base were ineffectually consumed. So, what can this 'partial' mobilization achieve for Russia at this stage? The disappointing answer is it depends. 9/
The first limit on mobilization is likely to be throughput - the system has to call-up, house, train, feed, equip, etc. Hence Shoigu's 300k number is likely to be notional, while actual mobilization proceed as a much more limited and phased process. 10/
That said, I'm skeptical that mobilization infrastructure has sat entirely dormant. Russian voenkomats have been calling people up to update their info since April. Assembling reserve and volunteer battalions likely exercised some of this system already. 11/
Since units typically train their personnel, its unclear what the capacity is in the system to absorb mobilized officers/soldiers, train them, and equip them. These are all uncertainties. Russian training of 3rd corps at Mulino might be an example of the approach (or not). 12/
Hence mobilization is unlikely to generate new units for several months, and even then the output will be a lot less than what Moscow might expect. Mobilization is a coercive process in practice & economically disruptive. It also depends on how Russians choose to react. 13/
However, RU mil could use mobilized personnel first to raise manning levels in currently deployed BTGs, many of which seem at 40-50%. Morale of mobilized personnel might be low, but individual replacements can start filling these units out faster than establishing new units. 14/
Another approach might also be to deploy lower quality infantry regiments, akin to those currently seen among mobilized LDNR units, in order to hold large stretches of the line, i.e. the opposite of the 3rd corps effort to stand up a new volunteer formation with better kit. 15/
The second main limitation stems from constraints on force employment. No matter how many personnel are mobilized, RU mil can only sustain and command a finite number of troops on the battlefield. Scaling has been one of the Russian military's chief problems in this war. 16/
Russian capacity to implement partial mobilization is uncertain, as is the time it would take to produce results & how Russians will react to it. However, I'm also not sanguine on the proposition that it will make no difference. There's room for caution here. 17/
Morale will continue to be an issue. Stop-loss policies may yield fewer refuseniks, but more deserters. Most UA advantages will remain. What partial mobilization may do in the coming months, depending on what actually comes of it, is help RU mil stabilize their lines. 18/
This is in part why these coming months remain an important window of opportunity for UA to retake territory. Over the winter the contest will likely be one more defined by attrition and reconstitution. The extent to which mobilization can help RU reconstitute is unclear. 19/
Mobilization comes with significant political risks and downsides for Moscow, but it could extend Russia's ability to sustain this war more so than alter the outcome. As always, these are just initial impressions and a very imperfect reading at best. 20/
Perhaps a useful addition - mobilization & stop-loss might help Moscow stem the deteriorating quantity of the force, but not the deteriorating quality of the force & its morale. Having used up its best equipment, officers, & personnel, I don't see how this can be recovered.

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More from @KofmanMichael

Sep 8
Brief thoughts on UA Kharkiv offensive. It appears ambitious, intended to envelop Izyum and try to trap Russian forces there. Likely seeking to interdict ground lines of communication at Kupyansk. The Oskil river east of Izyum makes the pocket vulnerable for RU forces. 1/
UA offensive looks to have made substantial gains, placing RU forces in a precarious position. From what one can tell, and these are early impressions, the advance made good use of armor in conjunction with infantry. 2/
Russian forces appear to have been spread thinly, and mil leadership unprepared despite earlier evidence of UA buildup. I think it’s fair to assess that RU was caught by surprise with little in the way of reserves locally available. 3/
Read 8 tweets
Sep 7
Good thread by Jack. I've largely shied away from this conversation, because I often saw it falling victim to the false certainty of shaky numbers and estimates that seemed predicated on big assumptions.
My intuition has been that Russia probably had less usable ammunition to start than being given credit for, but also a lower daily use rate (15-20k vs the 50-60k figures which struck me as unrealistic), and production capacity which could be ramped up over time.
I suspect Russia has run low on certain types of ammunition, perhaps large caliber MLRS, 122mm artillery rounds, and PGMs. And that as Jack suggests, there will be bottlenecks in production. That said, I doubt US sanctions have much to do with Russian arty ammo production.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 4
A few brief thoughts on the UA offensive. First, its best to manage expectations, these types of operations take weeks or months to play out. In my view its very early, there is limited information available, and far too soon to issue judgments. Thread 1/
My best guess on UA approach is to steadily press Russian forces towards the Dnipro river. Perhaps splitting the main Russian group of forces between those defending the city Kherson and those holding territory east of the Inhulets river. 2/
As Russian forces are pressed to choose between retreat and envelopment, over time they will likely withdraw to secondary defensive lines, steadily compressing the battlespace. If successful, UA may begin to isolate these groupings into several large pockets. 3/
Read 14 tweets
Aug 25
Redoing short thread since it didn't post right. I think that there are different ways to interpret the exec order. My own view is that it is partly codifying the present situation in the Russian military, but also reflects future expansion plans, which may be aspirational. /1
The order in my view does not necessarily presage a larger draft, or greater mobilization - it could, but it may be a way of accommodating the various current recruitment efforts to create additional volunteer battalions in the force, and build in room for force expansion. /2
The volunteer units in aggregate do not amount to a dramatic expansion of the force. But Moscow may expect to integrate occupation forces, and LDNR troops, especially if they go through with annexation. Putin had mentioned he supported giving LDNR fighters army veteran status. 3/
Read 6 tweets
Aug 25
Good thread by Dara. I think that there are different ways to interpret this order. My own view is that it is in part codifying the present situation in the Russian military, but also reflective of future expansion plans, which may be aspirational. /1
The order in my view does not necessarily presage a larger draft, or greater mobilization - it could, but it may be a way of accommodating the various current recruitment efforts to create additional volunteer battalions in the force, and build in room for force expansion. /2
The volunteer units in aggregate do not amount to a dramatic expansion of the force. But Moscow may expect to integrate occupation forces, and LDNR troops, especially if they go through with annexation. Putin had mentioned he supported giving LDNR fighters army veteran status. 3/
Read 5 tweets
Jun 28
A few thoughts on the current course of the war. The Russian offensive grinds on in the Donbas. Both sides have made incremental gains, neither is near collapse, but equally, both lack the forces for a major breakthrough. Thread. (Will use some of Nathan's maps) 1/
Over the past month Russian forces struggled to break out of Popasna, but have now taken Severodonetsk, and their advance at Toshkivka places them outside Lysychansk. The Russian military now threatens to sever the Severodonetsk/Lysychansk pocket. 2/
After first reinforcing the city, UA was forced to withdraw from Severodonetsk to Lysychansk, and from the area around Zolote. This allowed the Russian military to advance, threatening ground lines of communication. (Jomini has a good sitrep) 3/
Read 24 tweets

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