Costs of attrition
Why Russia's efforts to replenish its depleted armed forces may not matter much in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last week expanding the size of Russia's armed forces by about 137,000 active-duty members, bringing the total force to 1.15 million, as soon as January — but that move "is unlikely to significantly alter the country's fortunes in its war in Ukraine," The New York Times reports, citing American and British officials and independent military analysts.
Whether Russia tries to meet these targets through recruiting "contract" volunteers or conscription, Putin's decree "is unlikely to make substantive progress towards increasing Russia's combat power in Ukraine," Britain's Ministry of Defense assessed Sunday. "This is because Russia has lost tens of thousands of troops; very few new contract servicemen are being recruited; and conscripts are technically not obliged to serve outside of Russian territory."
Among Russia's estimated 80,000 Ukraine casualties are military trainers and officers, meaning even if Russia can attract many recruits, it could struggle to prepare them for combat.
All of this suggests suggests Putin is flailing in Ukraine, former NATO supreme allied commander Adm. James Stavridis and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.
Ukraine has suffered a lot of casualties, too, The Economist notes. "The war will depend, in part, on which side can replenish and expand its army more quickly." Russia is preparing to deploy a series of volunteer battalions to Ukraine, many grouped in a new 3rd Army Corp formation, and online footage suggest they are arriving with "modern weaponry of a kind rarely deployed to Ukraine," The Wall Street Journal reports.
At the same time, "a lot of the guys they are getting in are old, broke, and out of shape," Tom Bullock of defense intelligence firms Janes tells The Economist. And, the Institute for the Study of War wrote Saturday, "better equipment does not necessarily make more effective forces when the personnel are not well-trained or disciplined, as many members of the 3rd Army Corps' volunteer units are not."
Ukraine, for its part, has "an ample supply of willing men," and Britain has pledged to train 10,000 recruits in Kent over the next 120 days, The Economist reports. "Over 2,000 soldiers have already been trained and sent back to Ukraine," and their British trainers describe them as highly motivated and eager to learn, as "soldiers fighting for national survival tend to be."