The war in Ukraine: Why no mobilization in Russia? Strelkov vs the realities.

The famous Igor Strelkov, the brightest figure of the Donbass resistance in its early stages, makes his main argument against the Russian state policy in this war as such: Russia has to formally declare war and mobilize its forces, in order to achieve a decisive and quick victory in Ukraine, otherwise the slow pace of positional war of a WWI variety will allow the Ukrainians to mobilize, train and equip up to 20 additional divisions, and start to push the Russians back.

His point is illustrated by the indisputable fact, that Russian Armed Forces and its allies (Donbass militias, Russian National Guard units, volunteers, Wagner Group mercenaries, etc.) have halted their quick advances of the early stages of this war, and switched to a very slow positional fighting, relying heavily on artillery, air and long-range missiles support. This is not how Russian forces are expected to operate. They are expected to engage in maneuver warfare, relying on deep operations to circumvent the regions of strong resistance and strike them from behind, or advance farther into enemy’s rear, waging chaos and forcing the enemy to capitulate.

Positional war will provide the Ukrainian Army with a chance to mobilize and to receive hardware and training from the West. In the lack of numbers needed, Russians had to retreat from the north-eastern Ukraine, in order to back up the forces in the East, which are trying to break the Donbass defence line. This retreat resulted in the infamous incident in one of the towns north of Kiev (which I will not name), and in airstrikes, artillery shelling and saboteur actions by the Ukrainian ground special units on the Russian territory, adjusted to the Russian-Ukraine border near Belgorod-Kharkov and farther south.

Obviously, those points are all true. But it seems Strelkov is fully concentrated on the military affairs, while not giving a single thought to the political and economical considerations. Let us consider the result of such policy, promoted by Strelkov.


The main fighting forces of the Russian Federation are professional soldiers and seamen, backed up by the conscripts. In the early stage of the “Special Military Operation” Putin declared, that no conscripts will be participating in the war. The reasons are obvious: 18-20 year old conscripts who die or fall prisoners of war will have much stronger negative effects on the public opinion than 20+ year old professional soldiers, who chose this profession themselves. That enabled the Russian president to do it, is the fact that Russian Army is in its later stages of transforming from conscript based to professional based army. While the conscription still exists, it is intended to create a functioning reserve, in the event of a large, defensive war (e.g. against NATO).

Implementing the mobilization of reservists, or involving conscripts, will result in a less effective force. Their armaments will be of second grade, compared to the regular units. Their qualifications to operate technologically advanced weaponry in a information rich environment would be nowhere near those of the professional troops. Their morale would be lower. And yet they will require the same logistical volumes as the regular units of comparable size. Eventually, their combat effectiveness could be (and I believe it indeed will be) multiple times lower than that of the regular forces. So let us assume the combat effectiveness ratio 1:3 of mobilized forces vs the regular ones. That means that mobilizing, realistically saying, 150,000 men, will result in “effective force” of 50,000 regular men. If we assume that currently Russian army has about 150,000 men in Ukraine, additional 50,000 (effectively) new soldiers will result in +33% combat-effectiveness. Will it be enough to switch to mobile warfare, while concurrently increasing logistical requirements of the forces by 100% more? I’m not so sure.


Mobilization reserves are mostly (I assume) working people. Actually, given their age, they are probably the most productive part of Russia’s work force. They work in industry, agriculture, management, service… Removing suddenly, let’s say, 150,000 men from their workplace and placing them in the war, will hit the economy twice. First time then there is a sudden disappearance of 150,000 or so working men, and the second time is then those men are required food, clothing, ammunition, fuel, medicine, life insurance, health insurance, wages… This is not a small thing in the situation then the main war effort against the Russia is the economic war. Currently, Russia’s economical survivability is much less certain then the military survivability. That is why sacrificing economy for the increase in fighting force is a bad idea.


Russians don’t like wars. They are very much against their governments trying to involve them in any kind of fighting. Unless the war is a defensive one, which is waged to the sake of the Russia itself. Then there is a strong support among the people. The war in Ukraine isn’t really one of those. On the one hand, it is waged against another country, behind Russian borders. But on the other, it is a “preemptive” war, needed to prevent the attack on Russia. Also, the recent attacks on the Russian towns and villages only strengthen its defensive nature.

That being said, large number of casualties, especially among young conscripts and/or mobilized reserves, would have a deep negative moral effect on a large number of Russians, who still remember and hate the Afghan war (which is maybe on of the main reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union). Only small-scale and “victorious” foreign wars are tolerated by Russians, like the one in the Syria, for example. If so, any mass scale mobilization will result in loss of support for the Russian government, unless Russia itself is in imminent danger of major invasion or attack.


Winning the war in Ukraine using only the regular forces against the numerically superior enemy who is receiving all the NATO weapons it can realistically deploy, will have a strengthening effect on the image of Russian Armed Forces in the world. On the other hand, mobilization will demonstrate the weakness of current Russian Army against (as it would be presented) the much smaller and poorer, non-aligned country.


Summarizing these factors makes it clear that it is in the Russian interest to conclude this war using only the regular units of its armed forces. The objective need for more boots on the ground are fulfilled by the aligned militias, mercenaries, volunteers and non-army units like the National Guard Service.

P.S. Until recently, I was sometimes wandering why Igor Strelkov was quietly removed from the political arena in Russia and Donbass. Given the major role he played in the creation of Donbass militia and the early fights what took place after the 2014’s coup. Now I see why: he is very limited in viewing the world only as a field of battle, where his military and historical knowledge is uniquely applicable. Military or political government which looses the sight of the well-being of the people, may produce Pyrrhic victories while inflicting damage on its own people. (His Monarchist and nationalistic views are also quite absurd, in my personal opinion.)

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