Conscripting 147,000 more soldiers, Putin readies for an ambitious Ukrainian counteroffensive

Russia Ukraine War Recruitment
FILE – Recruits carry ammunition during military training at a firing range in the Rostov-on-Don region in southern Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. A campaign to replenish Russian troops in Ukraine with more soldiers appears to be underway again, with makeshift recruitment centers popping up in cities and towns, and state institutions posting ads promising cash bonuses and benefits to entice men to sign contracts enabling them to be sent into the battlefield. (AP Photo, File) AP

Conscripting 147,000 more soldiers, Putin readies for an ambitious Ukrainian counteroffensive

Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed the conscription of an additional 147,000 soldiers on Thursday. That number is an increase of 9% over last year’s spring conscription decree.

This conscription order centers on the standard yearlong military service that most Russian adult men are expected to provide. Still, the increase in recruitment underlines the continuing struggle of Russian forces to advance in Ukraine. Whether or not the new conscripts are actually sent to Ukraine, their tours of service are unlikely to be rewarding. And there’s no question that Putin needs bodies to fill the ranks of his increasingly depleted ground forces.

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Russia’s war effort continues to flail.

Anticipating a Ukrainian spring offensive, Russian forces are generally focused on reinforcing static positions on the front-line areas of southern and eastern Ukraine. The exception here is offensive Russian infantry action along an approximately 60-mile stretch of territory outside of Donetsk. This centers on the meat-grinder Battle of Bakhmut, which has cost the Russians thousands of soldiers in pursuit of a limited strategic position.

Putin has a growing problem.

He is running increasingly low on munition stocks, infantry equipment, tanks, and armored vehicles. This poses an inherent limitation to Russia’s offensive potential while exacerbating already significant issues with morale. It’s not pleasant, after all, to fight a war when your officers are generally useless, corrupt, or drunk, and you lack basic training or combat gear.

Any Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely to center on severing Russian-occupied Crimea from its land corridor to Russian forces on the mainland. And Crimea, to Putin, is the holy grail in Ukraine. To prevent its dislocation, Putin must throw more soldiers toward the front line in a desperate holding action.

The problem is that Ukraine’s battle doctrine is centered on the British Army deep maneuver exploitation model, as opposed to the United States Army model of mass and maneuver. If Ukrainian special forces and light infantry units can break behind Russian lines, Russia’s front may face a catastrophic collapse.

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This is why the Russian leader is escalating his nuclear threats, attacks on U.S. drones, and illegitimate arrests of journalists. He wants to manipulate the Biden Administration into a policy of greater caution. If he can achieve that end, he knows Europe will follow. The intent here is to restrain escalating Western arms support for Ukraine and hopefully reduce the combat potential of its forces.

Even so, Putin’s latest conscription order reflects the weakness of his position, not his strength.

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