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War in Ukraine

Putin’s mobilization may not solve all his military problems, Pentagon says

Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to call up roughly 300,000 reservists to supplement his forces in Ukraine will solve his manpower shortage but may not fix the other problems plaguing Moscow's war effort.

Russia amassed roughly 160,000-190,000 troops around Ukraine's border ahead of their February invasion, and the Department of Defense most recently shared a Russian casualty toll of roughly 70,000-80,000 on Aug. 8, so Putin's decision to call up the reserve forces on Wednesday greatly increases his total force dedicated to the war.

Since the beginning of the invasion, Russian forces suffered from a series of self-inflicted problems, including poor morale, command and control, and logistics. All of this contributed to Russia's inability to topple the Ukrainian government in the capital of Kyiv, as had been widely expected.

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"It's important also to point out here that while in many ways this may address a manpower issue for Russia," Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters on Thursday, "what's not clear is whether or not it could significantly address the command and control, the logistics, the sustainment, and, importantly, the morale issues that we've seen Russian forces in Ukraine experience."

"If you are already having significant challenges and haven't addressed some of those systemic strategic issues that make any large military force capable, there is nothing to indicate that it's going to get any easier by adding more variables to the equation," he added.

These forces will primarily be reservists or retired service members, and the Pentagon believes it will “take time” for Russia to train, prepare, and equip the new forces for battle.

The Wagner Group, a mercenary organization that has fought on the Russian side in the war, has sought to increase its numbers by 1,500 from Russian prisons and offering convicted felons a chance to fight for their country, though even that has had limited success.

"Many [prisoners] are refusing" to join the war, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters earlier this week. "Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters."

In addition to looking at Russian prisoners for padding the troops, they have also sought to convince Tajiks, Belarusians, and Armenians to join the war, the official continued.

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Russian leaders in occupied Ukrainian territories have announced referendums to annex those territories, though Biden administration and Western leaders have denounced the efforts as signs of desperation. National security adviser Jake Sullivansaid on Tuesday that the “United States will never recognize Russia’s claims to any purported annexed parts of Ukraine, and we will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine.”

Putin's partial mobilization announcement comes as his military has been dealt large territorial losses in the northeast as a result of a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive. As Ukraine liberated cities, like when Russian forces retreated from the areas surrounding Kyiv, they uncovered various atrocities that restarted international allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.