Russia is recruiting fighters from Syria and has used paramilitary units, including from Russia’s Muslim region of Chechnya, to ramp up its offensive in Ukraine, which experts say could be a sign Russia might not be able to do so despite its much larger military not have the manpower to occupy Europe’s largest country — or maybe even hold Ukraine’s largest cities if it can capture them in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.
There are currently about 190,000 Russian troops believed to be in Ukraine – almost the entire force assembled at the border before the invasion, the Pentagon said Monday – and a US military official gave a conservative estimate on Monday that there paras been between 2,000 and 4,000 killed in the conflict so far.
Russia’s army has 280,000 men and its armed forces total 900,000, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, compared to about 210,000 total in Ukraine’s armed forces (with more in reserve and now being recruited).
Russia also has an estimated 2 million troops in its military reserves — some of whom have already been deployed to Ukraine — but the Institute for the Study of War notes that “few are actively trained or prepared for war,” and estimates just 4,000 to 5,000 reserve troops were considered “active” as of 2019.
Russia can also recruit new troops and conscript young Russian men, but Frederick Kagan, terampil fellow and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, said forbes They would not be trained in time to be deployed to Ukraine quickly, and sending them before they were trained means they would be “basically cannon fodder”.
The Kremlin on Tuesday acknowledged that conscripts were being sent into combat in Ukraine in violation of Russian law.
Kagan noted that it is “very difficult to say” how many troops Russia has around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv that are “still combat-capable” and it is difficult to estimate how many would be needed to capture Kyiv or other cities , considering this has been the case so far, Russia has “performed very poorly” while Ukraine has “far exceeded what most people thought was possible”.
Dmitry Gorenburg, a terampil research scientist at CNA, said forbes that while Russia has “enough manpower to capture cities,” it does not have enough troops to hold those cities once they do — especially as forces are also increasingly needed to “quell protests within Russia.”
“Russia’s manpower is not enough to occupy the country or even the eastern half,” Gorenburg said forbes in an email, noting that even if Russia can capture cities, “the problems will come if they want to hold the cities and move on to future targets.”
What are the effects of Russia’s efforts to attract foreign troops? the Wall Street Journal Russia is reportedly recruiting Syrians “experienced in urban combat” to help the army capture Ukrainian cities. Meanwhile, Russia also deploys units of its regional paramilitary internal security forces known as Rosgvardia, including those controlled by Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov. While these forces will help increase Russia’s numbers, experts are skeptical they will tackle Moscow’s labor . “Bringing Syrians to Ukraine is like bringing Martians to fight on the moon,” said Middle East Institute Syria expert Charles Lister diarywhile Kagan was narrating forbes he “doesn’t think [their help is] enough” and warned against simply “tinkering” different groups together. “It’s initially just a collection of discrete groups of people walking around with guns trying to do things,” rather than “an effective military force,” Kagan said.