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James Stavridis

Putin’s New Cannon Fodder Won’t Win the Ukraine War

It will take months before Russia’s reserve troops can be brought into battle, where they will likely perform even worse than the frontline forces.

Send in the reserves!

Send in the reserves!

Photographer: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin tripled down on the war in Ukraine in a short but defiant televised speech on Tuesday. Politically, he announced that a series of referendums on joining Russia would be held in the conquered territories of eastern Ukraine this week. Militarily, he repeated previous not-so-veiled threats to use nuclear weapons, and announced a mobilization of 300,000 reservists to be thrown into his flailing “special military operation.” 

All these choices smack of desperation and an attempt to thread a narrow needle: Putin wants Russians to believe that everything is going fine and that ultimately he will conquer Ukraine; but he also knows that with as many as 80,000 troops killed in action or wounded in just over six months of war, he simply must get more soldiers into the fight.