Prolonging the war
However, sending reservists and conscripts in large numbers could help stabilize Russian defensive lines, increasing the level of resources Kyiv must commit to achieving breakthroughs. Nevertheless, the enrollment of unmotivated and undertrained amateurs into already demoralized military units, in the fall and early winter, is unlikely to change the course of hostilities in the short to medium term.
Judging by Putin’s current strategy on the first moves, it is not very likely that the Kremlin is trying to build a mobilization force capable of defeating the Ukrainian army. The more likely aim is to compensate for Russian losses on the front and then prolong the conflict beyond 2023, according to defense analysts at the RUSI Institute. Currently, Ukraine is already too dependent on Western supplies of ammunition and international financial support, so stalling is to its detriment.
Perhaps the Kremlin is aiming for victory in the hope that the mobilization will drag out the conflict long enough for the unconventional strategy of combining economic warfare, political destabilization, threats of escalation and influence campaigns in Europe and the US to work. The expectation is that all this will lead the allies to force Kyiv to negotiate. The prospect of a protracted conflict that greatly depletes Western military reserves and finances should also seem attractive to China.
Putin’s military mobilization decision will have short-, medium- and long-term effects. However, to understand them, we need to understand how long it will take the reserves to become useful, and how long Ukraine will prepare for such a scenario. The option of using conscripts and calling up reservists was discussed in Moscow as early as March. If the Russian president had made this move in early May, it is likely that the new combat units would be ready by now and could be thrown to the front even while the Ukrainian army has deployed its forces in the Kharkiv region, trying to stabilize its control over the newly conquered territories.