IMO called up Russian reserve units will be of low combat value.

Russian PWs

  • The early announcement of the 2022 spring draft is unlikely to increase Russian combat power in Ukraine in the near term.
  • Recent Russian efforts to create a Western-style reserve force are unlikely to materially impact combat operations in Ukraine.
  • As Russia exhausts its high-readiness units staffed with contract soldiers, the quality of reinforcements is likely to be much lower than the units first committed to the invasion.
  • The Russian military is a hybrid format combining a traditional cadre-and-reserve conscript system and a contract-professional system. While the Russian Army has made efforts to professionalize its ranks, particularly in the last 15 years, it remains reliant on conscripts, both for its active-duty force and for its reserve forces in the event of general mobilization.[1] Most combat units must be filled out by conscripts or mobilized reservists in order to be combat-capable. Contract soldiers are concentrated in the cadre and elite units, especially the airborne units.

The cadre-and-reserve units of the Russian Armed Forces are maintained at a low readiness with a limited number of professional staff and conscripts, with the expectation that they would be staffed with reservists in the event of mobilization.[2] The Russians have already used many cadre-and-reserve units in Ukraine, and they have not performed well against the Ukrainians, with some units suffering heavy losses. Russia does not likely have a large reserve of highly skilled contract units remaining, although there are probably some uncommitted forces.”

Comment: This all is very reminiscent of the Soviet Army and before that of the Tsar’s Army. In the Soviet Army there were several types of reserve units. Some were maintained at about 50% of war strength but the greatest number were kept at around 20% and were really just cadres and not very skilled or good ones. The US deployed several National Guard divisions and brigades to Iraq. They required six months to a year of training under the supervision of the Regular Army to be brought to a deployable state. Reserve formations cannot be kept at permanently high states of readiness for the simple reasons that 1- It is too expensive and 2- There is not enough available training time to train the units AS UNITS.

Therefore, it can be expected that unless the Ukrainians are defeated BEFORE these called up Russian reserves reach the front line they will be butchered like sheep. pl

Explainer on Russian Conscription, Reserve, and Mobilization | Institute for the Study of War (

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18 Responses to IMO called up Russian reserve units will be of low combat value.

  1. Bill Roche says:

    Spring draftees spend 2 months in basic and four in AIT and will be available for combat in December. Is it possible that Ukraine can hold the Russians off until the advent of their winter? Does frozen ground make tank movement easier? How many good tanks do the Russians have left? Is Ki’ev or L’vov the Russian destination? If the fight for Ukraine extends into 2023 will Ukraine have enough men (they have been drafting soldiers too). These questions extend from the original: just what does Putin want? I have my answer. It is the year 19 and 14 and we are back to the future. Czar Nickolaus emerges from the grave for another round of Slav vs Celt. The “untermensch’ are the little Slavs and the Celts are the eternal enemy of Slavic civilization. Am I daft? Maybe, maybe not.

  2. Barbara Ann says:

    Butchered they may be, but will this lead to a Ukrainian victory? Perhaps it would, as if Ukraine can fight Russia to a standstill it can claim a victory of sorts merely by virtue of having survived. For Russia to be able to credibly claim victory it needs to neuter the Kyiv government or replace it with a puppet, not just conquer territory. I therefore can’t believe Putin will be able to stop at the Donbas, even if that is a temptation.

    In any case, the ability of the AFU to endure the unendurable is being put to the test. The change of Russian tactics around mid April to focus on the Donbas and to fall back on utterly destructive massed artillery fires is a grim sign that the Kremlin is happy to Groznify Eastern Ukraine until Kyiv eventually capitulates. So much for Slavic brotherhood. I’d be interested to see a comparison of Russia’s casualty rate during the failed blitzkrieg of ‘phase 1’ compared to its casualty rate during the current phase.

    Whilst I write, may I wish you a very happy birthday Colonel.

    • TTG says:

      Barbara Ann,

      The Ukrainian reserves have nine combat arms brigades organized similarly to the sixteen or so active brigades. At least one of those reserve brigades has been committed to combat already. The rest are still training and equipping.
      At least one reserve tank brigade has been equipped with Polish t-72s and Dutch upgraded M-113s.

      The Territorial Defense units, especially those raised in Eastern Ukraine have been heavily committed to combat. IMO some of those units have been over-committed beyond their intended capabilities.

      The Ukrainians have a head start in preparing their reserves since they committed to 100% mobilization on day one of the invasion.

      The estimated casualty rates are out there, but I haven’t seen them in a convenient table or graph. The Russian loss rate may have slowed down for both men and equipment, but a lot of that may be due to less offensive activity and less BTGs to commit to that offensive activity. The Donbas offensive is heavily tilted towards massive artillery barrages.

    • Klapper says:

      You’re right that the Russians won’t stop at the Donbass. There’s 2 territorial targets after that: Odessa and Kharkiv oblasts. However past those objectives I don’t think the Russians have any territorial objectives. It will be enough to landlock Ukraine and seriously negotiate from that position.

  3. Fred says:

    What is the status and quality of Ukrainian reserves called up and of their stream of volunteers?

    • Pat Lang says:

      They seem to fight well.

    • TTG says:


      Even the Territorial Defense Forces, which is little more than local militia organized as light infantry, have performed admirably. I’m sure there’s a lot of combat experience spread across those local militia units.

  4. mcohen says:

    Another problem for the future is the possibility that Ukrainians will be looking the settle scores with Russian troops in the years to come.The slavic tradition,besides slaughtering sheep, is the brother of your wife’s grandmothers uncle’s enemy is my enemy too.
    To think that the bum bandit Kevin spacey played Keyser Soze in the movie “usual suspects” highlights the utter depravity of the Hollywood mafia

    • Fourth and Long says:

      It could be reasonably argued that they cast him well as Keyser Soze. By pure happenstance I spent a couple of hours with Spacey in 1988. You can’t possibly imagine how deformed his personality is. I’d almost prefer a couple of hours alone in a room with Stalin and Beria. But not quite.

      • James says:

        Wow. I knew he was messed up, but wow.

        • Fourth and Long says:

          Yes. Lee Marvin wasn’t cast as Liberty Valance because of his warm cuddly nature and his record of helping grannies cross the street. Many actors if not most basically play themselves. Spacey played not only Keyser Soze but the devious psychopathic president of House of Cards. He’s a brilliant man, but a serious son of a mama canine. Hollywood is many things but stupid isn’t one of them.

  5. Lars says:

    I think an important aspect is that the Ukrainian military has cycled through a lot of military over the last 8 years and those who are now reservists have extensive combat experience. That military also seems to be able to use several different tactics, whereas the Russians only know to pound some place with heavy military before they will advance. To me, that sounds like you will eventually run out of ammo and I doubt they have enough capacity to replace it soon enough.

  6. Leith says:

    As reported in Russian media, since 24 February there have been 15 attacks on Russian draft offices and/or recruiting stations. It’s not a regional thing, it is happening all over the RF. And perhaps not just ethnic either as some have happened west of the Urals. 14 were arson or molotov cocktail attacks. The 15th one in Irkutsk was a shooting.

    • Bill Roche says:

      As many on this blog do, I remember draft riots in the late ’60’s in America. It will be interesting to see how the Russians handle them in 2022. Putin isn’t worried about a hostile press. It will be interesting to see how far such riots go. BTW, my in laws (extended) in St. Petersburg knew very little of what was going on in Ukraine. Wait till draft requisitions are announced there.

      • Pat Lang says:

        “Draft Riots?” Nah, pro-communist riots.

        • Bill Roche says:

          In fact that’s just what they were!

          • Steve says:


            my in laws (extended) in St. Petersburg knew very little of what was going on in Ukraine. Wait till draft requisitions are announced there.

            They can always read the Moscow Times:

            For all the talk over the years of Russia crushing media dissent it’s still standing. Meanwhile the BBC is defaming academics who dare ask the questions its journalists should be asking.

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