When it comes to industrial mobilization in Russia, it is necessary to underline a critical component: the degree of integration between military and civilian production. During World War I, 80 percent of military products were produced by civilian enterprises in Russia; by 1941, the share of civilian industry in the production of military equipment had fallen to 50 percent and by 1963 to 10 percent. Currently, this integration does not exceed 3 to 5 percent (Military Herald, October 2018). Thus, the Russian military-technical industry is an increasingly isolated industry.
“Mobilization” of the Russian civilian industry is de facto impossible: it simply cannot be involved in military production. The military industry itself cannot be expanded due to the lack of equipment and the many “bottlenecks” associated with importing components.
Against the backdrop of numerous demands to mobilize the Russian economy and transfer it to a better war footing, Moscow is also experiencing a wave of bankruptcies and rampant selling off of defense plants. Eight months after the start of the war, it is obvious the Russian leadership is still grappling with a severe lack of production capacity in its military-industrial complex.
Indeed, numerous Russian military production facilities are closing, including:
- 50th Automobile Repair Plant, Rostov-on-Don;
- 258th Repair Plant for Fuel-Filling and Transportation Facilities, Bataysk;
- 751st Repair Plant, Rostov, Yaroslavl region;
- 5th Central Automobile Repair Plant, Yekaterinburg;
- 88th Central Automobile Repair Plant, Chita;
- 15th Central Automobile Repair Plant, Novosibirsk;
- 172nd Central Automobile Repair Plant, Voronezh;
- 9th Central Automobile Repair Plant, Saratov and Engels.
All these entities belonged to Spetsremont JSC, which is controlled by the Russian Ministry of Defense and engaged in the repair and modernization of armored vehicles. In 2017, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated in the Russian State Duma (RIA Novosti, February 22, 2017) that Spetsremont still owed the Ministry of Defense 22,000 units of military equipment or 12 billion rubles ($195 million) for an unfulfilled 2012–2013 contract. Subsequently, this enterprise was transferred to Rostec JSC (RBC, September 4, 2019).
The remaining factories are selling unique equipment for next to nothing, and experienced personnel are constantly being fired. As can be expected, numerous corruption scandals have accompanied this process. For example, Andrey Yakovlev, former director of the 88th Central Automobile Repair Plant, was arrested in 2015 for organizing a criminal enterprise with his access.
Most factories are waiting for the sale of equipment to fund future production. But it is a slow process. And all this is happening at a time of an extremely urgent need for re-supply of critical military equipment to Russian forces on the front lines.
Based on the formation of Russian military units currently in Ukraine, we can conclude that a partial rollback has begun of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s reforms (see EDM, June 14). In fact, in some ways the Russian Armed Forces are returning to Soviet standards and organization.
Meanwhile, the “LPR/DPR-ization” (Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics) of the Russian army continues. A primary feature of this process is thoughtless mobilization without thoughtful skill-matching for assigning roles to new recruits. At the moment, mobilization among the rural population prevails, as urban residents are considered a more important resource for the national economy (Media.zona, September 26). All this leads to the mobilized not possessing the knowledge to properly use small arms, tactical medicine and other basic military equipment.
This LPR/DPR-ization is also characterized by the lack of a cadre of officers, whose losses have been catastrophic for the Russian army. Replacement of lost positions has not gone according to actual needs—repeatedly reserve officers are mobilized as privates (T.me/grey_zone, September 24). This, in turn, will lead to a similar situation as the one faced by the mobilized regiments of Luhansk. No full-time officers were present in the companies and battalions, and central command was led by privates who did not have the appropriate experience (Leon-spb67.livejournal.com, April 26).
Given all this, what tasks are now facing the Ukrainian army? Having reached parity in manpower, and possibly even exceeding it, Russia will probably launch an offensive to reach the administrative borders of the occupied regions, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk. In this case, Ukraine may prepare echeloned defense lines in a number of places with bunkers and concrete shelters—since in those areas there will be a mass concentration of Russian artillery units. This approach is to be expected in places with a large urban agglomeration, such as in Donbas.
In the remaining sectors, a mobile defense posture will most likely be utilized to encircle the enemy and provide for further liquidation of subunits. We should expect to see the requisition of civilian transport from the Russian population for the army’s needs, which will have a negative effect on both the army and society (YouTube, October 21).
Furthermore, Russia forces have begun to experience problems in repairing modern tanks. This is connected to the daunting task of the 103rd Armored Plant in restoring 800 T-62M tanks (T.me/milinfolive, October 12). By itself, the T-62M is gradually becoming the main battle tank of the Russian Armed Forces. In Transbaikalia, at the Krasny Yar training grounds, the first modernized T-62M tanks were installed with new gunner thermal-imaging sights. Presumably, this is a 1PN96MT-02 sight with a thermal-imaging channel and a laser rangefinder. Replacing the hopelessly outdated 1K13 night-sight, the new thermal imager will allow the gunner to detect tank-type targets at a distance of up to 3 kilometers (T.me/mod_russia, October 22; Rg.ru, October 24).
Additionally, the possible growing risks along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border should be addressed. At the moment, the following moves are being implemented:
- A Russian military commission survey is determining the locations for unloading and loading troops and supplies, providing direction for the involvement of Belarusian Railway officials and the Russian military communications services of the RF Armed Forces.
- If necessary, facilities are being established for repairing weapons platforms and preparing for vehicle arrivals at railway stations.
- Serviceability of communications infrastructure is being updated to improve the operational management of military transportation.
- Schedules are being actively developed for the movement of military trains along the Belarusian railways (me/belzhd_live, September 27).
These actions have been indicative of the redeployment of some Russian mobilized units to Belarusian territory. Russian forces there will train at Belarusian training grounds together with units of the Belarusian Armed Forces and their instructors. This creates a direct threat along the entire border from Brest to Gomel. Thus, this new grouping is forcing the Ukrainian army to spend precious resources on fortifying this specific operational area.
Ukraine’s allies and partners should, in response, step up assistance in training the rank-and-file of the Ukrainian army, as more Ukrainians will likely be mobilized to restore parity with the newly mobilized Russian forces. Critically, the West should continue its supply of crucial weaponry, including M142 HIMARS artillery systems, various Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems and more advanced air defense capabilities. With the increase in the number of mobilized enemy personnel, Ukrainian artillery, as it currently stands, will be spread thin and, as a result, have to sacrifice less important operational areas. Therefore, Ukraine’s Western allies should seek to re-bolster Ukrainian units to be fully prepared for the next Russian onslaught.