Despite months of setbacks, Russia is still sticking to its delusional mantra that “everything is going according to plan” with its war against Ukraine. Sure, hundreds of thousands more men may be needed to replenish the fledgling military, but according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, everyone can count on the war dragging on well into next year.
Shoigu announced Wednesday that the army would have to bulk up to 1.5 million people in order to complete “tasks to ensure the military security of the Russian Federation,” meaning another 350,000 or so people will be called up for military service.
He said the war against Ukraine will continue “until the complete fulfillment of tasks,” according to Interfax.
The announcement came just moments after Vladimir Putin acknowledged “certain problems” with the mobilization he ordered in late September. But the Russian leader didn’t mention dysfunctional leadership, fleeing soldiers, or faulty equipment—all of which have been well-documented in independent media. Instead, he blamed the unspecified “problems” on an outdated military commissariat system that he demanded be reformed.
He went on to issue an apparent reprimand to the Defense Ministry, urging officials to “be attentive to all civil initiatives” (the same ones the Kremlin has effectively muzzled) and “take criticism into account, responding to it correctly and in a timely manner.”
In almost the same breath, he boasted of Russia’s “combat capabilities” getting stronger “constantly and every day.”
Shoigu, too, made some claims that are sure to raise eyebrows, including the whopper that in the course of the war, Russia’s military “achieved the lowest mortality in the history of military medicine.”
That despite Russian soldiers routinely complaining the wounded have been abandoned on the battlefield, and numerous reports of Russian forces either refusing to retrieve their dead or burning the bodies of those KIA to mask casualty numbers.
Perhaps in a bid to explain away those humiliating setbacks, Shoigu reiterated the Kremlin’s claim Wednesday that Russia is fighting “the combined forces of the West,” and not just Ukraine. Putin, for his part, vowed to “improve the combat readiness of our nuclear triad” and to pour “unlimited” funds into the military.
He said Russia’s hypersonic Sarmat missile, capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and hitting targets thousands of miles away, would be ready for deployment soon. Back in the spring, Moscow had claimed the new missiles would be deployed by the fall.
News of the Kremlin’s plans to bulk up its military come after an embarrassing week for the Russian leader. While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky won praise for visiting the deadliest spot on the frontline on Tuesday, Putin himself was far from the battlefield, handing out medals to pro-Kremlin propagandists.
A wave of Russian media outlets, apparently trying to improve optics in light of Zelensky’s battlefield visit, cited the Kremlin to say Putin himself had recently visited the “special operation zone.” But the Kremlin was then forced to clarify Putin had actually only visited “military headquarters,” which were reportedly stationed in Russia’s Rostov region.
As the war drags on into its tenth month, Putin has apparently become acutely aware of growing backlash from ordinary Russians. On Tuesday, he signed a decree ordering that pro-war bloggers and state TV correspondents be enlisted on a “task force” to help federal authorities address issues with the president’s “partial mobilization.” » …