Putin ‘Really Scrambling’ to Find More Troops for War: Ex-NATO Commander
Former NATO supreme commander James Stavridis said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “trying” to get more troops to fight in Ukraine, despite Moscow recently claiming its forces captured the town of Soledar. .
During an interview with MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell, Stavridis weighed in on reports that Russia is tapping prisoners, the Wagner Group, reservists and others to fight in Ukraine.
“Putin is really trying…to get the workforce, he’s going to go to prisons, he’s going to go to homeless shelters. [and] he’s taking people in their 50s and 60s,” he said. “I’m in my early 60s, I don’t think the US military is looking for me to send me into combat. But Putin will take everything. It’s a sign of how difficult this fight has become for him.”
This week, Russia appears to have hinted that another round of mobilization may occur to meet the demands of the war in Ukraine. State Duma deputy Viktor Sobolev announced on Friday that Russian reservists who are 30 years old or older and have no military experience will be trained after the passage of a law that will change the call-up age for conscripts, Russian news agency URA.RU reported. .
However, Andrei Kartapalov, head of the Duma’s Defense Committee, denied on Friday that Russian reservists will be required to undergo military training, The Moscow Times reported, citing the Baza Telegram channel.
Putin had already announced last September the “partial mobilization” of some 300,000 conscripts, but later said in October that mobilization efforts had ended. Last month, the Russian leader denied a new wave of mobilization, saying he saw no need to do so.
However, Ukraine claims that Russia is still mobilizing troops, with the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces saying last November that Moscow was mobilizing recruits in the occupied city of Simferopol.
Simon Miles, assistant professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University, told Newsweek on Friday that Russia needs to continue mobilization efforts to meet workforce demands.
Russian President Vladimir Putin poses as he delivers a New Year’s address to the nation on December 31, 2022. Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis said on Friday that Putin is “trying” to get more troops to fight in Ukraine, despite Moscow recently claiming that forces captured the town of Soledar. Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
“I think Russia should continue to mobilize. They need more manpower in the war, and they started with a massive deficit, so they are still – almost a year later – playing. The first big call seems that their lines have been stabilized, if they want to advance forward and take or retake territory from the Ukrainians, they will need more personnel,” he said.
Miles added: “I don’t think this is as much a defensive game as an offensive game. Ground forces are key to taking and holding ground. Now, older reservists with a few weeks of refresher training are far from the ideal force to was used for this [war]but I think we can see on the ground in Ukraine that although they are not the best, they are good enough.”
During Stavridis’ interview on Friday, Mitchell also asked him about his thoughts on Russia’s “state of play” at the moment given the “competing claims” made by Ukraine and Russia regarding advances made at Soledar.
The former NATO commander predicted that Soledar would fall into the hands of the Russians and that he would not be “stunned” if that happened.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Soledar go down… that’s a pretty small beer [town] on an 800 mile battle front. So this city could fall into the hands of the Russians,” he said, adding that making gains in Soledar “will give them [Russians] a bit of a morale boost, but tactically it won’t be very significant”.
“The real prize is nearby like a city called Bakhmut, much bigger, more strategically important. I think you’ll see the Ukrainian results solidify and they’ll hold it,” he explained.
Stavridis on Thursday also raised the idea that there could be an internal split among Russian military leaders after the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Telegram on Wednesday that General Valery Gerasimov will lead the forces in the ongoing war in place of Sergei Surovikin. The move came just three months after Surovikin was cast in the role.
“There is some kind of internal division going on between the conventional military represented by [Russian army General Valery] Gerasimov…[Sergei] Shoigu, [Russian] minister of defense…and on the other hand, a man named [Yevgeny] Prigozhin, who is a leader of the Wagner Group, this mercenary group that is obviously having some success on the battlefield,” Stavridis told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.
Newsweek contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.