In our brief of the last weeks, you will find a focus on the mobilisation of Russian reservists, the current debate around weapon deliveries to Ukraine, the recent armament procurement decisions in Poland, and much more!
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Focus: Russia´s partial mobilisation: distortion, advantages and challenges
On the 21th of September, Russian President Wladimir Putin held a speech in which he declared a partial mobilisation of the Russian population for the war against Ukraine.
More concretely, 300.000 reservists will be ordered into service for the battlefields in Ukraine. Accompanying this announcement, was the justification for the political decision: a remarkable distortion of political reality, after which the western countries would supposedly have threatened Russia with a nuclear attack on Russian soil. This statement being an obvious lie, Putin didn’t retain himself to clarify that, should Russian territorial integrity be harmed (and that includes Crimea as specifically mentioned) he would “make use of all weapon systems available”. Therefore, actively threatening with a nuclear attack himself, should Ukraine, with the support of western countries, try to reconquer the peninsula. One has to know that this step is by today an integral part of Ukraine’s ambition to achieve victory and end the war. Both countries regard Crimea as their state-territory.
Although Putin certainly already plays on immense political risks with the invasion of Ukraine in general and can´t be analysed by using western rational figures, this threat is called unrealistic by most. A nuclear attack of any form would not only seal off Russia from its last remaining allies that it has, but also guarantee a losing of the war because of then strongly increasing western support and an unforeseeable wave of reactions from inside Russia. Such an escalation would endanger Putin’s powerhouse, which does not fit any rationale in politics in general. The actual use of nuclear weapons in or outside Ukraine must therefore be estimated very carefully.
Besides the speculation about a nuclear escalation, the actual political decision, the mobilisation of 300.000 Russian reservists, is also unclear of success. Whereas the military advantage clearly lies in the simple numerical strength of 300.000 troops, those who are now mobilised will need additional military training, until becoming combat effective soldiers and will be just as affected by equipment and supply shortages in the field as the regular Russian fighting force is, right now. British intelligence expects the reservists not to be ready for combat until winter
As of now, it can be expected that western countries will augment their weapon deliveries for Ukraine in quantity in reaction to this partial mobilisation and might even be pushed to consider delivering more important military equipment to Ukraine.
In the Russian population, the partial mobilisation seems to have a small but noticeable impact on the view of the war. Not only is this the first Russian confession that the war is not going as planned for them, but some Russian industrial-groups could be expecting personal shortages as a result. While Ukrainian President Zelenskyy addressed the Russian population in Russian language to inform them about the situation, the border crossing points leading out of Russia remark a considerable increase of exits. The EU is currently discussing how to handle those who seek asylum in Europe from Russia.
All in all, Russia’s partial mobilisation leaves many questions and many potential future scenarios. What the exact consequences are and how this political decision will impact the course of the war will be seen in the coming weeks and months.
Poland deepens its relations with South Korea by purchasing fighter jets
On September 16th, Poland officially agreed on the purchase of 48 F/A 50 Golden Eagle fighter jets, in two contracts worth €XXb. These aircrafts are aimed to replace the aging MIG-29 Fulcrum currently operated by the Polish Air Force. A first delivery, taken from the programmed deliveries to the Korean Air Force, is expected in 2023 for 12 aircrafts. The remaining will integrate additional capacities requested by Poland and will be delivered from 2025 on.
The choice of the Korean model, affordable and efficient, will allow synergies with Poland other aircraft of the same generation, the F16, before the arrival of the 32 F-35 purchased and a possible additional order.
It is the 2nd major armament contract between Poland and South Korea. End of August, Poland finalised the purchase of 180 K2 Black Panther tanks and 212 self-propelled howitzers for an amount of $5.76 billion, the largest defence deal since many years in the country.
Originally, Poland was expecting German Leopard 2 tanks to replace urgently their T-72 massively sent to Ukraine. Indeed, Germany has built an initiative, the Ringstausch, to help the replacement of Soviet-era equipment sent to Ukraine. However, only Czezch Republic will benefit from it in the end, leaving Polish President Duda saying that “Germany did not hold its promises” whereas Poland had “diminished their own military stocks”. It was during an official visit to South Korea in June that the K2 option was discussed and quickly implemented.
All these recent purchases occur in the aftermath of the Polish decision in March to spend 3% of its GDP in defence and therefore scale up the “size of its armed forces, restore the reserve system, and modernize its equipment.”, according to the Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.
Military cooperations and external operations
Mali Update: the irregularities continue
Only ten days after the German reconnaissance company stationed in Gao under UN command of MINUSMA reinitiated their regular operations outside of Camp Castor, it had shortly again been suspended. The reason for this next irregularity was a missing authorisation for medical evacuations (Medivacs) of military personnel. This issue has now been overcome, Medivacs are again possible and the German soldiers can resume their planned job. However, now the authorisation for transport flights of civilian personnel is still pending, which is crucial for the upcoming personal rotation at the end of September. Whether these irregularities are of political or administrative nature, the fact that these crucial components of an UN-peacekeeping mission can´t be reliably guaranteed, outlines the issue that the Blue helmets face in Mali
Weapon deliveries to Ukraine in September: between adaptation and insufficiency
Weapon deliveries to Ukraine are a constant demand of the Ukrainian government and President, Volodomyr Zelenski. However, many European countries are reluctant to send their modern equipment, for two major reasons: the fear of taking a too direct part in the conflict, and reducing their own military capacities as procurement lead-times are important.
Lately, after the recent campaign and significant progress of the Ukrainian army in reconquering vast territories, pressure has risen for the delivery of modern tanks. Until now, only Soviet-era tanks, the T-72, have been sent by Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denys Chmyhal, stated recently that “ a change of philosophy in weapon deliveries is needed”. He added that “We expect from the US they will send us Abrams tanks, and from Germany, we expect Leopard 2. “
In Germany, whereas the Greens and the liberals FDP are supporting heavy weaponry shipment to Ukraine such as modern tanks, the Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his party, the SDP, are the ones hesitating. He requested coordination between allies on the matter, in addition to a fear of escalation with Russia.
The United States have not taken position on delivering the M1 Abrams, but they have more than 3500 at their disposal, taking into account the ones the US Marine Corps has decided to get rid of.
The French Leclerc tank has not been officially proposed either, despite some researchers calling for providing 50 units. In the past, Great-Britain also declined, arguing of the training needed to operate them.
Whatever the type and technological edge of the equipment, the war in Ukraine is putting them under very high pressure, with firing rates for which they were not conceived. Advanced wear has been detected and are an additional challenge that may have to be taken into account by the defence industry.