Russian reserves are not trained for war – and Putin’s escalation could be ‘extremely dangerous’, military expert says | World News

The 300,000 reservists being called up by Russia are “not trained, not experienced and not ready” and it could be an “extremely dangerous” move, a military analyst has told Sky News.

President Vladimir Putin announced the development in a rare address to the nation as he attempts to fight back against a Ukrainian counterattack that has recaptured vast areas in recent weeks.

Retired Air Vice-Marshal Sean Bell said the size of the call-up may sound impressive but that those being mobilized were not active, battle-hardened soldiers.

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“Because of conscription you serve in the military [in Russia] for a short time,” he said.

“They’ve actually got something like two million reservists who’ve served in the military in the last five years. If you extrapolate, it’s something like 25 million reservists that have at some stage served in the military.

“The challenge with all these numbers is that they look very grand.

“In context, 300,000 sounds a big number but these people are not trained, they’re not experienced, they’re not ready, and this is an incredibly hostile environment.

“Quantity has a quality all of its own but this could be extremely dangerous for Russia. None of the military experts believe this will be a game changer for Russia.”

He said the 190,000 invasion force Russia started with was too small to subdue such a vast country, making it inevitable more troops would be needed to deal with Ukraine’s fierce resistance.

“Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the tide turning. Russia’s military is definitely spent and the Ukrainians have got the upper hand now,” said Mr Bell.

“The trouble for Russia is failure is not an option. They need more soldiers. They tried using mercenaries, they used relatively small numbers, but they haven’t proven effective on the battlefield – and that’s why they’ve announced this partial mobilization. “

Russian army has been ‘mauled’

Mr Putin‘s assertion that he’s “not bluffing” about potentially using nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory was alarming, Mr Bell added, but may have been prompted by his inner circle.

“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has not gone to plan, his army’s been mauled and it looks unlikely he’s going to achieve all of his pre-war ambitions,” he said.

“The challenge is – particularly the hardliners around him – will not want to see Russia beaten up and will be very much pushing for some form of escalation – and that’s why we’re hearing some of the rhetoric.

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Putin: ‘I’m not bluffing’ over nuclear weapons

“As a military guy, when I look at this nothing new has been announced,” said Mr Bell.

“So what is most likely is that this is a message to the international community that Russia can still protect itself, and probably more importantly for the domestic Russian audience, to demonstrate that despite tactical setbacks on the battlefield, Russia is still a global superpower. “

Indeed, the Russian leader has made similar statements in the past and in February, in the early days of the invasion, ordered his nuclear deterrent forces to be put on high alert.

The timing of his latest address was also likely to be significant and a form of sabre-rattling to remind world leaders at the UN in New York “how powerful Russia is”, added Mr Bell.

With Russia losing territory and morale said to be low among its troops, he said Mr Putin needed to be given a way out to avoid potentially catastrophic escalations.

Along with fears over nuclear weapons, there are also concerns he could resort to chemical weapons if pushed into a corner.

“It’s time for diplomacy,” said the former Air Vice-Marshal.

“We’ve got to give Putin an off-ramp. If he doesn’t have an off-ramp there’s a grave risk this will escalate.”

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