Declaring another round of mobilization entails great political risk for Russian leaders, which is why even if the decision is made, it will follow New Year's celebrations, security expert Rainer Saks suggests. We will see a new wave of mobilization sooner only if Russian troops get into deep trouble in Ukraine.
"I would sum it up by saying that [a new] mobilization would amount to taking a huge risk for Russian leaders. An additional mobilization. We will have to see how the land lies after New Year's. It is also celebrated based on the old calendar in Russia, so we will have to see after that," Saks told ERR.
The expert said that a potential new mobilization would be placed in the context of three factors.
"First, why did Putin refrain from calling a mobilization in spring when it was clear that his army, the supposedly professional and well-trained force, cannot handle the war? The reason is that he knew that a mobilization would not be popular in Russia," Saks said. Proof came this fall when Russia's eventual mobilization saw hundreds of thousands of men leave the country.
"This means that a mobilization requires different context than simply having a special operation in Ukraine. That is the first group of problems."
The second concern is even more serious in that Russia is already short on weapons and equipment for newly mobilized troops, the expert suggested.
"And thirdly, Russia's leaders will have to decide after New Year's, because if they continue fighting in Ukraine as they have done, new troops they've mobilized will not last long and will need to be reinforced in late January. That is the context in which these decisions will need to be made," Saks said.
He said that it is likely no key decisions will be made before January 6-7.
"But should Russian troops really drop the ball on the front in November-December, this need could be created sooner. If they find more success, a potential second mobilization could be postponed," Saks offered.
Because Russia has a population of over 140 million, there should theoretically be enough people to mobilize, just as those who have completed military service also number "quite a few," Saks suggested.
New wave of refugees could only follow an extreme emergency
Asked about a new possible wave of refugees as a result of Russian air strikes targeting Ukrainian infrastructure, Saks said that this depends on how quickly Ukraine can reconstruct power, water and heating grids.
"But I believe that the people still in Ukraine are not set on leaving. Rather, I believe only an extreme emergency could spark a new wave of mass emigration," the expert said.
Continued missile strikes depend on Russia's stockpiles and Ukrainian air defense
"No one knows for sure how many missiles they have left. I do not believe Russia would give up the strikes in favor of another strategy. It is the only way they can seriously harm Ukraine today," Saks said.
The only thing that could bring a change is if Russia starts running out of munitions or Ukrainian air defense becomes more effective.
Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski