Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order last week calling up about 300,000 reservists to join his forces fighting in Ukraine has hit roadblocks, but CIA Director William Burns said Russia’s menacing nuclear threat should be taken “very seriously.”
Men reportedly were being forcibly taken for Putin’s military with little to no training, and Russians in some regions were drafted despite their failure to meet the eligibility criteria.
Even media outlets typically in favor of Russia’s invasion have cast doubt on how the “partial mobilization” orders have been carried out. Rybar, a pro-war blog, wrote on Telegram it knew of several men who had been drafted despite health issues or limited training experience, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, thousands of Russians have fled the country, and many others have taken to the streets to protest Putin’s plans.
The Russian president’s escalation apparently was triggered by Ukraine’s successful counteroffensives.
The Institute for the Study of War, a policy research organization based in Washington, said the addition of inexperienced men to Russia’s military is “unlikely” to change the dynamic of the conflict.
“Mobilized men with a day or two of training are unlikely to meaningfully reinforce Russian positions affected by Ukrainian counteroffensives in the south and east,” the institute said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Monday admitted “errors” had been made in executing Putin’s troop call-up.
“These cases of noncompliance with the required criteria are being eliminated,” Peskov said, according to the Times. “And we hope that the rate of elimination will increase and all errors will be corrected.”
Burns told CBS Evening News that manpower is far from the only trouble facing the Russian military.
“Even if he’s able to mobilize 300,000 troops, it’s not as if throwing people like cannon fodder toward the front, many of whom are not going to be well trained, many of whom are not going to have the kind of equipment that they need or the logistical support that they need as well,” Burns told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell on Monday.
Burns continued: “His military has a lot of other problems; manpower is only one of them.”
Last week, Putin said he wasn’t bluffing about using every means available to support Russia, according to The Associated Press. The statement was interpreted as a warning that he is prepared to use nuclear weapons.
Burns said U.S. intelligence agencies had no “practical evidence” that Putin is taking steps to act on his nuclear threat, but said we should not ignore his warnings.
“What we have to do is take it very seriously, watch for signs of actual preparations,” Burns said.
Burns added policymakers should also “communicate very directly the severe consequences that would flow from any use of nuclear weapons.”
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. has already done so.
“Russia understands very well what the United States would do in response to the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine because we have spelled it out for them, Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Russia will make its decisions, but it will do so fully understanding that the United States will respond decisively.”