A bit of a lighthearted note before we get started here. Doesn’t the Russian recruiting blow-up guy look slightly like Stan’s dad on South Park? Sometimes we find humor in the strangest places.

A Shadow Mobilization

Amid a sea of refuseniks saying “nyet!” when being told to return to combat in Ukraine, almost 30,000 combat casualties, and the majority of Russian millennials wanting nothing to do with military service, President Vladimir Putin has a big problem on his hands. Not many military-aged Russian folks are keen on participating in his “special military operation.” Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Kremlin has resorted to putting smiling, fingerless blow-up dolls outside of mobile recruiting stations as a way of trying to lure in recruits.

As this video from The Telegraph clearly illustrates, some Russians are out to destroy their recruitment centers using violent means. Video courtesy of YouTube and The Telegraph.

As you can see, things aren’t going well in the soldier recruiting department for the Kremlin. Still, they have declined to order a general mobilization of draft-aged soldiers (18-27). Doing so would be an admission to the world of what we already know; Putin’s war in Ukraine isn’t going well. Their military is stretched wafer-thin.

Remember when you were in high school, and recruiters would call your house? It was usually at meal time and would tick off your mom. Russian military recruiters have taken to doing that; cold calling military-aged men. I would suppose it has the same effect on them now as it did on us then. People hate cold calls from recruiters. The move shows desperation. Recruiters are also trying to reactivate reservists.

Ancient Russian T-62 tanks are being moved to Ukraine. What does this tell me? Well, a lot of things, but the one that pertains most to this story is the fact that reserve units use these relics (I’m talking 60 years old). Activating them implies that reserve units will be called up and sent to fight.

Mr. Micheal Kofman is the director of Russia studies at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) think tank. In a recent analysis of the Kremlin’s recruiting efforts, he wrote,

“These efforts represent a form of shadow mobilization. These are piecemeal efforts that allow the Russian military to sustain itself in the war, but do not address the fundamental deficit in manpower.” 

Help Wanted: No Experience Necessary

Screenshot from a Russian headhunter website. There are tons of postings like this on various sites. No job shortage in that market. Image credit: screenshot of hh.ru website

I have to address this help wanted ad. If the subject were not so deadly serious, it would be funny. But then again, soldiers tend to develop a dark, morbid type of gallows humor that doesn’t disappear once you take off the uniform. It helps us cope. At least that’s what my shrink says.

First, only two people are looking at the job (3 if you count me). That’s not a sh*tload of interest, and absolutely nowhere does it mention the war in Ukraine. One might think that’s a fact a potential anti-aircraft gunner might want to be made aware of.

Under “requirements,” it mentions that you have to “carry out firing (launches) at the enemy’s SVH (including from armored vehicles on the move and afloat in any weather conditions (including difficult ones)” Emphasis mine. If it’s raining, I suppose that you can’t just head inside and let the enemy bomb the crap out of your position.

Slightly disturbing is a help wanted ad for, and I kid you not, “Commander of a military unit.” The starting salary is 200,000 rubles (about $3,400). I’m guessing that’s per month; it doesn’t say. Responsibilities include “knowing the terms of combat and general military regulations; the basics of combined arms combat…”. You get the idea. It’s to the point where the Russians have lost so many commanders in combat they have to post ads for them on help-wanted sites.

A Russian conscript stares at a piece of paper with one eye before leaving for training with the Army. Image Credit: Vitaly Nevar/TASS

So, what does all of this mean? First, it gives us a snapshot of what is going on now regarding Russia’s efforts to get more soldiers for their war. Things, as you can see, are pretty bad. Putin is only four months into this thing. He may be forced into ordering a general mobilization of draft-aged soldiers, which will not go over well with the people.