Putin’s long war and its toll on the world

Russia’s partial mobilization of reservists, announced on Wednesday by President Vladimir Putin, makes it clear that the war in Ukraine is far from over. A renewed high-intensity conflict is bad news for the global and Indian economy. Mint explains

What does partial mobilization mean?

Russia is calling up select groups of people to serve in the armed forces. These individuals are part of its military reserve units, have served in the past, and bring specialized skills. Russia’s defence minister estimates that around 300,000 soldiers will be called into service in the first wave of mobilization. The majority of the country’s reserve soldiers have not yet been mobilized. This move differs from what is called ‘general mobilization’—it would involve drafting soldiers from the general citizenry and reorienting Russia’s national economy and polity towards the objective of winning the war in Ukraine.

What explains Russia’s latest move?

Russia has suffered a series of setbacks in its military operations in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Zelensky’s troops have taken back territory in northeastern and southern Ukraine. Moscow’s units were badly equipped and have suffered large casualties. With the momentum on Kyiv’s side, Putin has ordered partial mobilization to make up for troop shortages and stop Ukrainian advances. This also means that the war is likely to increase in intensity. Contrary to hopes of a negotiated settlement, Putin’s order shows that Russia is willing to prolong the conflict over several months in the hope of regaining its military edge.

Military balance

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Military balance

Will it change the course of the war in Ukraine?

Difficult to say. Russia began its invasion with around 150,000 troops, and adding 300,000 soldiers steps up the conflict. However, if Moscow’s newly called up troops remain under-equipped and badly trained, it risks fighting the rest of the war with a demoralized force. Experts believe that with winter approaching, Russian logistics problems will only worsen.

How does it impact the outlook for the world?

A lengthy war will dent hopes of a steady economic recovery. The outbreak of the war in February caused a sharp decline in global growth projections and drove up commodity and energy prices. Oil prices spiked by 2.5% in the aftermath of Wednesday’s announcement. It may also worsen the stand-off between the EU and Russia, in further trouble for the energy markets. The Asian Development Bank cited the continuing war as a key reason for slashing growth projections in Asia for the current financial year.

Will the developments hit India’s economy?

India will have to closely watch how the evolving conflict impacts July’s Black Sea accord, which allowed grain to leave Ukrainian ports and helped food prices trend downward. If the accord falls through, global food prices could rise and spur inflation domestically. The energy stand-off between the EU and Russia could send prices spiralling if Moscow refuses to sell oil at European rates. This would have negative consequences on India’s import bill. A gloomy global economy will also hit India’s exports.

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