Russian President Vladimir Putin is making two of his biggest political and strategic bets to date in a single week.
why it matters: With his troops moving into northeastern Ukraine and his foothills moving elsewhere, Putin shied away from a strategic withdrawal in favor of high-risk escalation. he is mobilizing an estimated 300,000 citizens and is preparing to declare 15% of Ukraine to be Russian soil – backed by an apparent nuclear threat.
running news: Dozens of cities witnessed protests by military-age men after Putin’s announcement of mobilization crowd in airports And long lines of soldiers are soon being set up at border posts to flee the army, and on buses and planes soon – especially in provinces far from Moscow.
- Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that only 1% of Russia’s available stockpile – about 300,000 military veterans with relevant expertise or combat experience – would be called in.
- But as Sergei Radchenko of Johns Hopkins notes, Putin’s actual decree is so vague that “just about anyone” can be listed, and the total number may exceed 300,000. Soldiers on short-term contracts will also be forced to remain on active duty.
- there has been very Real reports men are being employed regardless of their military experience and age, Protesters face prison sentences and some anti-mobilization protesters have been immediately recruited, According to Monitoring group OVID-Info.
big picture: The ghost of recruits could potentially bring the war home to millions of Russians in a way that nothing else.
- Support for the war has remained stagnant ever since, with about 45% of Russians firmly behind it, another 30% supporting the war “with some reservations”, and only a small fraction. is willing to pay the high price of protest, says Denis Volkov, director of the Levada Center, Russia’s top independent surveyor.
- Recently, more Russians say they are tuning in to the news, attributing Volkov fatigue or “psychological security”. Economic sentiment was improving, and many Russians wanted to move on.
- Now, consultancy R. Russians are getting more than just crowding the Internet and “getting information about who will be drafted,” says Politik’s Tatiana Stanovaya.
Military analysts also expressed apprehension On the Russian military’s ability to integrate, train and equip hundreds of thousands of soldiers, many of whom have no desire to fight this war.
- “Throughout this war we’ve noticed one thing from the Russian military: it hasn’t done most things well,” They say Rob Lee, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a specialist in the Russian military. “So is the mobilization going to go so well? Are these units going to be well trained and equipped when deployed? Probably not.”
- “Russia may try to address the quantity aspect of the force but they cannot fix the quality,” says Michael Kaufman, an analyst for Russia’s military at the CNA, specifically, the lack of experienced officers and advanced equipment.
- Kaufman believes that the mobilization order is unlikely to change the trajectory of the war, which currently favors Ukraine, but thinks it could allow Russia to keep fighting longer.
The so-called “referendum” in four regions of Ukraine Kul (Luhansk), near-Kul (Khersan), or partial (Donestk, Zaporizhzhya) are under Russian control. Scheduled to run from Friday to Tuesday,
- The White House expects a vast majority to join Russia, after which Putin’s “willingness” could be announced.
- Needless to say, those moves would lack international support or legitimacy.
- ahead, Ukraine is launching a major counter-offensive in Kherson and a surprise push in Kharkiv that threatens Russia’s position in the Donbass. Thus, Putin will effectively declare that the ground that is in danger of losing is, in fact, Russia.
break it: Analysts believe it is part of an effort to reframe the war as being of a defensive nature – a fight to free people and land that are actually Russian – and to lock-in Russia’s advantage. For.
- Putin warned on Wednesday that Russia would use “all the means at our disposal” to defend its territory, and could now bring four Ukrainian territories under Russia’s nuclear umbrella.
- The decision, writes Alexander Banov of the Carnegie Endowment, sounds “almost like an attempt to break free from some kind of superstition”, because of the deep belief that Russia will always be victorious on its own soil.
- The message to the West, according to Stanovaya, is “either Ukraine withdraws, or nuclear war.”
On the other hand: Ukrainian and Western officials have insisted they will not let nuclear threats undermine their resolve. But some have also warned that Putin’s warnings cannot be dismissed.
- A senior European official on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly told Axios, “We think it’s just sham,” but that could change if Putin feels “backed in a corner”.
- Problem It’s that if Putin feels that way, we probably won’t know it, the official said.
Bottom-line: “He is now ruling this war,” Kaufman says.