Putin "partially" mobilizes the military in policy reversal

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

That “special military action” is looking a lot more like an actual war this week and the latest announcements from Russian President Vladimir Putin have all but confirmed it. We had a hint of this when the Russian Parliament passed a new law this week that would facilitate military mobilization, but in his speech yesterday, Putin appeared to make it official. In what he called a “partial mobilization,” Russia will conscript and mobilize more than a quarter of a million troops from the general population in an effort to thwart the Ukrainian counteroffensive that has pushed deep into their eastern provinces previously held by Russian sympathizers. But he didn’t stop there. He also announced an expected (and bogus) “referendum” to officially annex two eastern Ukrainian provinces. And just to show that he’s serious, he informed the NATO allies that Russia is “not bluffing” when it comes to using “all means at its disposal” to achieve Putin’s goals. It was a clear reference to the potential use of nuclear weapons. (NY Post)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization in Russia as the war in Ukraine reaches nearly seven months and Moscow loses ground on the battlefield. Putin also warned the West that “it’s not a bluff” that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect its territory.

The total number of reservists drafted in the partial mobilization is 300,000, officials said.

The Russian leader’s televised address to the nation comes a day after Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes on becoming integral parts of Russia. The Kremlin-backed efforts to swallow up four regions could set the stage for Moscow to escalate the war following Ukrainian successes.

So what does a “partial mobilization mean?” The BBC breaks it down for us based on previous Russian military alignments. Russia is believed to have approximately 2,000,000 people who are technically considered to be in the reserves. The 300,000 being activated represent roughly one percent of the Russian population. They are all allegedly people with prior military service or training and students will not be included in those being called to duty. They will all be issued uniforms and weapons and be formed into new military units in preparation for deployment.

The bogus “referendum” announcement is one of the potentially more dangerous parts of the announcement. No western countries will recognize Russia’s attempt to claim the eastern Oblasts as part of the Russian Federation, but by declaring it to be so, Putin could use that to his advantage. Any attacks by Ukrainian forces inside of those regions, particularly when they are using American and allied military resources, could be described by Putin as an attack on Russia’s own soil. He could use that as an excuse to escalate the war into other countries and even attack NATO holdings.

The thinly veiled reference to using nuclear weapons is nothing new, though Putin previously claimed that a nuclear war must “never” be fought. But if we’ve learned anything from watching Vladimir Putin’s misadventure in Ukraine it should be the reality that when Mad Vlad puts a piece on the chessboard, you shouldn’t act shocked when he decides to move it. The idea of losing this war must be unthinkable to Putin and he knows it could cost him his leadership, so if victory requires nuking someone, the possibility can’t be ignored.

At this point, Vladimir Putin is acting like an animal that’s been backed into a corner. And that’s when he will be the most dangerous. Virtually nothing in the Ukrainian invasion has gone as planned and the Russians have been made to look like fools by Zelensky’s ragtag army. Putin is also clearly angry about the American and allied weapons being used against his forces. He made reference to that also during his remarks, saying that he is authorizing increased production of and upgrades to Russian munitions and weapons. This is still a proxy war for now, but if Putin doesn’t figure out a way to turn the tides quickly, it may not be a proxy war for much longer.

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