Summary: Vladimir Putin declared the start of a new war chapter in Ukraine on Wednesday morning. Putin portrayed the conflict in Ukraine as a struggle for Russia’s existence. Russia would win two battles at once: the enslavement of Ukraine and overthrowing the security order dominated by the West. The Kharkiv region retreat marked a ” catastrophic operational setback for the Russian Army”. The Russian Army was forced to pull its reserves further to the back when Ukraine started attacking Russian command centres, logistical hubs, and ammunition stores far behind enemy lines.
Every element of Putin’s new strategy entails undetermined risks and benefits. Ukrainian counteroffensives will probably go at a rapid clip, even in the face of a nuclear threat. Expert: “Mobilisation in and of itself won’t repair anything”, regardless of how many bodies the Kremlin can assemble. Putin’s plan had been to fumble through the conflict while promising ordinary Russians an everyday existence. Yudin: Don’t look for a revolution yet—expect individual discontent, maybe even sabotage. The first day of the draught was reported in a terrifying article by Andrew Roth at the Guardian.
Vladimir Putin declared the start of a new war chapter in Ukraine on Wednesday morning, or at least that was his plan. Three main points emerged from his televised speech: the Kremlin intends to hold referendums in its occupied Ukrainian territories in the south and east to facilitate their immediate annexation; those lands will then be considered to be within Russia’s national borders, meaning Russia is prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend them; and a “partial mobilisation,” or military draught, has been ordered to support the Russian war effort. Putin portrayed the conflict in Ukraine as a struggle for Russia’s existence—a struggle against the combined forces of the Western allies rather than the Ukrainian Army. He claimed that some Westerners want to “weaken, split, and ultimately destroy our country.”
After virtually losing the battle for Kyiv earlier this spring, Putin turned to what he believed to be the long game. He bet that all he needed to do to win was to wait until Ukraine, worn out by the war and short on resources, and the West softened their support due to rising energy and food prices, inflation, and discontent. Russia would win two battles at once: the enslavement of Ukraine and overthrowing the security order dominated by the West.
Putin could hold onto this vision for most of the summer. At the same time, Russia blasted its way across the Donbas in eastern Ukraine with the help of its powerful weaponry. In other Russian-occupied districts like the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, the lines appeared to be successfully frozen, giving Putin time for the status quo to seem inevitable. In the following months and years, Russia would prevail via a type of slow-motion TKO rather than an absolute knockout. Using mercenaries, Kadyrovtsy from Chechnya, men collected up from the streets of seized Donetsk and Luhansk, and prisoners who were offered pardons if they survived the front, the war—or, as it is known, “special military operation” could be waged on the cheap and nasty.
That strategy failed earlier this month when a two-front Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south and northeast prompted the Russian Army to quickly and quietly withdraw from the whole Kharkiv region. One line after another just fell apart over an area of more than a thousand square miles. The retreat from the Kharkiv region marked a “very catastrophic operational setback for the Russian Army, which could turn into a strategic one,” according to a person familiar with a Russian defence strategy.
According to this person, the Russian and Ukrainian Armies had appeared to share the same issue for months: neither possessed the power to advance and shift the front decisively. However, the Ukrainian military mobilised substantial quantities of Western armaments, most notably the American-made HIMARS rocket system, which can reach targets at about fifty miles and was regularly replenished with new conscripts. The Russian Army was forced to pull its reserves further to the back when Ukraine started attacking Russian command centres, logistical hubs, and ammunition stores far behind enemy lines. This guy said to me, “When their offensive commenced, we had nothing with which to patch up those holes, and the Ukrainians went straight through.”
The latest U.S. weaponry deal, worth up to $600 million, was unveiled by the Biden Administration on September 15. It will include more artillery rounds and ammo for HIMARS systems. According to the individual who is knowledgeable about Russian defence strategy, “things were looking very frightening as if we were only seeing the precursor to some future calamities.” “While Ukraine has numerous allies, we are fighting alone. Additionally, as the battle continues, Ukraine will continue to obtain more modern weapons than we do.
This fact must have become apparent to Putin over the past two weeks, as he began doubting down to try to turn around his losing streak like a gambler getting deeper in debt. Every element of his new strategy entails risks and benefits that are undetermined. It is certain that Ukraine, seven months into a conflict it has always viewed as existential, won’t be deterred by Russia’s attempt to annex new land. Ukrainian counteroffensives will probably go at a rapid clip, even in the face of a nuclear threat. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear realistic that the Biden Administration and other Western nations will abruptly abandon their efforts to arm and assist Ukraine just because Putin claims, for example, that the city of Kherson is now a part of Russia.
Putin won’t feel any better after mobilisation, either. He mentioned a “partial” call-up of reserves that was only open to 300,000 people during his broadcast address. However, Novaya Gazeta claims that a covert clause in the printed decision permits that number to increase to one million. Men have been rounded up in large numbers, almost randomly, during the first two days of mobilisation, particularly in remote areas. The nation’s rural poor and racial minorities will continue to suffer the hardest. However, the expert knowledgeable about Russian defence strategy warned me that “mobilisation in and of itself won’t repair anything” regardless of how many bodies the Kremlin can assemble. It might just lead to further issues.
Even if the Kremlin successfully enlisted several hundred thousand new soldiers, the Army would still be needed to shelter and train them, a massive undertaking. In the best-case scenario, it will take months, and by then, it might be too late to change the course of the war—not the least because these new draftees won’t be highly motivated or trained in cutting-edge modern weapons. The source informed me, “If they had announced mobilisation in March, by now, they could have, let’s say, prepared 50,000 new troops—but they didn’t do that.
Greg Yudin, a political philosopher, divides Russia into three categories when describing the varying degrees of support for the war in that nation: “dissenters,” “radicals,” and “laymen.” That is to say, those who vehemently oppose the war, those who support it, and those who make every effort to ignore it, in that order. According to Yudin, the laypeople represent the majority of Russians who have tried to safeguard their privacy by avoiding all discussions about Ukraine and the conflict. In mid-September, Yudin tweeted, “It is indeed awful, but the advantage is that these folks are unwilling to join the war actively. Putin’s plan had been to fumble through the conflict while promising ordinary Russians an everyday existence in the country’s major cities and radicals a heroic struggle against Nazis and a Western superpower set on destroying the country. Depending on where you looked, you could see both angles. (The dissenters only experienced rejection and oppression.)
However, if mobilisation doesn’t completely shatter the laypeople’s illusions, it will at least put them under strain. However, as Yudin explained, that process will take place gradually and is more likely to occur on a personal rather than a collective basis. In other words, don’t look for a revolution yet—expect individual discontent, maybe even sabotage. “The innate reaction at the first appearance of any threat is to hide, save himself, bury his head in the sand,” Yudin said of a Russian who has never engaged in collective action. That covered the time from the invasion until the present. “And what if something worse occurs? So bury your head even further, then.
However, even this approach has its limitations, mainly if Russia’s mobilisation turns out to be more extensive than the “limited” scope Putin predicted. The first day of the draught was reported in a terrifying article by Andrew Roth at the Guardian: “Summons delivered to eligible males at midnight. Teachers at schools are under pressure to distribute draught notices. Men are given an hour to prepare for the draught and show up at the centres. Women sobbed as their husbands and kids left to participate in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Analysis by: Advocacy Unified Network