President Putin appeared on Russian TV this morning with a recorded speech declaring a partial military mobilization effective immediately. He also addressed the West in threatening terms, which he says is “nuclear blackmailing” Russia.
The speech comes at a time when Russian troops are struggling, particularly in northeastern Ukraine. “Ukraine’s tactical victory at Kharkov leads to strategic panic in the Kremlin,” said former Army Commander Mart de Kruif.
What does the partial mobilization announced by Russian President Putin mean? Former commander of the Land Forces Mart de Kruif explains.
In conversation with Mart de Kruif about Russian mobilization
According to him, we cannot separate the partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists from the ‘referenda’ announced in four (partly) Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine. “Reservists are constitutionally only allowed to be deployed on Russian territory,” he explains. And that is exactly what the plebiscites are about: citizens in the four provinces must vote on joining Russia.
The result of the referendum, which is not representative because many Ukrainians have fled the areas, is not recognized in advance by Ukraine and internationally. But if a majority of voters vote for annexation by Russia, the Kremlin will consider the areas Russian.
It is inevitable that the West will become even more involved in the conflict.
According to De Kruif, the partial mobilization and the expected annexation constitute an “unattached escalation”, including for Ukraine’s neighboring countries. “The Baltic states will feel threatened and NATO must respond to that. It is inevitable that the West will become even more involved in the conflict.”
The retired general also expects it to take weeks, if not months, before the Russian reservists can get to work. “You have to train them, equip them, feed them. And there must also be enough NCOs and officers to direct them. I don’t think we’re going to see these people at the front until spring.”
The partial mobilization will also lead to unrest in Russia itself, expects Russia expert Laura Starink. According to her, many Russians will try to escape, for example by leaving the country. Tens of thousands of people have already done so in recent months, she says, mostly critics of the regime. “Often they go to Georgia and Turkey.”
According to Reuters news agency, direct flights to Turkish Istanbul and Yerevan in Armenia sold out quickly after Putin’s speech. Also, the searches “How do I leave Russia?” and “How do I break an arm?are trending on Google. And according to a Russian lawyer, the telephone line for information about the rights of military personnel called more than a thousand times this morning.
President Putin also used nuclear rhetoric in his speech. He accused the West of “nuclear blackmail” and warned that Russia will not shy away from using “all available resources” if necessary in the eyes of the Kremlin. “That’s not a bluff,” he added.
Review the appropriate portion of the speech:
Putin on nuclear weapons: ‘I’m not bluffing’
Putin’s words seem like a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal, and this is not the first time. But these statements in the context of announced referendums and partial mobilization have a different meaning, says Laurien Crump, expert on Eastern Europe and international relations.
“We see a president here who is cornered,” says the researcher, who is affiliated with Utrecht University. According to her, Putin will not be satisfied if he comes out of the war with less than what he started with.
If the four areas with ‘referenda’ will soon belong to Russia in the eyes of the Kremlin, he will therefore want to defend them at all costs, she says. “He will not just pull out a nuclear weapon, but he also does not want to lose face. If there is fighting in areas that the Kremlin will soon consider to be Russian, Moscow sees this as an infringement of Russia’s right to exist. option will be on the table.”