The Russian authorities, pushed into a military and political corner by the recent victorious counter-offensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Kharkiv Region, have nevertheless dared to take some drastic steps. The occupiers have announced the holding of pseudo-referenda on joining Russia on Sep. 23-27 in the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic” and in the occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Regions. Putin also announced a “partial mobilization” and publicly warned the West about the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons.
What are the reasons and consequences behind such actions by the Kremlin? Will it help the enemy to turn the current situation on the frontline? And is the Russian dictator indeed ready to use nuclear weapons?
You can find answers to these and many other questions below in this article.
“Special military operation” to protect Russia
In the previous weekly review from Information Defense experts, we wrote that the Russian authorities failed to form reserves to replenish the losses suffered by the Russian army in Ukraine. The solution offered was palliative at best – recruiting convicts and mercenaries to private Russian military companies and sending students of final year courses of military schools straight to the battlefield.
However, according to calculations made by military analysts, this is not able to fundamentally change the situation in the Russian-Ukrainian war. An influential group from among the Russian military, and headed by the Minister of Defense, was formed; it insisted that rebuffing the counter-offensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine and fulfilling the tasks set by the Kremlin would be impossible without announcing at least a partial mobilization.
By the way, during the recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the leaders of China and India put the same pressure on Putin, intending that he should either win the war in Ukraine or beat a retreat. After all, neither China nor India can effectively conduct business and trade under current sanctions.
Another influential (and close to Putin) group was, on the contrary, deeply convinced that announcing military mobilization would have a strong negative effect, primarily among the population.
As a result of the behind-the-scenes fight, the “military” group eventually won. On the morning of Sep. 21, Putin announced two things – a travel ban for people subject to being conscripted for military service and a partial military mobilization. The State Duma introduced criminal liability for draft evasion and looting on Sep. 20.
By the way, the wording explaining the need for mobilization is rather impressive – “to protect Russia, its sovereignty and integrity.” So, from the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, “taking Kyiv in 3 days”, and “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine” they have somehow arrived at “special military operation to protect Russia”.
The decision to start mobilization caused panic and indignation among Russia’s citizens: search engines were dominated by queries like “how to avoid the draft” and “how to leave Russia.” The Russians even bought out all airplane tickets for going abroad. On Sep. 21, the Vesna public organization called for rallies to be held against mobilization in all cities of Russia.
So, there are already negative consequences of mobilization, and they are serious ones. I’ll emphasize once again: Russians are ready to support a “special military operation” somewhere far away – in Ukraine, where mostly Buryats and Chechens are dying. And they are not ready to fight and die themselves, even for Russia.
And one more thing: it is uncertain whether mobilization would even be able to make a significant difference to the situation on the frontline. Forces intended as replenishment g forces must be trained, mobilized, and armed with equipment – and not with the rags inherited from the 1960s and 1970s, which are now being supplied to Russian troops.
The drawbacks of mobilization became apparent today, on Sep. 21, and it is still an open question as to whether there will be any benefits tomorrow.
Pseudo-referenda set for four temporarily-occupied regions of Ukraine
The Sep. 20, occupiers almost simultaneously announced pseudo-referendums in the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic”, “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Regions of Ukraine on joining Russia, which are to be held on Sep. 23-27.
As we remember, such events were initially planned for May-June, and then for Sep. 11. And they’ve been repeatedly postponed.
There were at least two reasons for that – the unwillingness of the population to support these pseudo-referendums and the stiff resistance shown by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which not only didn’t allow Russian troops to fully occupy any single region of Ukraine, but also went on a successful counter-offensive.
And yet, the occupation authorities were ordered to urgently hold pseudo-referendums.
The results of these “democratic referendums” are known well in advance. And it doesn’t matter that they will not be recognized either by the Ukrainian authorities or by Western democracies, a fact which has already been made clear.
Russian authorities are not really interested in that. Everything Putin is doing now targets only the domestic audience; it is important for the pseudo-legal justification of including Ukrainian territories into Russia – just like it was with Crimea back in 2014.
They can announce winning the referendums with 80-87% supporting votes; then the Federal Council adopts a decision and that is it – the next day this is now Russian territory, which needs to be protected from the counter-offensive undertaken by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
And then military mobilization, which will be announced in the “newly- annexed territories” as well, will come in handy. Dear Ukrainians – people from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, people from Donetsk and Luhansk – welcome to the Russian occupation forces!
Russian propagandists are going to start shouting about the aggressor – the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which the Kremlin fears to its very core and against whom all available means must be used to halt their counter-offensive.
Putin’s ongoing nuclear bluff
According to the Russian doctrine on national security, Russian territory can be protected with both conventional and nuclear weapons. No wonder that Putin once again threatened the world with the nuclear button in his morning address.
Ukraine and the Armed Forces of Ukraine are ready for this scenario. We will not retreat, and we will not give up.
However, there is no unequivocal answer as to whether Putin will really push his nuclear button or whether he’ll keep raising his stakes and bluffing.
It is quite difficult out the psychological personality type of the Russian dictator and, therefore, his behavior. The majority of analysts did not believe he would begin a full-scale war against Ukraine – they were basing their hypothesis on rational reasons. Instead, Putin took an irrational decision based on his basic archetypes.
However, one of the basic instincts of a dictator is the instinct of self-preservation. A few months ago, Putin received a personal warning from the West: in the event of him firing nuclear weapons, a retaliatory blow will be aimed at him personally, at his bunker.
Russia has taken a new step towards escalating the war, yet again brutally violating international law, one that is deliberately aggravating within Russian society and resorting to a nuclear bluff.
Putin understands that Russia’s defeat in this war will lead not only to the collapse of the country, but to his own personal downfall. Therefore, he is ready to use any dirty tricks to stay in power.
But the verdict of history has already been written in the blood of our soldiers and peaceful citizens – Russia’s defeat is inevitable.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.
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