Putin relies on partial mobilization and fake referendums: what that means for the war in Ukraine

He had several opportunities to react to Ukraine’s gains in territory. And Vladimir Putin decided on a new level of escalation.Image: www.imago-images.de / imago images

analysis

09/21/2022, 19:0809/21/2022, 19:38

Joana Rettig

One could have guessed: after the Ukraine had repeatedly reported successes in counter-offensives in the past few weeks Russia now on the gas: Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilization on Wednesday. At the same time, he wants to tie occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia – with fake referendums that violate international law.

He wants to draft 300,000 reservists. A powerful number. Especially when you consider that at the beginning of the invasion you could assume 180,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

In a television speech, Putin announced partial mobilization.

In a television speech, Putin announced partial mobilization.Image: www.imago-images.de / imago images

But Putin had to react. After Ukraine was able to gain large amounts of territory in a major offensive and some Russian soldiers fled in panic, the Russian President had his back to the wall.

He now had four options:

  1. Negotiate a peace treaty
  2. withdrawal of the armed forces
  3. Mobilization or partial mobilization
  4. nuclear escalation

Putin has chosen number three.

However, the military expert Niklas Masuhr does not see how this will significantly affect the dynamics of the war – including the medium-term advantage of Ukraine. When asked by watson, the analyst at the Zurich Center for Security Studies said:

“The Russian military in Ukraine is severely weakened and demoralized, and due to its structure, many trainers are deployed. So the question is what even 300,000 men are supposed to achieve, especially in a short time, it just takes time to train troops.”

But it doesn’t have to stay at 300,000 soldiers. In total there are 25 million reservists in Russia, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Whether trained or not: Putin has human resources that he is willing to squander. This means that young, inexperienced soldiers in particular could be sacrificed by Putin for his imperialist goal of taking over Ukraine.

But Masuhr points out that many soldiers in Russia are demoralized. He said: “As part of these new laws, the contracts of contract soldiers – against their will – are being extended, ex-conscripts are being drafted, mercenaries are being recruited from prisons.” None of this helps to undermine well-established Ukrainian units with high cohesion and high morale.

The new troops could help defend territory that has already been taken. “But I don’t think Russia will be able to take the initiative again in the foreseeable future – that is, carry out major offensives.

Putin’s propaganda narrative: self-protection

So it’s all a bluff?

The military psychologist Hubert Annen does see a danger. Annen is a lecturer in military psychology and military education at the Swiss Military Academy. When asked by Watson, he says: “Unfortunately, the dynamic of the conflict is escalating. That was to be expected after Ukraine’s successes.

Russia is using a narrative it can use to get its people behind it: self-defense. Annen says the announcement could be understood as an escalation – “connected to the narrative ‘We are under attack from the West and have to defend ourselves'”.

Ukraine, Sevastopol: Russian National Guard soldiers march in the city annexed by Russia in 2014.

Ukraine, Sevastopol: Russian National Guard soldiers march in the city annexed by Russia in 2014.Image: AP / Uncredited

The number 300,000 also affects the West psychologically. Voices are already being raised that the Kremlin boss would roll over Ukraine with so many soldiers. That fear alone is something that Putin uses as a weapon. psychological warfare. The military psychologist says: “It’s certainly not a pure form of psychological warfare, but it can be assumed that a psychological effect will be achieved.”

In any case, it can be assumed that this announcement is a reaction to the Ukrainian successes. Also the political Berlin sees in part an affect action. The CDU defense politician Roderich Kiesewetter thinks that this is a sign of military weakness.

He wrote on Twitter: “Putin’s partial mobilization must not intimidate us, but shows Russia’s military weakness.” At the same time, he called for more arms deliveries to Ukraine “to support the counteroffensive.”

Anton Hofreiter also requested further arms deliveries at Watson’s request. He said:

“With the partial mobilization, Vladimir Putin is proving once again that he is not moving away from his war goals. He is still unwilling to negotiate. With his decision, the Russian President wants to prolong the war. Putin is counting on our support for Ukraine not sustained.”

It is all the more important that Germany continue to provide military, economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine and increase assistance where needed. “This also includes supplying western armored personnel carriers and battle tanks together with our European partners.”

The defense politician Serap Güler (CDU), meanwhile, insists on the delivery of Marder tanks. She told Watson: “The partial mobilization is Putin’s first revelation that the war is not going according to plan.” This should not deter us, but encourage us to continue supporting Ukraine. “Now even more so with the Marder infantry fighting vehicle, of which industry has already repaired 30,” says Güler.

Serap Güler demands heavy equipment for the Ukriane.

Serap Güler demands heavy equipment for the Ukriane.Image: www.imago-images.de / Ralph Sondermann

The Union faction will submit an application to the Bundestag on Thursday. “That would be an opportunity for all MPs, including those from the traffic light coalition who are already demanding it, to fly the flag.”said Guler

Olaf Scholz: “Act of Desperation”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has described the order for partial mobilization in Russia as an “act of desperation”. “Russia cannot win this criminal war“Scholz said. “With the latest decisions, Putin, Russia is only making it all that much worse.”

Expect worse Military expert Ralph Thiele from the Institute for Strategy, Political, Security and Economic Consulting. In an interview with watson, he warned against the use of nuclear weapons.

One has to ask oneself: What will President Vladimir Putin do? Would he resort to using nuclear weapons? And Thiele says:

“Although it seems unlikely to many that Moscow will use nuclear weapons anytime soon, Russian military doctrine, unlike that of the West, includes the use of tactical nuclear weapons for military operations. The likelihood of their use may change as the Changed dynamics on the battlefield.”

The expert expects new escalations. The West is paying a heavy price for sanctions against Russia. And this tribute reinforces the urgency of an early Ukrainian victory – or at least a broader withdrawal of Russian forces front.

Read about it: Partial mobilization: military expert warns against the use of nuclear weapons

“Therefore, an escalation spiral is to be expected,” says Thiele. “The West will provide military support to Ukraine weapons and ramp up ammo.”

Ukraine sees mobilization with humor

And how does Ukraine react to Putin’s announcement? Actually with mockery:

The external adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podoliak, asked on Twitter: “Is everything still going according to plan or not?”

The war planned for “three days” has already lasted 210 days. That life I have a great sense of humor, Podoljak said.

(With material from AFP and dpa)

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