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: How Putin forces the Russians into his war

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With the “partial mobilization” of hundreds of thousands of reservists, Russian families suddenly became aware of the war. Women fear for their husbands and sons. Real protests are hardly to be expected.

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Under pressure from many failures, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is stepping up his efforts after nearly seven months of bloodshed in Ukraine. On Wednesday morning, in a television speech expected the evening before, the Kremlin chief ordered the mobilization for the fight in Ukraine, which many Russians had long feared. A “partial mobilization,” as he emphasized.

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The 69-year-old justified the step, which was unprecedented for the nuclear power, by saying that it was no longer just about Ukraine, but about the fight against the West and NATO. “The aim of the West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country,” Putin claimed. He gives no evidence for these claims.

300,000 reservists are to go to the battlefield

But Putin has long been talking about a “war” between the EU and the US against Russia. And he once again attested to the West’s “hatred” of everything Russian. As with the collapse of the Soviet Union a good 30 years ago, the goal is “that Russia itself disintegrates into a large number of regions and areas that are deadly enemies.”

While the West rejects this and accuses Putin of “desperation”, “panic” and “weakness” – also in view of the lack of combat successes in Ukraine – Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was also shown on state television shortly after him, is now said to mobilize 300,000 reservists. And Putin and Shoigu once again threaten that if the country is attacked in an emergency, they will not shy away from using nuclear weapons.

With a view to the fact that many in the West and in Ukraine sometimes smile away at the Russian threat or don’t take it seriously, Putin said at one point in his speech to be on the safe side: “That’s not a bluff.” Above all, however, things are now getting serious for the Russians, who are already intimidated by massive government paternalism and strict laws.

Harsh penalties for protests

According to recent Russian polls, many Russians prefer to ignore or forget the “events in Ukraine,” as they are often innocently called, but the partial mobilization is now catapulting the war back into the consciousness of many families. Women fear that their husbands and sons will now have to go to the battlefield. Real protests are hardly to be expected because they will be severely punished – and after all, Putin is calling for defense of the fatherland from the West.

The imprisoned Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny accused Putin of sending uninvolved Russian citizens to war – and of sparing the army of millions and other security structures. So far, as Putin emphasized on Friday, the fighting has only been with volunteers, soldiers on a contract basis. However, since there are massive personnel problems at the front and the covert mobilization in the regions where street advertising is intended to attract volunteers is not working, Putin now has to resort to coercion.

The question arises as to whether the regions and military district command posts actually have the resources to implement partial mobilization. But the pressure on people is enormous. The day before, the State Duma had already sharpened the penalties for deserters and anyone who evaded military service – for example by voluntarily becoming a prisoner of war – in lightning proceedings. And Putin asked the Ministry of Justice to provide a list of places in detention.

Martial Law Coming?

All of this fueled fears among many ordinary Russians that Putin could also impose martial law – for the first time since World War II. It’s not that far yet. But one of Putin’s sentences in July about the procedure in Ukraine has burned in: “We haven’t started anything seriously yet.” Putin also instructed the defense industry on Tuesday to ramp up arms production. Even pensioners are mobilized for multi-shift operation. And Defense Minister Shoigu also said that there are 25 million reservists – with a possible general mobilization.

It is clear that Putin is now significantly upping the ante. This Friday, mock referendums will be held in the occupied areas of Ukraine to prepare for the annexation of further areas. The regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Cherson and Zaporizhia are affected. In 2014, Russia took over the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. The forces gathered through the partial mobilization are intended to help secure the occupied areas from being recaptured by the Ukraine.

Both – the planned wave of annexations and the mobilization – are seen as a reaction to a war that, from Moscow’s point of view, should have achieved its goals within a few days of starting at the end of February. The war will continue until all goals have been reached, it was said again on Wednesday in Moscow.

Concern about escalation – also with nuclear weapons

But also in view of the serious economic problems caused by the sanctions imposed by the West, many in Russia no longer believe in a really big victory. The Russian political scientist Abbas Galliamov even said that Putin does not even try to achieve success on the battlefield – and does not believe in victory himself. “He needs the mobilization to force Ukraine to the negotiating table,” said the expert. In return, Putin has shown a willingness to escalate to the point of using nuclear weapons.

Russia has repeatedly complained that Ukraine is only relying on Western heavy weapons, is no longer willing to negotiate and wants to decide the fight on the battlefield. “Putin raises the stakes in every difficult situation. He expects the opponent to behave more sensibly than himself and then give in to avoid a clash,” Gallyamov said. He sees it as a pattern for Putin to bluff.

Russia’s ultra-right cheer

How strong Putin is is still a matter of debate. But Russia’s ultra-right circles and military bloggers hailed the partial mobilization. In the scene, which is one of the biggest supporters of the invasion of Ukraine, resentment about their own military leadership had recently spread. Many attributed the defeat in the Kharkiv region to the fact that Russia was only fighting at “half strength”. There were even calls for Defense Minister Shoigu, a close confidant of Putin, to resign.

By calling up the reservists, Putin has now regained some breathing space and secured the support of the nationalists, on which the Kremlin boss repeatedly bases his policies. The decisions were “almost all the way I wanted them to be,” praised the field commander in Donbass, Alexander Khodakowski. However, Putin is still under pressure to succeed. If Putin’s mobilization is unsuccessful, there is a risk not only of new criticism but also of defeat at the front as a whole.

Source: Stern

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