LOOK: Putin announces the mobilization of 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine
“This is not a bluff”, Putin said with a serious face in a television speech in which he accused Western countries of wanting to “destroy” Russia and resorting to “nuclear blackmail” against Moscow.
“To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of NATO countries. And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”, in a veiled reference to its own nuclear capability.
The European Union, the United States and other Western countries have harshly criticized Putin’s threats, saying the Russian leader is only further isolating Moscow.
In recent weeks, lightning counter-offensives by Ukrainian forces pushed back the Russian army, which has given ground to kyiv’s forces in the east.
Putin’s announcement is part of a rhetoric that has become more hostile with the lengthening of the war. For international analyst Francisco Belaúnde, the partial mobilization of reservists and the nuclear threats launched by the Russian president are “a way of acknowledging that things have not gone as expected, that you are not doing well in the conflict”, especially at a time when Ukraine is on the offensive and Russia is on the defensive. “The war has taken a turn”, he tells El Comercio.
The Russian Minister of Defense, Sergey Shoigu, explained that the reservists that will be mobilized will be 300,000 – around 1% of the total available – and that only those with relevant experience in combat and service will be called. This is the first Russian mobilization since World War II.
In strictly military terms, the mobilization does not promise to have a very large impact. Although there is talk of 300,000 men, the announcement does not mean that tomorrow they will be ready to fight.
Román Ortiz, a Spanish analyst at the Center for International Security at the Francisco de Vitoria University (Madrid), explains that the Russian armed forces will need several months to process the reservists, train them, place them in new units and send them to the battlefront.
“On the other hand, the problems that the Russian armed forces are facing in Ukraine are much more structural, it is not just a problem of lack of human resources, but also that the Russian military system is broken by a series of structural problems such as corruption , poor training, the model of the command system, that is, there are a series of elements that are not going to change no matter how much more people put them”, he tells this newspaper.
So what is Putin looking for? Experts agree that Putin is being left with few options due to Russia’s complex situation in the war. “He is concerned about the effect that this may have on the Russian population, partially mobilizing the reservists is a way of saying that this is a more serious issue than previously thought. Putin has been reluctant to call the conflict war and has always said that it is a special military operation, but with what is happening it is already a little more difficult to deny that it is a real war”, says Belaunde.
For his part, Ortiz believes that Putin cannot afford to lose this war politically, so if at this moment he is not in a position to win it, his best option is to prolong it, something he achieves with measures like this one.
anger in the streets
The partial mobilization provoked an immediate reaction in the streets of Moscow and dozens of cities where anger increased throughout the day. More than a thousand people were arrested in the protests, denounced peace and human rights organizations.
The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office warned that organization and participation in illegal actions will be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
The protests inside Russia are a bad sign for Putin. International analyst Roberto Heimovits points out that for the first time in several years the Russian president is under significant criticism from the public. “And not necessarily the pro-democracy Russians or those who want cleaner elections, but rather from a public that supported him and never criticized him, which is the Russian nationalist right and has reacted with anger at the great Russian defeat in Kharkiv”, he points.
Putin has affirmed that his measure is important to improve Russia’s military potential, but all experts agree that it has very little impact on the battlefield, which causes greater rejection among Russian citizens.
“The reservists should be well trained and it has already been seen that not even the active army, conscripts and professional soldiers are well trained. They must also be given weapons and there are testimonies from paratroopers who are fighting in Ukraine, who are elite units, who say that their weapons are from the war in Afghanistan. Also, there have to be good officers to command them, they have to give them food, clothes, beds and organize them. If you look at all the logistics, you can see that Putin’s threat is quite hollow,” says Heimovits.
Enhanced Nuclear Threat
Although Putin’s statement does not change anything on the battlefield, it is a measure that has a great political effect, especially on the nuclear issue, analysts point out, since it is a way of threatening Ukraine and above all of discouraging the Westerners to continue to support Ukraine.
Ortiz points out that Putin is demonstrating his willingness to escalate the conflict. “He sends a message that he is willing to go further, which includes the risk that he decides to use a nuclear weapon. That risk is not immediate, it is not excessively probable, but Putin is playing with that risk”.
Though Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons before, rising tensions make his words more alarming, especially as the West has reaffirmed its support for Ukraine’s forces.
Will the nuclear threshold be crossed? “It is possible, but it is quite unlikelyHeimovist says. “Using nuclear weapons, even low-power tactics, would break the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons that has been in place since 1945 and could create a spiral of reactions that Putin himself would not be able to control.”, he adds.