Putin’s speech with nuclear threats and partial military mobilization news, explained

Russian President Vladimir Putin Committed to Partial Military Mobilization In a speech on Wednesday, he also threat of nuclear retaliation against the West.It shows Putin’s willingness to escalate the war in Ukraine, like Kyiv’s A successful counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region Recaptured territory and pushed back the Russian front.

Instead of ordering a full-scale nationwide mobilization, Putin only drafted the army reserve, a move he said was “Necessary and urgent.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu later confirmed that Russia would call in about 300,000 reservists with military experience.

Putin also once again explicitly threatened the West. “If its territorial integrity is threatened, Russia will use all available means,” He says. “This is not bluff.” Putin warns Russia “There are also various means of destruction” – In other words, nuclear weapons – “and some components are more modern than those of NATO countries. “

It was a particularly chilling threat because Putin’s remarks on Wednesday came shortly after officials from four Russian-backed regions of Ukraine occupied by Russian troops began holding a referendum on formally joining Russia. Western countries support Ukraine have said they will not admit any votes, call them total scam. The Russian army also no full control In any of these territories — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporozhye and Kherson — but Moscow will almost certainly use these referendums as a pretext for formally annexing them. If this happens, as expected, Some experts worry Moscow will interpret any efforts by Ukraine to retake the lands as a direct confrontation with Russia. The West does not support Ukraine’s attack on Russian territory, but they have made it clear that these referendums are illegal.

All of this — the referendum, the partial military mobilization, and Putin’s new nuclear sword attack — is to destabilize the beleaguered war effort and maintain his domestic status.

“This is not surprising because at this point, [Putin] pushed into the corner. He has to do something,” said Natia Seskuria, a Russian expert and associate research fellow at the Royal Combined Services Institute. “I don’t think today’s statement came from a position of strength; it was more of a weakness because I think he felt he was suffering a lot. great pressure. “

Western leaders have echoes this sentiment: An EU official described Putin’s statement as “dangerous nuclear gambling,” U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brinker called the referendum and mobilization “a sign of weakness in Russia’s defeat.”

Still, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what Putin’s statement might mean at this particular stage of the war.Experts question how much partial mobilization could mean in the short term, even if they caution not to take too lightly. Putin has made nuclear threats to the West before, but now he and the war he is waging are in a more dangerous state.

Then there’s how Ukraine and the West, which supports Ukraine’s efforts, might respond. The West has so far condemned Putin’s move, but it is unclear how it will affect financial or weapons support for Ukraine.

“It’s not easy to push a button, you win a war decision that Putin could make in any situation. That’s clear,” said Gustav Gressel, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “He basically has to choose among a lot of possible negative situations and this is the least negative for him. He chose to escalate to preserve his domestic standing, power and prestige, but there is no guarantee he will get that. “

Putin’s desperate drama is still serious

In recent weeks, Russia’s war in Ukraine has entered a new phase.

The Kremlin launched a war in February with the aim of taking all of Ukraine and occupying Kyiv. Ukrainian resistance has forced Moscow to scale back its ambitions and refocus on the eastern Donbass, where Russia has fueled a separatist conflict since 2014. Russia and Ukraine engaged in a fierce artillery battle, but Russia also slowly seized territory. However, advanced Western weapons helped strengthen the Ukrainian army, and in September, Kyiv launched a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region and has driven off Russian troops city by city since then.

Russia is now suffering from a series of embarrassing defeats and mounting casualties more than six months after the war ended.At the same time, it still controls about 15% of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine’s recent victory, while impressive, is far from completely driving Russia out.

Putin’s statement could still be a direct response to the momentum shift on the battlefield to Ukraine, and Potential shift in domestic public sentiment against the execution of war.

But Putin’s statement on Wednesday still offered few clues as to how he will handle the next phase of the war — or what that might mean on the ground.

Part of the military mobilization is of great significance, but it is currently limited to reservists and has not yet been fully recruited. At the same time, Putin’s decision to mobilize has also prevented most Russian troops from leaving or suspending contracts, a recognition that manpower issues have plagued Russian military performance.

But experts question how soon these people can make an impact on the ground — or whether they are likely to have an impact, given the Reports of low morale There are real questions between the Russian army and about the training and preparation of these reservists. As Gressel says, simply having more manpower isn’t everything. Russia still needs structure, it needs officials, it needs equipment, it needs supply chains.

Then there is the nuclear threat – to Ukraine, and indeed to the rest of the world. Putin has made nuclear threats to the West before, but, as experts point out, the speech contained a subtle but potentially worrying change in his rhetoric. In his speech, Putin vowed to protect and defend Russia’s territorial integrity, saying he would “use all means at our disposal” to do so.As experts point out, Russia’s nuclear doctrine — that is, principles about when to deploy such weapons — has historically been Depends on the existence of the state, not particularly on territorial integrity. “So there is some uncertainty about how he fundamentally reframes Russia’s nuclear deterrence doctrine,” Gresel said.

The speech, then, may be Putin’s broader view of Russia’s nuclear doctrine. That change, if it does happen, could become even more unpredictable if Russia could illegally annex large swathes of Ukraine. Sescuria pointed out that Putin has repeatedly used nuclear weapons as a threat— At the beginning of the Ukrainian war, but Also in 2014Still, it’s a warning, if not about the immediate risk, at least about Putin’s commitment to the war. “He is willing to escalate the conflict to a new level,” Seskuria said. “But I don’t think the actual prospects for an upgrade are that high at the moment.”

For Ukraine, the nuclear threat from Russia is not new. Simon Schlegel, a senior Ukraine analyst at the International Crisis Group, told Vox in Kyiv that he did not think Putin’s announcement would be an immediate game-changer, even as officials took Russia’s escalation seriously — and possibly by stepping up their own efforts. react in their counterattack.

“It may even prompt the Ukrainian side to move faster now and put more effort into retaking territory so that it’s harder for the Russians to claim it as their legitimate territory,” Schlegel said.

But again, a lot of pressure will fall on the West. Ukraine depends on the West for financial and weapons support; this counteroffensive, and any chance of retaking and controlling territory, depends on the West’s arsenals. Before Putin’s announcement, some Western partners were reluctant to hand over more advanced weapons.

Putin is trying to up the ante, trying to signal to the West that it may be time to back down – “accept that Russia has won at least some territory and don’t deepen support for Ukraine.” At least rhetorically, allies and partners have rejected Putin’s threats, But even the US, with billions of dollars in support of Ukraine, been careful not to anger PutinThe question for Ukrainian supporters is whether they see Putin’s latest move as a real threat or the bluff of a man who feels his victory is slipping away — an unpredictable gamble.

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