- Putin announced on Wednesday that he was calling the reserves, sparking protests in Russia.
- Experts say Putin wants to avoid the move, but also wants to strengthen his military.
- The move could erode support for Putin’s regime as Russians are exposed to the realities of war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a partial military mobilization was condemned by some as too late, but that may have been because he was desperately trying to avoid the outcome and thought he could succeed in Ukraine without it, experts said.
Putin said on Wednesday he was calling in 300,000 reservists and threatening a nuclear option after the Ukrainian military made significant progress in recent weeks. The Russian president found his troops understaffed, while Ukraine, on the other hand, ordered a full mobilization of its troops within days of the February invasion.
“He’s a procrastinator,” said Michael Coffman, a military analyst for Russia studies at the Center for Naval Analysis. julie jove of parker this week. “He dragged on and on until the choices got worse and worse.”
Experts told Insider that some of Russia’s mobilization could take weeks or months to bear fruit, as reservists need to be trained, equipped and deployed. They also said that taking such action at this stage of the war showed how bad things were in Russia that Putin was eager to do something that would turn the tide.
“In hindsight, he should have done it sooner. Absolutely,” Robert English, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies Russia, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, told Insider, adding that mobilizing the military earlier would not have seemed so desperate.
But, he said, Putin believes he can succeed in Ukraine if he doesn’t take that step, which could spark a backlash from the Russian people.
“It’s something he wants to avoid at almost all costs. Because so far this war has been like a TV war for the Russians,” English said, adding that big cities like Moscow and St Petersburg Most wealthy people are largely able to escape war and live a normal life.
“But when you mobilize the reservists — even if you target the poor, the rural, the provincial, the minorities, and still avoid the upper-middle class in the big cities — it still hits them more directly,” he continued. “The fact that he has taken this approach shows a certain desperation that they are afraid that Ukraine may have another major breakthrough in a week or two.”
If Putin fears the consequences of calling in the reservists, that would seem to make sense. Since the announcement, Russians have poured into the streets to protest the slogan “No War”, an unusual sight in the country. About 500 people were reportedly arrested as of Wednesday night. OVD-Informationan independent monitoring group.
Mobilization of the army could threaten support for Putin’s regime
The outcry could ultimately threaten Putin’s status as Russia’s longtime leader, said Simon Miles, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a historian of Soviet and U.S.-Soviet relations.
“One of the things he did for him, so to speak, is that most Russians didn’t really go to war,” Miles told Insider, adding that Putin and his “massive state media establishment were able to present the An extremely sanitized, different version of war.
On the one hand, Putin and the Russian media even avoided calling it a war, instead referring to the president’s description as a “special military operation.”
But even before the mobilization — and after Ukraine’s successful progress — Russian media has recently begun to deviate from its consistently positive coverage of the war and to issue criticism of military missteps and leadership failures, Myers said.
Now, a call is made to fight those who may not want to risk further eroding support for Putin’s regime.
Daniel Treisman, a UCLA professor whose work focuses on Russian politics and economics, agrees with Putin’s attempt to avoid mobilizing the military because of how unpopular it would be, noting that the protests show that Russians clearly hate it this development.
“Putin’s doing this shows that he badly needs a change of momentum right now, which is good for Ukraine,” Treisman told Insider in an email, noting that it would take weeks to deploy the new force.
Treisman also noted that in addition to announcing that Putin’s draft imposes harsher penalties on the dodging draft, it shows he is ready for the people to resist.
“There is a danger that the draft will be seen as a failure and further undermine Putin’s sense of control at home,” he said.