March 21, 2023

Russian President Vladimir Putin Committed to a partial military movement He also said in a speech on Wednesday The threat of nuclear retaliation against the west. It was a sign of Putin’s willingness to escalate the war in Ukraine, as in Kiev. Successful counterattack in Kharkiv region Recaptured territory and pushed back Russian front lines.

Putin stopped short of ordering a full-scale national mobilization, instead drafting only the army reserves, a move he said “Necessary and urgent.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu later confirmed that Russia would call up around 300,000 reservists with prior military experience.

Putin once again made clear threats against the West. “If its territorial integrity is threatened, Russia will use all means at its disposal,” she said. “This is not a bluff.” Putin gave such a warning to Russia “Also there are different ways of destruction” – In other words, nuclear weapons — “And some elements are more modern than NATO countries

It’s a particularly vexing threat, as Putin’s speech on Wednesday came just after Russian-backed officials in four Ukrainian regions partially occupied by Russian troops moved to hold referendums on whether to formally join Russia. Western countries are supporting Ukraine Already said they won’t recognize any vote, say their total Shams. Russian army too No full control In any of these regions — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson — however, Moscow will almost certainly use these referendums as a pretext to formally annex the regions. If this happens, as expected, Some experts are afraid Moscow will interpret any Ukrainian attempt to reclaim these lands as a direct fight against Russia. The West has not supported Ukraine’s invasion of Russian territory, but has made clear that these referendums are illegal.

All of this — the referendum, the partial military mobilization and Putin’s renewed nuclear saber-rattling — is part of an effort to shake up the war effort and Protect his domestic position.

“This was not unexpected, because at this time, [Putin] Pushed into the corner. He had to do something,” said Natia Seskuria, a Russia expert and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “I think today’s speech did not come from a position of strength; It’s more of a show of weakness, because I think he looks like he’s under a lot of pressure.”

Western leaders have This sentiment resonates: An EU official called Putin’s remarks “Dangerous nuclear gambleAnd Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, called the referendum and the rally “a sign of weakness, a sign of Russian failure.”

Still, there is still much uncertainty about what Putin’s announcement might mean at this particular stage of the war. Experts have questioned how much partial consolidation could mean in the near term, even if they did Be warned against being too dismissive. Putin has made nuclear threats against the West before, but now he and the war he started are in a much more precarious position.

And then how Ukraine and the West, who are supporting Ukraine’s efforts, might respond. So far, the West has condemned Putin’s move, but it is unclear how it might affect financial or arms support for Ukraine.

“There’s no easy button to press and you can decide to go to war for Putin in any situation. It’s clear,” said Gustav Gressel, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Less negative. He has opted for a raise to protect his domestic status and power and prestige, but it is not certain that he will get it.”

Putin’s frustration game is still serious

Russia’s war in Ukraine entered a new phase last week.

The Kremlin launched its war in February, aiming to capture all of Ukraine and capture Kyiv. Ukrainian resistance forced Moscow to scale back its ambitions, refocusing its focus eastward, on the Donbass, where Russia has fueled the separatist conflict since 2014. Russia and Ukraine are engaged in a grinding artillery war, but Russia is also slowly gaining territory. Advanced Western weaponry, however, helped embolden Ukrainian troops, and in September, Kiev launched a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, and has since pushed Russian forces from city to city.

Russia has now suffered a string of humiliating defeats, and casualties are mounting more than six months into the war. At the same time, it still controls About 15 percent of Ukraine’s territory. Ukraine’s recent victories, while impressive, are far from banishing Russia entirely.

Putin’s announcement is still likely a direct response to the shift in momentum toward Ukraine on the battlefield, and A possible shift in public sentiment at home Against the death penalty in war.

But Putin’s announcement on Wednesday still doesn’t give many clues about how this next phase of the war will unfold — or what it might mean on the ground.

A partial military mobilization is significant, but for now, it is limited to reservists and lacks a full-scale draft. At the same time, Putin’s demobilization decision prevented most Russian soldiers from leaving the service or suspending their contracts, an acknowledgment that manpower problems have plagued the performance of Russian forces.

But experts question how soon these workers can make a difference on the ground — or if they can make a difference at all Low morale reports Real questions about the training and preparation of these reservists and among Russian soldiers. As Gressel says, having more manpower isn’t everything; Russia still needs structures, needs officers, needs equipment, needs supply chains.

And then there is a nuclear threat – to Ukraine and indeed the rest of the world. Putin has made nuclear threats against the West before, but, As mentioned by experts, there are subtle but potentially alarming changes in his speech in this speech. In his speech, Putin pledged to protect and defend Russia’s territorial integrity and said he would “use all means at our disposal” to do so. As experts point out, Russia’s nuclear doctrine — that is, its policies about when it will deploy such weapons — has historically depends on the existence of the state, not particularly on territorial integrity. “So there is some uncertainty about how he reformed Russia’s nuclear deterrence policies,” Gressel said.

This speech, then, may suggest a broader vision of Putin’s Russian nuclear doctrine. This change, if it is real, could become even more unpredictable when Russia will probably illegally annex a part of Ukraine. Seskuria noted that Putin has repeatedly used nuclear weapons as a threat — At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, but Also in 2014. Still, it was a warning, if not about the immediate risks, at least about Putin’s commitment to this war. “He’s willing to take the conflict to a new level,” Sescuria said. “But I don’t think the real potential for growth is that high right now.”

Russia’s nuclear threat to Ukraine is not new. Simon Schlegel, senior Ukraine analyst at the International Crisis Group, spoke to Vox from Kiev, where he said he did not see Putin’s announcement as an immediate game-changer, even as officials took Russia’s escalation seriously — and could respond by stepping up their own efforts. In their counter attack.

“It may even create an incentive for Ukraine to move faster now to make more efforts to recover the territory that the Russians will have more trouble claiming as their right,” Schlegel said.

But once again there will be a lot of pressure on the West. Ukraine is dependent on Western financial and arms support; This counterattack, and any chance of recapturing and occupying territory, depends on Western arsenals. Before Putin’s announcement, some Western partners were reluctant to hand over more advanced weapons.

Putin, trying to raise the stakes, is trying to signal to the West that it may be time to back off — “recognize that Russia has won at least some territory and not deepen support for Ukraine.” At least rhetorically, allies and partners have rejected Putin’s threats, but even the United States, with billions in support of Ukraine, Care has been taken to avoid provoking Putin. The question for Ukraine’s supporters is whether they see Putin’s recent moves as a genuine threat, or a bluff from a man who sees his own victory slipping away — and an unexpected gamble.

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