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Putin’s madness: Mobilization, annexation, and nuclear blackmail

by Anastasiya Glotova  •  Sep 27, 2022

After the devastating counterattack by the AFU in the Kharkiv region, Putin needed to become a “newsmaker” again. And he made it in three directions at once.

In fact, all of Putin’s efforts to mobilize the Russian population, annex Ukrainian territories, and resume nuclear blackmail are his desperate attempts to regain the strategic initiative he lost on the battlefield.

What is behind it and will he be able to achieve his goal? Let’s try to look at the big picture.

MOBILIZATION in Russia: fresh cannon fodder for Putin

Till nowadays, there were a lot of talks about possible announcement of mobilization in Russia. A lot of military and political experts expressed an opinion that an official mobilization would be murderous for Putin’s regime.

Finally, on September 21, Putin announced a partial mobilization. He called the need for mobilization one of the “urgent steps to protect the sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity of Russia”.


In fact, behind these pompous words lies a banal need to “plug the holes” at the Ukrainian fronts with new personnel inflows hopping to save the situation. Because the state of the personnel in the Russian army is now close to critical. According to experts, regular soldiers, men mobilized on the occupied territories of Ukraine and even mobilized criminals from Russian colonies are running out. Therefore, fresh “cannon fodder” is urgently needed: it is time to stall citizens who are stupefied by the propaganda.

So, it was announced that they plan to conscript 300,000 reservists during mobilization. However, experts doubt that even such reinforcements will make a breakthrough in the war possible. At most, it will allow to preserve the Ukrainian territories that Russia has seized so far.

But in the decree published on the official resource, the content of paragraph 7 is hidden (“for administrative use”). According to Russian media, this paragraph allows the Russian Ministry of Defence to mobilize up to 1 million people. In any case, the process is underway.


“Only those citizens who are in the reserve and, above all, those who have served in the ranks of the Armed Forces and have certain military occupational specialties and relevant experience will be subject to conscription,” Putin said during his address.

But in fact, social networks are filled with stories of how they mobilize many people in different regions who do not fall into these categories. Some cases are particularly revealing: for example, in the village of Tyumenevo, Kemerovo region, all the men were mobilized – 59 people! 

This example of a small village demonstrates in miniature that Putin is ready to sacrifice as many of his own citizens as he wants in order to remain “on the throne” and to fulfill his geopolitical ambitions.


Rally against mobilization in Dagestan, Russia

Men in Russia react on the mobilization in three different ways:

  • Those who have such an opportunity flee abroad. As of September 26, FSB (Federal Security Service) reported that after the announcement of the ‘partial’ mobilization, 261,000 men left Russia.
  • Others obediently sign the draft notices and go to almost certain death.
  • Some try to protest against the murderous mobilization. There are open protests which are rather numerous and intensive in some regions of the Russian Federation, for example in Dagestan. And there are some hidden protests when military recruitment offices are being burned. As of September 27, it was known about 18 arsons of military recruitment offices across Russia; since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, at least 52 offices and other administrative buildings in 38 regions of Russia were attacked, according to Mediazona.

Arson of a military recruitment office near Volgograd, September 26, 2022

Most Western leaders view Putin’s mobilization as a very bed symptom for Russia. For example, according to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Putin’s order to mobilize Russia for the first time since World War II is an admission that his invasion is failing. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that it is a sign of panic in the Kremlin. The Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said this is an attempt to further escalate the war launched by Russia in Ukraine and further proof that Russia is the only aggressor.

Is mobilization dangerous for Ukraine? 

According to the US Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the mobilization announced by Putin will not affect the course of the war. The analysts say the problems that undermine Putin’s efforts to mobilize the Russians are so deep and fundamental that he will not be able to solve them in the coming months, or perhaps years. “This mobilization will not affect the course of the conflict in 2022 and may not have a very dramatic impact on Russia’s ability to sustain its current level of effort into 2023,” the ISW report says.

Ukrainian experts say that Putin’s mobilization itself wouldn’t be a great problem for the AFU. A problem for the AFU is Russian professional army. But considering the low level of training and experience of the new recruits they are unlikely to pose a threat of turning point in the war. 

Besides, just the fact that they are actively mobilizing people does not mean that right now Russian groupings in Ukraine will be reinforced by 300,000 men, much less with 1 million. Mobilization is a long-term process. It takes more than one week to prepare recruits. It is very possible that they will be prepared under an accelerated procedure – not within two-three months, but, for example, within two weeks, in order to put them on the front line as soon as possible. From this point of view, it is even an advantage for Ukrainians: the less trained Russian fighters will arrive at the front, the less of a threat they will pose to the AFU.


Military exercises of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Great Britain

The combat effectiveness of a modern army is ensured not by the quantity but by the quality of soldiers’ and officers’ training. This is the basic doctrine of the modern Ukrainian army: to prepare well-trained soldiers and commanders – people who know their job well. And this is the main difference between the Russian and Ukrainian armies; and this is where we see our advantage. 

ANNEXATION of Ukrainian territories: Why is it necessary to do this now?

Just after announcing the mobilization, on September 23-27, pseudo-referendums about “accession” to Russia took place in four Ukrainian regions: 

  • Luhansk region (about 95% of the territory controlled by Russia with the city of Luhansk since 2014)
  • Donetsk region (about 50% of the territory controlled by Russia with the city of Donetsk since 2014)
  • Kherson region (some districts occupied since March 2022 with the city of Kherson)
  • Zaporizhzhia region (some districts occupied since March 2022 without the city of Zaporizhzhia)

A part of the Kharkiv region had to be on this list too, but these territories were successfully liberated by the AFU in September (only a small part of the region is still under Russian control).

We will not dwell here on the absolute legal meaninglessness and groundlessness of these “referendums” and the complete impossibility of conducting any voting during military operations – in fact, at gunpoint.  In the civilized world, there is not even a question of recognizing these fictitious and dubious events. It is much more interesting to understand why Putin so urgently needed to conduct this farce now. After all, not long ago it was reported that the “referendums” would be postponed until November, and then everything changed so drastically.


Pseudo-referendum in Mariupol, Donetsk region

There are several main goals:

  • To demonstrate “success” to his people

It is already the eighth month of the “special military operation” which was initially supposed to last “a few days” – so where is the success?

Against the background of the AFU’s lightning success in the Kharkiv region and continued slow but steady advance in the Kherson, Donetsk, and even Luhansk region, Putin urgently needs to show his people at least some success. Unable to do so on the battlefield, he finally decided to hold the fake referendums on the seized pieces of the Ukrainian regions – to show “how much the local people want to become a part of Mother Russia”.

  • To justify the need of the mobilization

The previous item is essential to explain people the need to be mobilized. Putin tries to convert this war in the perception of Russian people from an aggressive and invasive war into a patriotic one: to create another “Great Patriotic War”. The annexation of the occupied territories will give him reason to call them Russian and regard any attacks by the Armed Forces of Ukraine as an attack on “sovereign Russian territory”. So is the reason for the mobilization: “you must stand up for the Motherland”. And don’t care that in fact we are talking about territories wrested from another sovereign country!

  • To press on Ukraine and the West

Now, when the occupied territories have been annexed, Putin can threat Ukraine and Western countries with whatever he wants if Ukraine tries to regain lost territories. 

According to the British intelligence, “Putin is scheduled to address both houses of the Russian parliament on Friday, September 30. There is a realistic possibility that Putin will use his address to formally announce the accession of the occupied regions of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”.  And of course, Putin is sure that he has one more ace in the hole.

And here the NUCLEAR BLACKMAIL again

During his address on September 21, Putin again threatened Western countries with nuclear weapons: “When its territorial integrity is threatened, Russia uses all available means; this is not a bluff,” he said.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated at a press conference at the UN on September 24, that all Russian laws and doctrines, including nuclear ones, will also apply to the territories of Ukraine annexed through fake “referendums” if they are constitutionalized. 


However, experts identify three main deterrents for Russia in this regard:

  • A tactical, or even strategic, nuclear strike won’t solve any military problem, moreover it would be “suicidal” for Putin in both political and psychological regard. On the contrary, Ukrainian people will never stop resistance, and the West may only intensify its support to Ukraine.
  • The use of nuclear weapons is carried out according to a complex protocol in which many officials are involved. Putin’s own officers may simply not let him do it. In addition, Western intelligence will be aware of the use of nuclear weapons already at the planning stage.
  • And there is a clearly defined punishment for a potential nuclear strike from the side of Western leaders, and namely clear action protocols. In such a way, the West can move on to the realization of its colossal technical superiority compared to Russia, which Putin must understand very well.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday, September 25, that the United States has made it clear publicly and privately to Russia to “stop the loose talk about nuclear weapons” in the Ukraine conflict. “It’s very important that Moscow hear from us and know from us that the consequences would be horrific, and we’ve made that very clear”. 

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, warned Russia on Sunday that there would be “catastrophic consequences” for the country if Moscow used nuclear weapons in its increasing desperation to hold on to territory in Ukraine, adding that in recent days the United States has “spelled out” how the world would react in private conversations with Russian officials.

Now, Putin has to choose what consequences he prefers – horrific or catastrophic. For our part, we have no doubts that both the USA and other allies have enough leverage on Russia that they have not yet used. 

How should we react on Putin’s madness?

Ukraine has as always expressed its firm position: no peace talks, no cease fire, no capitulation on Moscow’s terms. Putin has a whole range of conditions: recognition of the annexed territories, a new “line of demarcation”, guarantee of non-accession of Ukraine to NATO and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, Ukraine has one single condition: Russian troops must leave the territory of Ukraine in the borders of 1991.


Commenting on Putin’s statements Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with CBS News he doesn’t think that Putin is bluffing if he threatens to use nuclear weapon. “Look, maybe it was a bluff yesterday. Now it can be a reality […] He wants to scare the whole world. These are the first steps of his nuclear blackmail [attack on Ukrainian nuclear power plants]. I don’t think he’s bluffing. I think the world is holding him back and this threat,” the President said. It means that Ukrainian party is well aware of risks.

Before that, Zelensky stressed: “Tomorrow Putin may say: in addition to Ukraine, we want another part of Poland, otherwise we will use nuclear weapons. We cannot make these compromises”. 

Speaking about pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories, Zelensky said: “We will act according to our plans step by step. I am sure that we will liberate our territories. The referendums are “fictitious”, 90 % of countries do not recognize them,” he said.

Reacting on the announcement of mobilization, Valeriy Zaluzhny, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, wrote on September 21: “No statements of the military and political leadership of the aggressor country will affect our readiness to fight for our freedom. We will destroy everyone who comes to our land with weapons – whether voluntarily or by mobilization. Let’s keep the line! Victory will be ours!”


We can say for sure that the most Ukrainians share the position of the Commander-in-Chief. And we are glad that the majority of our allies are united with us in our efforts.

So, what do we need now? The answer is the same as seven months ago: to receive enough weapons (among other long-range missiles) and necessary equipment as soon as possible – the AFU will surely make the rest with great pleasure!

The old man sitting in the bunker and mad with lust for power doesn’t want to understand a clear thing: What might work for the Russian people won’t work for the West, and certainly not for Ukraine. He has lost the strategic initiative both on the battle and political field.

If the West continues to be as firm, to help Ukraine as stubbornly and even increases support, Putin will no longer be able to regain this initiative.

Anastasiya Glotova

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