Vladimir Putin’s defense minister sent a clear message to the people of Russia on Wednesday: Their country is at war not only with Ukraine, but with the entire West.
“I cannot but emphasize the fact that today we are at war not so much with Ukraine and the Ukrainian army as with the collective West,” Sergei Shoigu said in a televised speech, according to TASS.
“At this moment we are really at war with the collective West, with NATO,” Shoigu added.
Shoigu’s warning comes as Putin announces Russia will launch a “partial mobilization” to better tackle the war in Ukraine, days after a series of major battlefield defeats in Ukraine as Ukrainian forces waged successful counteroffensives in the south and northeast. In a speech announcing the move on Wednesday morning, Putin suggested the West was considering using nuclear weapons against Russia and threatened to use nuclear weapons in return – providing no evidence of the West’s alleged threats.
“To those who allow themselves such statements regarding Russia, I want to remind that our country also has various means of destruction,” Putin said. “It’s not a bluff.”
“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” added Putin.
Shoigu’s rhetoric fits well with the Kremlin’s position on the war in Ukraine; Russia has consistently tried to blame the West for provoking Russia.
President Joe Biden blasted Putin in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday in an attempt to remind global leaders that while Moscow’s narrative is that the United States and NATO pushed Russia to invade Ukraine, Putin chose to invade Ukraine unprovoked.
“Putin claims he had to react because Russia was threatened,” Biden said. “But no one threatened Russia. No one but Russia was looking for a conflict.”
On Wednesday, Shoigu boasted that the war was going well for Russia. He sought to float the idea that 300,000 Russian reservists were participating in a “partial mobilization” for that success – despite the fact that since the early days of the war, Russian troops had failed to achieve key objectives, including the failure to capture Kiev, and had to scale back their objectives several times.
“We kill, kill and kill, and the time has come: we are at war with the collective West,” he said to Shoigu.
That move may not be all that Putin and Shoigu envision. The flurry of actions in Russia — from the Russian Duma announcing increased penalties for desertion or draft evasion to the announcement of partial mobilization and nuclear threats — is a deadpan admission that Putin’s plans in Ukraine are not going well, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.
In a strange attempt to convince the Russians that the war was going well, Shoigu suggested this only about 6,000 Russian soldiers died in the war, but insisted that more troops would be needed to emerge victorious.
The reality is far worse. The Pentagon estimated, back in August, that between 70,000 and 80,000 Russian soldiers were wounded or killed.