October 6, 2022


  • Putin announced on Wednesday that he was calling up the reserves, sparking protests in Russia.
  • Experts say that Putin wanted to avoid that move, but also to strengthen his army.
  • The move could weaken 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 little too late, but that may be because he was desperately trying to avoid this outcome and thought he could succeed in Ukraine without it, experts say.

On Wednesday, Putin said he was calling up 300,000 reservists and threatened nuclear options after Ukraine’s military made major advances in recent weeks. The Russian president is short on manpower, while Ukraine, on the other hand, ordered a full military mobilization within days of the invasion in February.

“He’s a big procrastinator,” said Michael Kofman, a military analyst for Russian studies at the Center for Naval Analyses Puck’s Julie Ioffe this week. “He stalls and stalls until the options get worse.”

Experts told Insider that it could take weeks or months for Russia’s partial mobilization to bear fruit, as reservists must be trained, equipped and deployed. They also said that taking such action at this stage of the war shows that things are going so badly for Russia that Putin is worried about something that could 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 an earlier troop mobilization would not have seemed so desperate.

But, he said, Putin thought he could succeed in Ukraine without taking this step, which carries the risk of provoking a backlash among the Russian people.

“This is something he wanted to avoid at all costs. Because until now the war has been a kind of televised war for the Russians,” English said, adding that most well-to-do people in cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg had largely been able to tune out the war. and continue a normal life.

“But when you mobilize 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 will touch them even more directly,” he continued. “The fact that he resorted to it shows a certain desperation, that they fear another major Ukrainian incursion that could come in a week or two.”

If Putin was afraid of the consequences of calling up the reservists, it seems that it was justified. Since the announcement, Russians have flooded the streets in protest chanting “no war”, an unusual sight in the country. According to data on Wednesday evening, around 500 people were arrested OVD-Infoindependent monitoring group.

The mobilization of troops could threaten support for the Putin regime

The outcry could ultimately threaten Putin’s place as Russia’s longtime leader, according to Simon Miles, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a historian of the Soviet Union and US-Soviet relations.

“The only thing he had going for him, so to speak, was that the war really didn’t resonate with most Russians,” Miles told Insider, adding that Putin and his “massive state media apparatus were able to present an extremely a sanitized, different version” of war.

For one thing, Putin and the Russian media avoided even calling it a war, instead using the president’s description as a “special military operation.”

But even before the mobilization — and after Ukraine’s successful advance — Russian media had recently begun to move away from consistently positive coverage of the war and published criticism of military and leadership failures, Miles said.

Now, inviting people to fight who may not want to, risks further eroding support for Putin’s regime.

Daniel Treisman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles whose work focuses on Russian politics and economics, agreed that Putin had sought to avoid mobilizing troops because of how unpopular it would be, noting that the protests showed it was clear that Russians resented the development. of events.

“That Putin would do this shows how strongly he feels the need to change the momentum, which has been in Ukraine’s favor,” Treisman told Insider in an email, noting that it will take weeks to deploy the new units.

Treisman also noted that in addition to announcing that he was a recruiter, Putin introduced tougher penalties for draft evasion, suggesting he was ready for the people to resist.

“There is a danger that the draft will be seen to fail and further undermine the sense that Putin is in control at home,” he said.





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