Putin Bluster Is All Bluff — He’s Losing at Home and in Ukraine

Make no mistake: Vladimir Putin is losing the war in Ukraine. The menacing speech, broadcasted mysteriously on Wednesday morning instead of the originally scheduled Tuesday night, might be the closest the Russian dictator will ever get to admitting defeat before his hold begins to crumble.

The address had several audiences. For one, it aimed to deter the West from supporting Ukraine by raising the specter of nuclear escalation in defense of annexed territories that will soon become part of the “Motherland.” At home, Putin tried to keep hardline nationalist critics of the conduct of Russia’s military operation at bay by showing that the Kremlin is doubling down on its efforts in the Donbas — while also scrupulously seeking to avoid alienating wider swathes of Russia’s population by pursuing only a “partial” mobilization. . .

If the special military operation was going according to plan, as the Russian officialdom was assuring Russians until today, why has it suddenly become “necessary to support the proposal of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff” to mobilize?

Mobilizing the wider population carries political risks, which is why the Kremlin hesitated until now and why only around 300,000 men will be called to serve, according to the government. Already on Wednesday night, Russian cities saw sizeable protests — at least as measured by standards of a country where public expressions of discontent with the war may land one in jail for 10 or more years. Meanwhile, prices of one-way tickets out of Russia skyrocketed (until 18- to 34-year-old men were banned from leaving the country) and “how to break an arm at home” became a top search term on Russian search engines.

Militarily, calling on the reservists is a desperate move, though congruent with reports of extraordinarily high attrition that Russia is suffering in Ukraine. Normally, months of specialized training would be needed for reservists to fight effectively. Even then, an army needs weapons, equipment, and supplies — all of which are in short supply in Russia. Inevitably, thousands of the undertrained, undermotivated, and undersupplied reservists are bound to die tragic deaths at their first contact with Ukraine’s experienced and well-equipped fighting force — a fact that is a matter of indifference to Putin and his circle, as long as the elite’s children remain exempt from service. (Read more from “Putin Bluster Is All Bluff — He’s Losing at Home and in Ukraine” HERE)

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