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Truce or mobilization
I watched the whole thing. Twice.
Neil for The New York Times filed a meh story about the 2-hour pow wow with military bloggers, but left out the most interesting bits.
Below some excerpts from a very strange write up by The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), which pretends Russia’s leader was making any sense. He did not make sense. This was a rant of someone on the verge of nervous breakdown.
Putin discussed the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and signaled that he believes Russia can outlast Western military support for Ukraine. Putin stated that Russian objectives have not fundamentally changed, reiterating boilerplate rhetoric and false narratives accusing Ukraine and NATO of initiating the war. Putin added that the West can push Ukraine into negotiations with Russia by stopping the supplies of military aid to Ukraine. Putin noted that Ukrainian forces launched a ”massive” counteroffensive on June 4 and noted that Ukrainian forces attacked in southwestern Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts, claiming they suffered significant losses. Putin claimed that Ukraine has lost 160 tanks and claimed that 30 percent of Ukraine’s casualties are killed in action, whereas Russian forces have lost only 54 tanks. Putin may be attempting to systematically amplify and misrepresent Ukrainian losses of Western military equipment to portray Ukraine’s counteroffensive as failed and discourage the West from continuing to support Ukraine.
Putin indicated that he is unwilling to announce a second wave of mobilization or declare martial law, despite maintaining his maximalist objectives in Ukraine. Putin acknowledged that some Russian “public figures” are discussing the urgent need for mobilization but noted that there “is currently no need today” for mobilization. Putin boasted about Russian contract service recruitment efforts using rhetoric consistent with ISW’s previous assessments that Putin is disinterested in announcing another mobilization wave and is instead prioritizing volunteer recruitment. Putin also downplayed milbloggers’ concern over the Kremlin’s decision to not declare full-scale martial law throughout Russia, stating that Russia needs to expand its law enforcement rather than declare martial law. ISW continues to assess that Putin is a risk-averse actor who is hesitant to upset Russian society by ordering another mobilization wave or establishing martial law throughout Russia, indicating that Putin has not yet decided to fully commit to fighting a total war. Putin’s statements likely aim to reassure his constituencies that he does not intend to expand the “special military operation” further.
Putin aimed to assuage widespread discontent in the Russian information space about limited cross border raids by pro-Ukraine forces into Belgorod Oblast, drone strikes across Russia, and border security in general. Putin stated that Russian forces do not plan to divert forces from other sectors of the frontline in Ukraine to Belgorod and other border oblasts in response to border incursions and drone strikes on Russian territory. Putin stated that Russian leadership is considering creating a buffer zone within Ukraine to prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching Russian territory, but caveated the suggestion by saying that Russian officials will not immediately create a buffer zone and will examine how the situation develops. Russian officials have previously responded to limited tactical activity in Belgorod Oblast and other border oblasts by calling for a Russian offensive to push Ukrainian forces away from the international border with Russia in Kharkiv Oblast.Putin’s comments indicate that the Kremlin does not intend to react to cross-border operations in an effort to preserve forces for combat in Ukraine, despite growing discontent within Russia prompted by the raids. Putin also confirmed that Russian conscripts are serving in Belgorod Oblast and that Colonel General Alexander Lapin commanded conscripts to repel the pro-Ukrainian all-Russian limited raids in Belgorod Oblast. Russian forces are likely deploying conscripts to serve in border oblasts due to a lack of reserves and an unwillingness to transfer forces away from the frontline elsewhere in Ukraine. ISW previously assessed that limited raids and border shelling in Belgorod Oblast have become a notable focal point for criticism against the Russian military leadership, and Putin is likely attempting to address critiques that he has ignored the situation there in order to insulate himself from further criticism.
Putin discussed the importance of formalizing volunteer formations, supporting the Russian MoD’s measures to centralize its control over operations in Ukraine. Putin claimed that all volunteer formations serving in Ukraine must sign military contracts with the Russian MoD to “bring everything in line with common sense, established practice, and the law” and to ensure that individual volunteers can legally receive state social benefits. Putin emphasized that the Russian government cannot provide social guarantees to volunteer structures without signed contracts.Putin’s emphasis on the legality of volunteer formations suggests that Putin may be intending to either assert direct control over or set conditions to ban state assistance to select private military organizations (PMCs) such as the Wagner Group, which are technically illegal under the Russian law.
According to practicing philosopher Vladimir Pastukhov, the dilemma for Team Putin is obvious: truce or mobilization (partial or general). Theoretically, both are possible. In practice, both scenarios are not ideal.
In the event of a truce on any terms, even with the recognition of the current contact line as a temporary border, problems arise with the wacko (obsessed) minority, on which Putin relied when he launched the all-out invasion. But the passive majority, the basic pillar of his regime, won’t be thrilled about sending 300,000 more slobs to die in a ditch. That decision might make the wacko (obsessed) minority happy, but not for long.
The West cannot unsee everything that has happened. There will be no return to the status quo even in the event of a truce, which could turn Russia’s imperialist war into a civil one.
Putin addresses the war in an unusual talk with Russian journalists. In a wide-ranging interview, 18 reporters asked questions for more than two hours in a style reminiscent of the leader’s annual call-in event (The New York Times, June 13, 2023)