The situation on the front Ukrainian is further complicated with the announcement of the mobilization of reservists by Putinthe nuclear threat and possible referendum of annexation of the disputed territory. The general Antonio Li Gobbiwho participated in missions UN in Syria and Israel and under aegis Born in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan he was also director of operations at the NATO International Staff in Brussels, he takes stock of the situation.
General, why did Putin announce a mobilization of 300,000 reservists? Is he bogged down in a war he can’t win?
I would say that the mobilization of reservists is important, but it is not the most relevant thing in Putin’s speech yesterday. More relevant is that he has declared to his Russian people that this is no longer a conflict between Ukraine and Russia but a conflict between the Russia and the whole world that we call “western”, that is the USA, NATO and the European Union.
Russia, thousands fleeing to Finland and Turkey: social networks “cleaned up” to pass the controls
The mobilization of 300,000 reservists is the direct consequence of this change of perspective. Moreover, if the conflict continues, and I think it will continue, these 300,000 will only be the first step. Also because the mobilization, albeit of reservists who have left the service a few years ago, is not easy, unless there has always been an ad hoc organization with periodic recalls, means of equipment and stored materials, etc., in short, units ” framework “already organized whose members meet regularly to train and this is not the case with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Nuclear weapons, Putin has the largest arsenal in the world. China and India are also calling for a ceasefire in Ukraine
In the Russian case, as far as we know, the soldiers will have to return to the recruitment and training centers (some will not show up, others will get sick, etc.), be re-equipped and the units will have to be rebuilt almost from scratch. An activity that takes time if the departments are to have operational capabilities and not be a kind of “Brancaleone Army”, which Moscow cannot afford.
This is a painful measure that indicates at least two things. First of all, the Kremlin now believes that the initial planning of the special operation did not adequately consider the size and type of forces necessary to achieve the objectives in the time desired by the political leadership of Moscow. We do not know who is to blame: whether it was the military leaders who underestimated the need or who did not highlight the difficulties to please the Kremlin, or if, as has often happened in history, the political leader silenced the military leaders , convinced that he alone is the “great strategist”. Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin gave us more than one example of this during the Second World War. However, whether the underestimation is the fault of the military or the political and intelligence establishment, it is clear that in Moscow it will now be time for recriminations.
Putin, Russian embassy shares photos of the Tsar with Italian politicians on Facebook: “There is a lot to remember”
But also that now it is necessary to make the war also weigh on the “Russian” citizens, something on which the Kremlin had always been reluctant. From this point of view, Putin’s speech needed to envisage the threat of the entire West revolt against Russia and recall the pride of the Great Patriotic War. Moscow, in fact, had initially employed Russian regular forces to a decidedly reduced extent, among other things often sending units with recruitment to Asian Russia. The Kremlin has therefore integrated the regular units with irregular militias such as Chechens, “Wagner”, Syrians precisely to avoid burdening Russian citizens also in consideration of the need to keep their favor. A choice that I assume was imposed on a political level because from a military point of view it makes little sense. In fact, it involves coordination difficulties, fragmentation of the command line as these militias do not recognize the authority of the regular chains of command but only the individual charisma of their leaders, methods and tactics of employment that cannot be reconciled. Above all, we know that these militias have no respect for the law of armed conflicts and indulge in crimes and atrocities as we have seen.
The men are fleeing Russia for fear of being forced to fight and are mounting street protests. Could mobilization turn out to be a false move for Putin?
I would say that it is far too early to draw conclusions from the first hasty information we receive. It is clear that even if ten people were stranded at the airport for trying to escape the call to arms, the news would have great prominence in the international press. Moreover, in the meantime, perhaps hundreds or thousands, albeit unwillingly, show up for the call and do not make the news. With regard to street demonstrations, we know what happens in the big cities of European Russia where our journalists and diplomats are who can report to us, but we have no idea what happens in rural areas and in smaller cities less open to Western culture. . Having said that, certainly the mobilization itself with its repercussions not only on individuals but also on their families and on the world of work, from which those recalled are subtracted, does not help the credibility of the Kremlin.
Moreover, we cannot ignore that the economic sanctions launched by the US and the EU against Russia have engendered in many layers of the population the belief that “the West is angry with us Russians”. A belief on which Putin’s speech yesterday may have taken root. The lack of a free Russian press in this regard does not help.
Regarding the risks to Putin’s popularity, I would not be too optimistic. The blame will be attributed to the military bureaucracy, the Tsar will drop a couple of heads and people will believe him. During the first three years of World War II in Italy, how many Italians exalted Mussolini by attributing exclusively to those around him the blame for disastrous military campaigns?
Are Putin’s nuclear threats realistic and feasible?
They are achievable, of course. Russia has a diverse arsenal not only nuclear, but also chemical and biological. Moreover, the USA also has them. Having them does not necessarily mean wanting to use them. It depends a lot on the room for maneuver that should be given to Russia and the Russian regime in the event of their military defeat.
Personally, I don’t think it comes to the use of nuclear weapons, but groped to put an autocratic regime in a corner is never a wise choice. Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, but if he had had the atomic weapon available, do we think he would not have used it? It is the spirit of “die Samson with all the Philistines”. It is natural and perfectly understandable that Ukraine, on whose territory and among whose people there is a terrible and bloody civil war as well as a conventional war, is not willing to compromise.
Less understandable is an equally uncompromising stance on the part of the EU and the US.
Do you think the referendums for the annexation of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporiza will take place? Given the obvious outcome, what would follow?
I think that referendums for the annexation of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporiza will take place and that the result will be for annexation to Russia. Forget regularity and turnout which will certainly be questionable.
Having announced them in no time was certainly not a demonstration of strength and security but on the contrary an admission of weakness and insecurity.
Moreover, the objective which Putin aims at in my opinion is twofold. On the one hand, saying to the West “I don’t care if you recognize the validity of the referendums or not, for us these territories are now Russian territory and we will use any means to defend them”. Furthermore, an attack on these “new” Russian territories (partly under Ukrainian military control) will be considered an attack on the Russian motherland and this would also justify retaliation outside Ukraine, suggesting that such retaliation could otherwise limit hitting in an EU country or the US. On the other hand, to strengthen the home front in memory of the Great Patriotic War. His constant references to the Ukrainian Nazis also fall within this perspective to call everyone to the defense of what in a few days for Moscow could be in all respects Russia.
However, let us remember that beyond the easy enthusiasm we have witnessed in the past few days, a serious peace process has never been at hand. And today it is even less so because it does not suit any of the three main players.
It is not yet agreed with Ukraine, which has always had the “certainty” of reversing the parties, which it has managed to do thanks to the aid received essentially from the US and the UK. Others are marginal displays of support.
It would not be acceptable to Russia in this temporary situation of apparent military inferiority unless there is a “regime change” in Moscow but the timing seems premature to me. Moreover, Moscow is only now drawing more heavily on the human factor.
And it is not in the interests of the United States which sees the picklock in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict to lead to a downsizing of the Kremlin’s geopolitical ambitions.