Putin declares partial mobilisation

Putin announcing partial mobilisation and simultaneously threatening the West with nuclear weapons.

After failing to achieve his military goals in Ukraine with the help of the regular army, Putin declared a “partial” military mobilisation. His address was carefully prepared, as usual. In order to justify his decision, Putin tries to make the stakes appear as high as possible, and the costs for the population as low as possible.

First, he says that the Russian forces “are fighting not only against neo-Nazi units but actually the entire military machine of the collective West.” I believe it is the first time that Putin directly says that Russia is fighting with NATO. It is Russia’s sovereignty that is at stake:

Washington, London and Brussels are openly encouraging Kiev to move the hostilities to our territory. They openly say that Russia must be defeated on the battlefield by any means, and subsequently deprived of political, economic, cultural and any other sovereignty and ransacked.

Vladimir Putin, 21.09.2022

At the same time, Putin tries to make the consequences appear less threatening. This is not surprising. After all, he has been calling the war a “special military operation”, in order to play down its consequences for ordinary Russians (see this Ruscist-English dictionary for more euphemisms). He highlights that the mobilisation will be only partial. Only military reservists who served in the army and have experience and specific military professions will be called up. Moreover, he promises that they will have the status, payments and all social benefits of military personnel serving under contract. For many Ivans in towns and villages far away from Moscow that could appear attractive. As we have seen, many Russian families don’t mind selling their husbands and sons to pay off the mortgage or to buy a new Lada.

Putin is taking a big risk, and he probably knows it. His popularity was always based on an unwritten contract between Russians and him: we don’t mind your business, you don’t mind ours. Just keep some kind of order and tell us that Russia is becoming greater and greater every day. Everybody was happy. Now the war has come to Russian families, and sofa patriots suddenly have to go to cold and dirty trenches. The pact is broken. Putin is not a historian, as he imagines himself, but he may remember the fate of the last Russian tsar, whose absolutist rule was swept by thousands of angry and hungry armed peasants, who returned from World War I.

Of course, we should not underestimate the repressive and brain-washing machines that Putin has managed to build during his long reign at the cost of all other areas of public life. They can be more durable and efficient than the “second strongest military in the world”. After all, repression and disinformation are the specialties of KGB. But the stakes are high both for Russia and for Putin personally.

The long queues at the Russian borders and exorbitant prices for one-way plane tickets show that the brainwashing machine is not 100% effective, which gives grounds for cautious optimism. Quite a few Russians even went to the streets to protest against the war. Many mass media have praised their bravery, but I’m rather skeptical about their motives. These people don’t protest because they don’t want Ukrainians to die. They protest because they don’t want to die themselves. It’s too late, too little, too self-serving.

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