More troops, more annexations: Putin announces new Ukraine plans

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced Russia will mobilize a much bigger army of intervention in Ukraine, and will sponsor the immediate Crimea-like annexation of four Ukrainian territories. The plan prioritizes access to resources for Russian defense industries and calls up some 300,000 Russian reservists.

Analysts agree that the new decisions will drastically step up Russia’s prosecution of the war in Ukraine, making it far more destructive. At the very least they will prevent any repeat of Ukraine’s recent successful offensive in Kharkiv, which Russian military experts attribute to long, relatively undefended lines.

Why We Wrote This

After Russia’s defeat in Kharkiv, the pressure was on Vladimir Putin to respond. Today he did, by announcing the escalation of the war in Ukraine through the mobilization of 300,000 Russian troops.

“The Kharkiv retreat demonstrated what had been obvious for some time, that Russia lacks enough manpower to hold the front line,” says analyst Alexander Khramchikhin. “The idea now is to mobilize veterans with needed skills, though it’s not really clear how many can actually be brought in.”

Mr. Putin’s decision to order “partial mobilization” avoids any strenuous test of public war support, say experts.

“People with children of conscription age are going to feel worried,” says Denis Volkov, director of the Levada Center, a polling agency. “If the mobilization remains partial, however, that will allow a lot of people to just close their eyes and think it doesn’t concern them.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hearing for months from a chorus of Russian nationalist hawks that the country’s 200,000-strong expeditionary force in Ukraine is too small to achieve victory. That complaint only grew louder after the Ukrainian army’s swift and decisive recapture of its northeastern Kharkiv region earlier this month.

In an early morning speech Wednesday, Mr. Putin largely took the hawks’ side.

He announced Russia will mobilize a much bigger army of intervention, it will sponsor the immediate Crimea-like annexation of four Ukrainian territories, and might adopt much more destructive military tactics than previously employed. The announced plan prioritizes access to resources for Russian defense industries and calls up some 300,000 Russian reservists to active duty. Mr. Putin, while certainly no dove, had up to this point tried to minimize the war’s effects on the Russian public.

Why We Wrote This

After Russia’s defeat in Kharkiv, the pressure was on Vladimir Putin to respond. Today he did, by announcing the escalation of the war in Ukraine through the mobilization of 300,000 Russian troops.

The mobilization bolsters the Russian forces already in Ukraine, made up of volunteers, contract soldiers, and separatist militias, which hawks argue are facing an ever-growing Ukrainian army that enjoys a near-unlimited pipeline of Western arms and support.

The “partial mobilization” coincides with laws hastily passed by the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, that would enable a legal state of war in Russia. Formerly postponed plans to hold referendums in the Ukrainian Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions on requesting incorporation into Russia are now slated to take place this weekend. These measure are expected to pass, after which Moscow will regard the military front line in those regions as Russia’s own state borders.

Russian Presidential Press Service/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the Russian nation in a televised address in Moscow, Sept. 21, 2022. Though Mr. Putin’s “partial mobilization” falls short of what some hawks wanted, it goes toward addressing one of their major criticisms of the fighting.

The prospect that Russia will in the future regard those sovereign Ukrainian lands as its own territory casts an ominous light on Mr. Putin’s statement, amid a discussion of Western “nuclear blackmail” against Russia, that “in the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”



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