In a televised speech delivered by Russian President Putin on September 21, he called for partial mobilization and the recall of 300,000 Russian soldiers to enhance the capabilities of the Russian army on the battlefront. These calls come after the Russian forces incurred extensive losses in a number of regions in eastern Ukraine, especially Kharkiv, not to mention the success of the Ukrainian army in liberating a number of prisoners held by the Russian army.
Putin’s announcement came to confirm what was included in the Russian foreign policy document issued in late August, which affirmed Russia’s right to defend itself against what it called Western aggression and conspiracy. However, it also made clear Putin’s commitment to winning the Ukrainian war, even if asylum To nuclear weapons is the last destination of the Russian president in this saga.
The brief declaration of the Russian President carried many internal and external messages that could be addressed as follows:
1- Moscow’s attempt to respond to its recent military losses: The announcement of the Russian President comes within the policy of reaction to the losses suffered by the Russian forces in Ukraine recently; In the past few days, the Ukrainian authorities announced that they had managed to recover about 6000 km² of Russian forces, since the beginning of this September. The Kharkiv front was the most important front that witnessed the largest Russian military losses in the recent period.
In this regard, “Putin” aims from the mobilization announcement to support the military human capabilities in Ukraine; Intelligence reports indicate that Russia is facing a severe shortage of its military forces in Ukraine, especially since Moscow described what is happening as a military operation and not a war, with its impact on the size of the military capabilities that are used. Perhaps this explains why the Russian President signed, in late August, a decree to increase the number of members of the armed forces by 137 thousand soldiers, bringing the total number to 1150628 personnel.
2- An indirect acknowledgment of the decline in the performance of the Russian army in Ukraine: The Russian president’s recent speech is an indirect statement that the war he started last February is not going along with the planned approach of disarming and politically neutralizing Ukraine, in addition to eliminating what he called the Ukrainian Nazis that threaten the existence of Russian minorities in eastern Ukraine. The speech also moved away from the tone of courtship used by the former Russian President during his speeches related to Ukraine, which was always keen to differentiate between Ukrainian citizens, as a brother people to their Russian counterparts, and their current government led by “Zelensky” which works against the Russian-Ukrainian unity; In his last speech, Putin described the Ukrainians as mere pawns of the Western and American military machine that will storm the whole world.
3- Putin’s awareness of the dilemma of popular support for his military operation: The Russian president’s avoidance of announcing a total or even partial mobilization earlier in the war, and his reliance mainly during the first six months on the regular forces in the Russian army, in addition to a number of dangerously registered, criminal record holders and mercenary forces – this confirms to a large extent that “Putin” realizes Well, the current war does not enjoy the support of large sections of the Russian people.
The rush of Russian youth to leave the country, and the unprecedented turnout to visit countries that still allow Russian tourists to enter their lands, led by Turkey, is another sign that confirms the lack of popular support for the current Russian military operation, and highlights an important logistical challenge that may contribute in a better way. One way or the other is to reinforce the current losses of the Russian army on the battlefield.
4- An attempt to confirm the cohesion of the power circles in Russia: To the extent that the decision of partial military mobilization reflects, in one way or another, the confusion of the Russian leadership and its fear of Ukraine turning into a new quagmire for Russian forces, similar to what happened with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan; It also refers to the Russian president’s attempt to confirm the cohesion of the home front and the circles of power. This is reinforced by Putin’s association with a class of oligarchs and military leaders who seem to realize that their fate is linked to Putin and his regime. So they continue to support him. Therefore, the betting of some, especially in the West, on the emergence of a group that overthrows President “Putin” is unrealistic, to say the least, according to the current data.
5- “Putin” continues to rely on the vocabulary of Western insult: It seems that the Russian president continues to use the vocabulary of Soviet glory and the legacy of humiliation and humiliation by the West, which he uses to enhance the legitimacy of his decisions and military intervention in Ukraine, as well as legitimize the decision of partial military mobilization. In his televised speech in which he announced the mobilization, “Putin” said that “the goal of the West is to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country.” He added: “They say directly that they succeeded in destroying the Soviet Union in 1991, and it is now time for Russia to be divided into several regions. and conflicting parties.
6- Russian deterrent messages to the West that the war is not over: President Putin’s speech reoriented the world press and academic and economic writings on the Russo-Ukrainian war; The media has been busy highlighting the death of Queen Elizabeth II, in addition to indulging in the analysis of the upcoming foreign policies and options of President Xi, following the unprecedented escalation of the Chinese army’s military operations in Southeast Asia. Some have begun to deal with the Russian war in Ukraine as it is approaching the end, especially with the Ukrainian army achieving large and unexpected gains, and the majority of analysts have become preoccupied with the date of the end of the Russian-Ukrainian war, and the possibility of escaping from the worst scenario during the coming winter, but “Putin” In his last speech, he stressed that the Russian military operation in Ukraine will not end soon, and that Europe is still on the cusp of facing the worst winter in its history since the First and Second World Wars, and the matter here is not limited to the lack of energy supplies, but extends to the threat of testing the old continent. to an unprecedented nuclear threat.
In addition to what the Russian President’s speech meant to confirm that the world is waiting for more in the separation of the conflict between Moscow and other Western capitals, the recent announcement opened the door wide for a number of possible future scenarios, whether at the level of the Russian interior or even at the level of Russian military operations in Ukraine , which can be dealt with as follows:
1- Opening a new field for negotiation: This scenario assumes that the Russian President’s announcement of military mobilization, despite its apparent escalation, at the same time embodies the possibility of opening a space for negotiation between Russia and the West. This scenario is based on major considerations, perhaps the most important of which is that the partial mobilization and the call-up of reserve forces is, in the end, a symbolic step to pressure the West. Because the reserve forces will not be – in any way – on the combat efficiency of the forces participating in the Ukrainian war since its outbreak last February, and therefore may not affect the course of the military operation much.
Moreover, Putin may fear the consequences of the decision to mobilize internally, and the growing state of popular discontent. This is evidenced by reports that tickets for flights leaving Russia quickly ran out on September 21, after the Russian President announced the decision to call up the military. According to these reports, tickets for direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul in Turkey, and Yerevan in Armenia, two destinations that allow Russians to enter without a visa, are now sold out.
On the external level, despite the great political support that President Putin received from his participation in the work of the Shanghai Conference during the past week, the conference highlighted Chinese and, to a greater extent, Indian dissatisfaction with the Russian war in Ukraine. Its dire consequences for the economy and global energy prices. On the other hand, the approaching winter season, and Europe’s inability to access other sources of energy capable of fully replacing Russian natural gas supplies; These are all indications that Brussels can accept entering into new negotiations with Russia.
The French president expressed this trend in his speech before the United Nations General Assembly, when he said that “all that European countries seek today is peace, even if there is a price for that; Some leaders in Europe will be willing to pay this price,” which means that Chinese-Indian pressure on Moscow on the one hand, and European-American pressure on Kyiv on the other, may eventually push the two sides to accept a ceasefire agreement, in preparation for the start A new round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations.
Despite the stimuli for this scenario, it still faces many problems, foremost of which is the American reaction to the announcement of Russian mobilization, the continuation of mutual escalation, and Washington’s continuation of the policy of maximum pressure and imposing isolation on Moscow, especially after the recent military gains made by the Ukrainian forces.
2- Establishing new geographical lines of military engagement: According to this scenario, President Putin may seek, by declaring mobilization, to confirm the war’s entry into a new phase, and to set new geographic lines of military engagement, based on focusing on some areas inside Ukraine, especially areas where there are affiliated separatist forces.
Signs of this scenario emerged with the announcement of four pro-Russian regions in Ukraine, namely: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, for referendums during the period from 23-27 September; with a view to joining Russia. The Russian president seems to support these referendums, seeing them as a tool to confirm some of Russia’s gains in the war. It cannot be overlooked that the Russian focus on some geographical areas serves Moscow’s interests from several angles. The first is that it allows the Russian president to promote his gains from the war and avoid internal criticism, and on the other hand, it gives Russian forces a greater opportunity to narrow the area of military confrontation, rather than engaging in operations across Ukraine that ultimately lead to the exhaustion of Russian forces.
On the third hand, this approach gives Moscow cards through which it can bargain and put pressure in any future negotiations. Moreover, the goal of complete control of Ukraine is no longer realistic at the present moment with continued US support for Ukraine.
3- Threat of using nuclear weapons: Some political analysts believe that the Russian President’s allusion to the possibility of using nuclear weapons is a tool to pressure and deter Western countries and stir divisions in the European fold over the extent of commitment and desire to continue providing weapons to the Ukrainian government, but others believe that President Putin could resort to the use of weapons. Tactical nuclear weapons to stop the progress of the Ukrainian forces, not to mention the possibility of striking the positions and lines of NATO supply to the Ukrainian forces by relying on this dangerous weapon, whether these lines are inside Ukraine, or with some Ukrainian neighboring countries that play an important role in ensuring the supply of Kyiv with all advanced Western military equipment , which had great credit for the Ukrainian army’s current advance on the battlefield.
Although this scenario is likely to materialize, it remains unlikely, at least in the short term, according to the current data. Because the consequences of Moscow’s use of nuclear weapons will not be guaranteed, and may push to the brink of an abyss scenario and direct confrontation between the West and Russia. If Moscow uses nuclear weapons, Moscow may lose some international allies or even neutral parties that refused to comply with Western policy toward Moscow.
4- Russia’s expansion of the scorched earth strategy: Nuclear weapons may not be a military option for Russia in the near future, but it is certain that Moscow will not deplete its treasury of other military options, especially since it categorically refuses to accept the scenario of a return to before the last military operation. Hence, it can be said that the scorched earth strategy is the first military option for Russia at this stage of the war. A number of internal Ukrainian reports have already begun highlighting Russian forces’ targeting of infrastructure, such as transportation networks, water and electricity lines, not to mention targeting government institutions and civilian buildings. The main objective of this strategy is to cut off the supply lines of the branches of the Ukrainian army engaged in direct confrontations with the Russian forces, not to mention the besieging of major cities, and forcing the local resistance to stop with the lack of energy and food supplies, which are becoming increasingly important with the approach of winter.
In addition, Russia is expected to rely more on the weapon of cyber-attacks against both Ukraine and the European powers supporting it, especially since Moscow possesses many vast experiences and capabilities in this field, but it has not used it extensively until this point in the war.
5- The sudden change in the course of the war: It can be said that this scenario resembles the “black swan” scenario, which assumes an unexpected change in the course of the war, such as the Ukrainian president’s absence from the scene and being assassinated, or the overthrow of Russian President “Putin” in light of the rising popular resentment towards the military operation and anger over the military mobilization decision Partial, or the success of the “winter strategy” on which the Russian president is betting and leads to undermining Western military support for Kiev in a way that allows Moscow to expand its military operation.
Finally, negotiations are likely to be a good strategic choice for the Russian president; On the one hand, Putin could impose on Ukraine a number of policy options that would enable him to avoid returning to square one; That is, before the Russian special military operation in Ukraine. On the other hand, it represents an opportunity to escape accountability and international legal prosecution; To accuse the Russian forces of committing a number of war crimes against unarmed Ukrainian civilians, not to mention the possibility of these negotiations allowing Russia to annex part of the eastern Ukrainian lands to its empire, but this matter depends largely on the amount of pressure that will be exerted on the “Zelensky” regime, and the extent of cooperation The Chinese with the Western camp for the success of this mediation.