Is Vladimir Putin up against the wall? | War in Ukraine
A soldier participates in a military exercise.
By mobilizing 300,000 reservists and raising the specter of nuclear weapons, President Vladimir Putin signaled that the Russian offensive in Ukraine had reached a “tipping point”, says expert Pierre Jolicoeur from the Royal Military College of Canada.
In a rare address to the nation released on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists to lend a hand to the troops already engaged in the Ukrainian theater of war.
As opposed to a general mobilization, that is to say of all men fit and of fighting age, the mobilization of reservists by the Russian president is a middle way, explains Pierre Jolicoeur, the reservists still having a certain military experience.
Nevertheless, [this measure] sends a signal that Russia is in difficulty and needs resources […] and that [Putin] is ready to continue the conflict, regardless of the consequences, believes the professor.
Armed by the West, Ukrainian soldiers have mounted a dazzling counter-offensive in recent weeks, leading the Russians to withdraw from the Kharkiv region (north-east) and to have to retreat in the Donbass (east) and Kherson (south).
In addition to these humiliating setbacks, the Kremlin strongman is also feeling some international pressure to end what he calls always a special military operation, including allies he wishes to rally to his cause.
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was not the time for war. Vladimir Poutin also admitted to having taken note of Chinese President Xi Jinping's concerns.
Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping proclaimed their “unlimited” friendship last February, a few weeks before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He received the signal from non-Western countries to end it as soon as possible, to stop speaking in the name of the non-Western world, analyzed on Facebook Alexandre Baounov, a former expert at the Carnegie Center in Moscow, closed this year by the Russian government.
In his televised speech, President Putin claimed that Russia's main military objective in Ukraine, namely the liberation of Donbass, had not changed.
He added that the mobilization of additional troops had been made necessary and urgent in view of the arming of Ukrainian forces by Western countries, which he accused of having crossed all limits.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu explained that this mobilization was necessary to hold the occupied territories in Ukraine.
The front line is more than 1000 km long. Obviously, we must strengthen this line and the rear, we must control these territories, he said.
It is with a view to regaining the initiative that the Russian President also announced Kremlin support for annexation votes to be held September 23-27 in four regions occupied in whole or in part by Russia.
A timetable described as precipitated by Pierre Jolicoeur, who also sees in it an admission of weakness.
Initially, we intended to organize these referendums, but later, in the month of November. This operation had been suspended because of the Ukrainian counter-offensive. But given the scale of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, we give the impression of wanting to organize a referendum in speed turtle before it is too late, he explained at the microphone of the show. One morning.
The separatist powers of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions have announced annexation votes to Russia, as have the occupation authorities Russian from Kherson and Zaporizhia.
If the results of these elections leave little room for doubt, the same goes for the international reactions that will follow.
We know in advance that the international community will condemn these results, notes Pierre Jolicoeur, the western allies of Ukraine having already described the holding of these elections as a sham and a parody.
We are in a theater of war in this moment. It is a territory under foreign occupation. The validity of the results will be void. Nobody will want to acknowledge these results, he observed.
Nobody, except, of course, Russia.
By ingesting these regions, Moscow could qualify possible Ukrainian attacks on these territories as attacks on Russia itself.
This situation would give the Kremlin leeway for even greater mobilization or the use of even more powerful weapons, said Pierre Jolicoeur.
Indeed, the Kremlin's military doctrine provides for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of an attack on Russian territory.
Vladimir Putin brandished this threat during his television announcement, stating that he would use all means at his disposal to protect Russia in the event of a violation of its territorial integrity.
“This is not a bluff,” insisted Vladimir Putin about his commitment to take “all means” necessary to protect Russia.
According to Pierre Jolicoeur, such an escalation would be surprising, as the activation of the nuclear weapon is not as simple as pressing a button.
It takes a certain level of coordination with the military, and it is not certain that everyone in Russia, even among those who are close to Putin, shares such a desire to go to extremes, he observed.
He agrees, however, that there would certainly be people who would be willing to do so.
Thus, he believes, we will have to see, over the next few days, the reaction of those close to the president to dissect the extent to which there is a team of extremists at his side to wage this war.
In the meantime, on the military level, the mobilization of 300,000 reservists may not be enough to change the reality on the ground, estimates the independent analyst Tatiana Stanovaïa, of the R. Politik center.
Training, equipping and sending all these soldiers to the front is a significant challenge, especially since Russia has already deployed its best units, at the cost of heavy losses. and equipment.
Since the start of the military operation, almost nothing has gone as planned, summarizes Ms. Stanovaïa.
With information from Agence  ;France-Presse