The Russian President Mr. Putin announced the partial mobilization of Russian reservists. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu clarified that the mobilization would include 300,000 reservists. The way the Pentagon sees Russia’s mobilization of 300,000 reservists is that there are now 300,000 more Russians they can kill.
This is happening concurrently with the referendums to be held in the four oblasts with significant Russian control. Crimea, of course, was already formally annexed to Russia years ago.
Our friend Academic Agent has been insisting that Mr. Putin ought to just declare war on Ukraine and stop playing legalistic games. After all, who are they for? Well, they are for other sovereign states. The fact that Germany attacked Belgium and France in the Great War had severe consequences for the outcome of the war, as have technicalities, such as who France and Great Britain went to war with following the dual invasion of Poland. Mr. Putin has built a large Asiatic alliance that must be satisfied, and he looks to have stable borders with his neighbors in Europe as well. Instead of declaring war on Ukraine, Mr. Putin is having Ukraine declare war on Russia.
The war is currently taking place entirely within the state of Ukraine. Russia is fighting against a NATO-backed Ukraine, inside of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian army is not on Russian territory. Much like Vietnam, where the Americans fought against Chinese-backed Communists and Russian pilots, the conflict was “safely” contained to Vietnam itself, avoiding a World War situation. Russia may be fighting against American mercenaries, American generals, American intelligence, and Americans weapons, but these objects of war are not being used directly against Russia itself. This is going to change as soon as these territories become directly incorporated into Russia, like Crimea. Ukraine will be de facto at war with Russian, no declaration needed.
Mr. Putin set the political stage in his speech:
“After the Kiev regime publicly refused to settle the issue of Donbass peacefully and went as far as to announce its ambition to possess nuclear weapons, it became clear that a new offensive in Donbass – there were two of them before – was inevitable, and that it would be inevitably followed by an attack on Russia’s Crimea, that is, on Russia.”
If an attack on the annexed oblast of Crimea is an attack on Russia, then certainly an attack on any other would constitute the same.
He reiterates Russia’s main goal:
“The main goal of this operation, which is to liberate the whole of Donbass, remains unaltered.”
Mr. Putin is reinforcing the idea that he is not waging “aggressive war” and that the path to peace remains as it was before.
This suggests the use of the reservists Russia is calling forth (I will talk more on this later):
“In this connection, I have already issued instructions for the Government and the Defence Ministry to determine the legal status of volunteers and personnel of the military units of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. It must be the same as the status of military professionals of the Russian army, including material, medical and social benefits. Special attention must be given to organising the supply of military and other equipment for volunteer units and Donbass people’s militia.”
Mr. Putin also directly recognizes the state of war with the West:
“Today our armed forces, as I have mentioned, are fighting on the line of contact that is over 1,000 kilometres long, fighting not only against neo-Nazi units but actually the entire military machine of the collective West.”
This has ramifications in relation to the referendums. It is one thing for the West and Russia to fight against one another in places like Syria and Ukraine—it is quite another for the West to fight a conflict inside of Russia itself.
This statement is also significant:
“In this situation, I consider it necessary to take the following decision, which is fully adequate to the threats we are facing. More precisely, I find it necessary to support the proposal of the Defence Ministry and the General Staff on partial mobilisation in the Russian Federation to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories.”
This demonstrates that the President of Russia is supporting the advice of his defense ministers and is not simply making dictatorial decisions.
These soldiers being deployed could be used in a number of ways. Mr. Putin in his address informs us that
“Before being sent to their units, those called up for active duty will undergo mandatory additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation.”
It is clear that Russia is maintaining its conservative strategy in the war. The best use of these reservists will depend on what they are trained in and how well they are trained (I have no idea how they are trained, so I don’t know what the best use is).
One way to use them is to fill in the battle space with Russian soldiers so that LNR and DNR forces are not left on their own without direct Russian support. The Kharkov offensive was successful for Ukraine because it was a professional army versus a militia, and the militia retreated. Mr. Putin’s comments about elevating the status of these militias and “special attention” being given to organizing their supply suggests that Russia wants to avoid another exploitation of the inherent weaknesses of a non-professional military. This would secure already held territory without having to reposition forces in place. Russia doesn’t want to move veterans out of Bakhmut to defensive positions hundreds of kilometers away. Russia could also use these forces to reinforce existing offensives such as the attack on Bakhmut, or begin new ones, in Kharkov, or more boldly, in Zaporizhzhia or Mykolaiv.
These forces will serve in all of these roles over a long enough time scale, but given the conservative Russian strategy and Mr. Putin’s comments, I guess that the reservists will be used primarily to avoid another mass retreat by the militias.
The war is escalating significantly, both in terms of forces in being and politically. If this war expands into a World War, this will be remembered as a key moment in its escalation, if there is anyone left to remember it.