…or, Is Putin just Bluffing?
After seven months of war with Ukraine, what has Russia gained? A weaker economy, better armed and numerous enemies, and less global influence than it had in prewar days.
Paul Gigot in the WSJ’s “Potomac Watch,” reports that if you use the term “war” in Russia, you can be arrested.
Nothing but Cannon Fodder
The other thing that catches Mr. Gigot’s attention is the Russian mobilization with 300,000 reservists.
There’s no guarantee that these are actually going to help all that much in the military battle. They’re reservists. A lot of them have previously been conscripts. They may have been out of a uniform for a long time.
The Russian reserves, as I understand it are not as active as the US reserves or National Guard.
So a lot of these folks are going to need training. And then, if you’re not an effective soldier in a conflict like this, you are being served up, and I hate to use the phrase, but cannon fodder. I mean the casualties have the potential to be very high. And that won’t help Putin as well.
Putin has made it clear that he will do whatever he can to defend Russian territory, which factors in the use of nuclear weapons.
… that Russian territory will now be extended soon because the occupied territories for them in Ukraine are going to hold referenda on whether to join the Russian Federation. That’s almost certain to pass. And then Putin will consider that Russian territory and then will defend it whatever means necessary, including with nuclear weapons.
Jillian Melchior, in discussing the war with Paul Gigot, explains that what “we” are seeing is “total panic in that region on the part of Russian forces.”
Jillian Melchior talked recently to a soldier who’s been outside of Izyum. The soldier agreed: the Ukrainians know Russia has morale problems, but the Ukraine soldiers were shocked about how much equipment (tanks, armored vehicles) the Russian army has abandoned.
(Melchior) lists some implications:
- You are seeing Ukrainians not only take territory, but take the ammunition, take the fuel that Russians are leaving behind. It’s things that the Ukrainian side would have to be supplying soldiers with, but they’re essentially rolling up on territory where those things have been left behind and they can use them to strengthen the offensive.
- Ukrainians take this territory and this hasty retreat we’re seeing, (is) freeing up Ukrainian soldiers that were pinned down in defensive positions before so they can join the offensive effort, so this thing kind of gains momentum as it rolls on.
- Don’t forget, the Russians are trying to reestablish a defensive position. What you’d like to see happen if you were Putin is that the backup forces would kind of reinforce morale, create a backstop or a spine, but one possibility is that the panic among the retreating forces could spread and could damage the morale as well of the reinforcement troops, and then you’d have a bigger problem on your hands.
Kim Strassel, participating in the discussion with Gigot and Melchoir, suggests it would be folly to underestimate Ukrainian morale.
You have seen a complete mismatched force here in that you’ve got a country of the Ukrainians that is fighting for their freedom and very united in that, and then on the other hand you have Russians that have just essentially been dragooned in this fighting on foreign territory for a war that they don’t particularly understand, with very poorly trained troops. That is a recipe for disaster, and you’ve seen it. This was not an orderly withdrawal from the Kharkiv region. This was an outright rout, and they were fleeing to get out of there, which causes additional problems for Russia as well too.
We can hope Putin is listening to Holman Jenkins’ advice in a separate article in the WSJ: “Nothing now would finish (Vladimir Putin) off quicker than if domestic allies saw him reaching for a dangerous escalation of a botched war that no longer offers any upside for Russia, that is pursued only to save Mr. Putin’s face.”
Putin has already destroyed 50 years of Soviet and Russian efforts to assemble a European gas business. “This is enough damage for one episode.”
Putin has waited too long to effectively play his energy card, argues Mr. Jenkins.
Panic in Germany has given way to preparation and planning.
As his “easy” war spun out of control, (Putin) turned to making sure the influential Russian middle class was minimally troubled by the conflict.
Leaked last week was a video of Putin intimate Yevgeny Prigozhin in a prison yard trying to recruit paid fighters. Most telling was Mr. Prigozhin’s candid response to the leak: “It’s either private military companies and prisoners, or your children. Decide for yourself.”
The real question now may not be whether Mr. Putin wants an out. It’s whether Ukrainian President Zelensky will give him one.
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