Vladimir Putin is on a roll of sorts but not in the way he ever envisioned for he must now face the fact that he is losing in Ukraine and doing so on three fronts...militarily in Ukraine itself what with Zelensky's forces recently dealing Russia's air force some major blows; in the court of public opinion as nations continue to condemn his actions; and most importantly at home in “Mother Russia” for now his own people are turning against him regarding a fight they never wanted or considered to be theirs.
Why so? In a recent interview on NPR, Natalya Zurina, a retired university professor, summed it up pretty well in stating that, “I haven't heard the word 'war' out of Putin's mouth. And if there's no war then how can we have a mobilization?"...this is regards to Putin's having issued a special referendum pertaining to the mobilization of what he alone calls “reservists”...simply 300,000 men of fighting age. Saying that men with military experience between the ages of 18 and 60+ will be called up, trained, and then sent to fight and most probably die in Ukraine...the word “war” itself was not part of his official discourse.
Exposed that not only were captured Ukrainian soldiers tortured, but that cluster munitions were unleashed on civilian areas where there were no military personnel present nor military infrastructures found, photo and video evidence released showed not only proof of mass executions and mass graves, but of civilians being torture and horrific sexual violence being committed even upon young children. Atrocities uncovered and exposed at around the same time that Vladimir Putin announced that for him the nuclear option is indeed still on the table if Ukraine or NATO dared to threaten Russia's “territorial integrity.”
And Zelensky's response to Putin's threat echos the sentiments of many in that he does not believe that Putin is bluffing. Saying “Maybe yesterday it was a bluff. Now, it could be a reality...he wants to scare the whole world. These are the first steps of his nuclear blackmail. I don't think he's bluffing. I think the world is deterring it and containing this threat. We need to keep putting pressure on him and not allow him to continue,” to which I most surely agree.
But the question that must be answered is, what does Putin consider to now be Russian “territorial integrity”? Simply, these are areas he hoped to annex into the Russian Federation...areas courtesy of Kremlin-held regions in eastern and southern Ukraine. And these what are four only “partially controlled” regions...as in Luhansk and Donetsk (two Russian-backed breakaway republics), as well as Zaporizhzhia and Kherson...regions which comprise some of Ukraine's key agricultural and industrial centers...were recently forced to vote in an election that Putin knew was illegal under both Ukrainian and international law...an election whose outcome was predetermined so as to help Vladimir Putin not only “save some semblance of face,” but to try to give the appearance of legitimacy to something even he knows has no legal standing. But if “saving face” helps Putin justify his “Russian integrity” sham, then he, in his mind, can justify that any military move Zelensky's forces might take being an attack on Russia herself no matter that Ukraine has the legal right to defend its designated territory,
And with Ukraine being Putin's first but surely not his only target...the nations belonging to NATO have much to fear as well...what many analysts now believe is that Vladimir Putin would likely use “tactical,” as in “battlefield” nuclear bombs...bombs ranging from 0.3 kilotons to 100 kilotons of “explosive power” as opposed to the 1.2 megatons of a U.S. strategic warhead or the 58 megaton bombs Russia tested back in 1961. But why would Putin not use the “big bombs”...why would he favor using “tactical” nukes alone? Simply because said bombs are designed to have a limited impact on the battlefield, compared to strategic nuclear weapons which are designed to win all-out wars...wars resulting in massive amounts of collateral damage...the very thing Putin refuses to allude to in his now issued mobilization referendum.
After all, while Vladimir Putin is indeed an ego-driven megalomaniac, he is not a madman in the classical sense nor is he driven by suicidal tendencies like other madmen before him. And why...because what Putin craves is tangible battlefield victories to counter his now faltering invasion of Ukraine as well as his wanting true superpower status returned to “Mother Russia” with him alone being recognized and lauded as her savior. But like most who foolishly envision themselves as both a warrior and a hero, Vladimir Putin remains but a coward...a coward who not only uses nuclear blackmail to instill fear in those who were once fearless, but a man who would gladly sacrifice innocents in an attempt to snatch some modicum of victory out of what in the end will surely be his and Russia's defeat.
So while Vladimir Putin called for what he still refers to as a “partial mobilization” of 300,000 new troops, and did so right before the sham of an annexation election took place, the fact remains that Putin has not clearly thought his mobilization objective through for even if said number was reached he has no way of getting those troops...men who just days ago were but civilians with no animosity towards Ukraine...getting them the training and weapons needed to fight against Zelensky's forces. And why...because not only is Putin's war chest now being stretched thin what with imposed sanctions on Russia taking a toll, but tactical errors have been made that will directly affect new troops from getting to the front lines...the very lines where obviously they are needed the most. And besides, an army of those not wanting to fight is paramount to being no army at all.
So now as I write this, and as Russian authorities continue to claim...read “lie” here...that said “mobilization” only affects Russians with previous military experience... protests remain ongoing in many cities across Russia... including in major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. And these protests have turned violent more times than not with over 2,350+ arrests being made, to date, despite a heavy police presence and threats of arrest...arrests replete with a 10-year imprisonment if so deemed. In fact, we now find Russian activist groups and Ukrainian officials rightfully claiming that in certain ethnic minority regions of Russia...like in the Dagistan region...young minority men are being “disproportionately targeted” and forced to enlist, and if the don't do so they are immediately arrested and left to face whatever consequences are the order of the day.
And not only are protests growing in number, but others of military age...others to a tune of now 220,000+...are so fed up with not only Putin's invasion of Ukraine but with his escalating threats and loss of what little freedoms they had...so fed up that no matter the long lines of traffic at border crossings, no matter skyrocketed airfare prices and sold out flights...those of military age continue to flee Russia to not only escape “mobilization,” but to escape a man who now sees them as but sacrificial lambs who must be willing to give both life and limb in his quest to return “Mother Russia'” to its former imperialistic state.
But for Vladimir Putin verbal condemnation means not even a “slap on the wrist” for just this past Friday in a speech at the Kremlin, he announced to Russia's parliament that he had begun the formal annexing of parts of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions...similar in scope to his annexation of Crimea in 2014. And with Russia's two houses of parliament set to ratify the annexation's so called “treaties” this upcoming week...said annexation, as per Putin, will not only turn millions of people into Russian citizens, but will see areas that comprise roughly 18% (nearly one fifth of Ukrainian territory) “forever” becoming part of Russia.
In fact, Zelensky responded to said annexation announcement by rightfully saying that, “They (the votes) are worthless and do not change reality. The territorial integrity of Ukraine will be restored. And our reaction to recognition of the results by Russia will be very harsh,” while Joe Biden, who cares more about Ukraine's borders than he does about America's own, stated that Putin's actions are a “flagrant violation of the UN Charter and the basic principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” proving yet again that hypocrisy runs deep with this one.
So as Vladimir Putin continues to see victory through annexation being the foundation not just for more assaults on Ukraine, but that his threats of nuclear armageddon will help keep the world at bay via confusion and manipulation which, at times, does tend to drive a wedge between even those once aligned against a common enemy. But now we must wait to see how this all plays out, especially since Ukrainian flags are flying once again over the strategic town of Lyman...proudly flying after Putin was forced to withdrawn his troops from the very town in the Donetsk region that he had just annexed...a move seen by many as a significant and humiliating setback for his campaign in the east.
And now Ukraine rightfully fights on for Zelensky knows something that Putin obviously does not...for history itself has shown that a “war of attrition” never really ends in victory for those who engage in an unjust fight. Case closed.
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