In accordance with the decree on partial mobilization, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 21, war with Ukraine 300,000 reservists must go. What do German experts say about the mobilization that has begun in Russia, its consequences for Russian society, and the prospects for Moscow to use nuclear weapons if the escalation conflict continue?
Joachim Weber, an expert at the Center for Security Affairs at the University of Bonn, points out that the announcement of a partial mobilization in Russia did not come as a complete surprise to him, because rumors about such a possibility have been circulating for several days.
He considers the decision to call up hundreds of thousands of reservists to the front as a significant step towards escalation, which will have serious consequences. However, this is “definitely a sign of weakness,” Weber emphasizes. “Putin would not have needed to resort to escalation if his military controlled the situation the way he wanted it and how he imagined it,” the expert explains. “The failures and losses of the Russian army are huge, and they are piling up. One gets the impression that militarily Russia is back to the wall in Ukraine“.
A similar opinion is expressed by Nico Lange – an expert on international security, the former head of the command staff in the German Ministry of Defense. “From my point of view, Putin showed weakness. The point is not only in the essence of this “partial” mobilization, but also in the fact that he first wanted to make a speech (make an appeal. – Ed.) and then set it aside. Militarily, things are not going well in Ukraine, and I believe that from a military point of view, this mobilization will not help,” he says in an interview with DW.
Austrian political scientist, professor of international relations at the University of Innsbruck Gerhard Mangott also believes that Putin’s decision to mobilize now was due to the difficult situation of the Russian military and recent successes of Ukrainians. “If Russia wants to prevent the return of its occupied territories by Ukraine, it needs more soldiers. And this can only be achieved through mobilization,” he argues.
Will mobilization in Russia change the situation at the front?
One of the reasons why the Kremlin did not go for a general mobilization, according to the expert, is the lack of the necessary infrastructure for the RF Armed Forces to call, supply weapons, send to the front and provide logistics for more people. But also the draft of 300,000 people will significantly increase Russia’s ability to defend the occupied territories, Mangott said.
Another opinion is shared by Joachim Weber from the Center for Security Issues at the University of Bonn. “Increasing the number of troops to 300,000 soldiers is significant,” he says in an interview with DW. “But the benefits of this will not be as much as Putin imagines. Powerful units cannot be formed suddenly, on conscription. You will simply have a crowd of people from which “You can’t create large formations. Nor will it be of much use to stuff a few soldiers here and there into existing units that are already demoralized and may have lost a significant part of their military equipment.”
According to Weber, mobilization in Russia will not be a momentary factor that will turn the tide, but in the medium term it will be of great importance in terms of the balance of power. That is why the reaction of the West to this step will now play a key role, the expert is sure.
How powerful will the protests against mobilization in Russia become?
In connection with the announcement of mobilization in a number of Russian cities, on September 21, protest actions, however, none of them had a truly massive, spontaneous character. Joachim Weber believes that in the “totalitarian acting state” that he sees as Russia under Putin, one can hardly expect major protests. “However, it (Putin. – Ed.) the reputation will suffer greatly, – says the expert. – This is a consequence of the lies with which he started the war when he spoke of a limited “special operation”, as if the security forces were deployed against a group of terrorists. He kept silent before his country that he was starting a real full-scale war of one state against another state, that this interstate war was developing in any way, but not successfully: after all, Russia had lost tens of thousands of people killed and wounded.
“From the Russian point of view, all this is rather unhappy, and I don’t think that most Russians would like to be drawn into a big war,” he states.
The announced mobilization may lead to a change of mood in Russian society, Gerhard Mangott also notes. “Until now, the Russian leadership has managed to maintain a semblance of normality, primarily in large cities: in St. Petersburg or Moscow, people did not feel that there was a war going on. Now this will change. With the announcement of mobilization, war will enter almost every home: fathers and sons will be sent to the front, pulled out of their jobs to fight in Ukraine. Now the war will be noticed by the majority of the population,” he predicts.
Like Joachim Weber, Gerhard Mangott believes that the number of opponents of the war in Russia will increase, but this will not necessarily lead to protests, “because they are associated with big personal risk“.
“Referendums” in the East of Ukraine and the likelihood of Russia using nuclear weapons
Meanwhile, the “referendums” scheduled for the end of September on joining the occupied Ukrainian territories to the Russian Federation worry Joachim Weber more than the mobilization in Russia. These fake “referendums” are a legal innovation created by Putin, and they will have no meaning, the expert emphasizes. However, by declaring the regions in eastern Ukraine as part of Russia, Putin will act in a new legal framework, the framework of which will be the “defense of Russia”, and will stake on this narrative as much as possible, although what will be “protected” is not Russia at all. and the conquered territories of Ukraine, predicts Weber.
Gerhard Mangott, an expert at the University of Innsbruck, takes very seriously the threat of nuclear escalation that may arise after “referendums” in eastern Ukraine on the annexation of the territories occupied by Russian troops to the Russian Federation.
Until now, Putin has not uttered a word “nuclear weapon”. He spoke only of using “all necessary” and “available” means, Mangott recalls, adding that tactical nuclear weapons were “of course, implied.”
According to him, by doing so, Putin wanted to make the West think about whether he should continue to supply Ukraine with weapons. “At this stage, the West does not want to be intimidated, but what happens if Putin clearly announces his intention to use tactical nuclear weapons? Will Western support for Ukraine then decrease and will Ukrainian troops stop trying to retake Russian-occupied territories? Or will it be necessary that the Russian side “even detonated in some uninhabited territory to demonstrate its determination? If this deterrence does not work, then, unfortunately, it cannot be ruled out that the Russian side will use nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” the expert argues.
Ukraine has already carried out military actions in the Kursk and Belgorod regions and launched rocket attacks on weapons depots in the annexed Crimea, which Russia considers its state territory, the professor reminds. “However, until now, there has not been a single Ukrainian military on the territory declared by Russia as “theirs”. If Ukraine does not succumb to intimidation and continues the offensive, then this (the appearance of the Ukrainian military on the territory that Russia has declared “theirs”. – Ed.) may occur for the first time, and then danger of nuclear escalation It’s going to be really big,” he says.
How should the West react to mobilization in Russia?
Nico Lange takes a different view. “I get the impression that all these laws (amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, introducing the concepts of “mobilization”, “martial law” and “wartime. – Ed.) and threats that Russia “will use all means”, as well as playing with nuclear threats, is part of psychological warfare,” he says.
“Putin is weak now. And I think that the most important message now, for all of us in Germany, in Europe, is that we cannot be intimidated, including by laws that do not change the military situation, but only emphasize that Russia inside is an authoritarian and totalitarian system,” Lange argues in an interview with DW.
He considers it a good signal that this week the German government decided to supply Ukraine with another batch of howitzers, Mars II MLRS systems and Dingo armored vehicles. “It would be nice if Germany began to move further – in terms of the supply of infantry fighting vehicles and other armored vehiclesthat Ukraine needs. I think Germany understands that the best way to end the war is strong support for Ukraine,” he said.
Joachim Weber expresses a similar opinion: “In fact, Ukraine has already mobilized its entire combat-ready male population. It is difficult to do anything more,” he notes. Western arms supplies. Therefore, it is obvious that, as a result of Russian mobilization, the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine should seriously increase once again. Otherwise, there is a risk of a military defeat of Ukraine, and at the same time – its complete destruction as a state. And this cannot be afforded in the face of Putin’s Russia.”