Anti-Putin Backlash

The Russian leader may be looking over his shoulder after imposing a draft.

This report is sketchy but plausible:

Business Insider (“Putin has escaped to his secret palace in a forest amid anti-draft protests in Russian cities, report says“):

Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped to his secret palace near Gelendzhik, close to the Black Sea coast, amid anti-draft protests in Russia, MailOnline was first to report.

According to independent journalist Farida Rusamova, who cited three sources familiar with Putin’s schedule, the Russian president traveled to his vacation home on Wednesday.

He has been resting his “body and soul” there, Rusamova said in a Telegram post, enjoying the facilities of the palace, which Putin publicly denies belongs to him.

[…]

Rusamova claimed that Putin intends to stay at the palace until at least next Thursday. The journalist also claimed that the president had pre-recorded several videos of meetings, which Russian state media intends to release sporadically throughout the week, to try and mask his absence from the public.

It follows another, better corroborated, BI report (“Seeking to avoid another major failure, Putin has become more hands-on with his commanders, refusing their requests to retreat from the last Ukrainian city under Russian control“) from over the weekend:

As he loses his grasp in his unprovoked war against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved to further embed himself into the war’s strategic planning efforts — but his decision-making seems to contrast with those in the action.

Dismissing on-the-ground commanders’ pleas for soldiers to retreat, Putin has decided to remain in Kherson, a major Southern city in Ukraine, the last in Russian control, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The Times report said that withdrawing from Kherson would save lives and equipment, but would also be another blow to Putin’s waning plan to conquer the country. As such, the Russian president has immersed himself further into the strategic planning of the war, countering some of the wishes of Russian forces on the ground.

“In this war, there has been a consistent mismatch between Putin’s political objectives and the military means to attain them,” Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute, told The Times. “At important decision points, Putin has procrastinated, refusing to recognize the reality, until the options turned from bad to worse.”

The Daily Beast reports this morning (“Russian War Protester Shoots Commander Trying to Draft Citizens“):

While many Russians have opted to flee the country to dodge Vladimir Putin’s desperate draft for the war in Ukraine, one man took his protest a little bit further and shot a recruitment commander.

Local authorities announced Monday’s attack, which unfolded in the city of Ust-Ilimsk in the Irkutsk region of Siberia. A video of the incident inside an enlistment office appears to show the unidentified gunman dressed in military fatigues firing on the official at point-blank range, causing other potential draftees to flee the room.

The shooter identified himself in a video published on social media as 25-year-old Ruslan Zinin, Reuters reports. Writing on encrypted messaging app Telegram, Irkutsk regional governor Igor Kobzev said the draft officer was left fighting for his life and remained in a critical condition after the shooting. Kobzev added that the shooter had been detained and “will absolutely be punished.”

A witness to the shooting said the gunman opened fire after the recruiting commander had delivered a “clumsy” pep talk for the men assembled in the office to go off to battle in Ukraine. “Nobody is going anywhere,” the shooter said before beginning the assault, the witness told the Baikal People outlet, according to The Guardian.

The shooting is just the latest attack on Russian enlistment offices since Putin announced the mobilization of around 300,000 new troops last Wednesday, which has plunged the country into chaos. At least 17 administrative offices have been torched in arson attacks since the call-up was announced, according to the independent Mediazona news site, with many fearing that the initially limited mobilization will eventually expand to encompass much greater numbers than those touted by the Russian president.

FT (“Anti-mobilisation protests spread in Russia“) reports on the wider protests:

Protests across Russia continued over the weekend against President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilise the armed forces’ reserves, in the starkest sign of popular discontent since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February.

Locals in Dagestan, an impoverished, mostly Muslim region in the mountainous North Caucasus, blocked off a highway and clashed with police as they chanted “No to war!”, according to videos posted on social media by local activists.

The unrest, which comes as public opposition to the war has been outlawed and made punishable with up to 15 years in prison, points to widespread anger at Putin’s decision to call up hundreds of thousands of men into the Russian army, its first military mobilisation since the second world war.

Arson attacks were reported at army recruitment offices in 16 Russian regions in the days following Putin’s announcement on Wednesday — nearly as many incidents as in the war’s first six months. More than 2,240 people have been arrested for protesting against the mobilisation decree, according to rights monitor OVD-Info.

Thousands of Russians have attempted to flee the country amid unconfirmed reports from independent outlets that the Kremlin is considering closing the borders for draft-eligible men. Almost all flights to the few remaining destinations available after western countries closed their airspace to Russia were sold out for days. Long lines of cars formed at Russia’s land borders with Georgia, Finland, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, prompting some people to attempt to cross on bicycles or buy places in the line on social media.

The Kremlin has attempted to tame rising public anger at Putin’s mobilisation decree, which has shattered a carefully maintained equilibrium that allowed most Russians to largely go on with their lives as normal since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

[…]

Russia’s two most senior lawmakers attempted to lay the blame on local officials, who are technically in charge of the hiring efforts and often used as scapegoats to shield Putin from unpopular decisions. “If mistakes are made, they must be corrected,” wrote Viacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Duma. Valentina Matvienko, chair of Russia’s senate, said “going overboard like this is absolutely unacceptable” and “is meeting an absolutely justifiably harsh reaction in society”.

We’ve seen protests before under Putin’s tenure and he’s survived them. But we’ve never seen anything this large or this brazen. And the fact that senior politicians are defending the protestors, not Putin, is something new.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped to his secret palace near Gelendzhik, close to the Black Sea coast,

    Not quite a secret, then.

    8
  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Add a chapter to How Not to Build an Effective Army, the Russians are reportedly drafting Ukrainians in the occupied territories to fight against Ukraine, While in the Crimea, the Tarter minority is protesting that overwhelmingly, draftees from Crimea are coming from the discriminated against Tarter minority, all but accusing the Russians as using the draft as part of a genocide campaign against the Tarters. What could go wrong? What is Russian for fragging?

    Putin’s future is tenuous, he has frayed the cocoon that had shielded the Russian people from the reality of the special military operation and brought citizens to the street, not only in the urban areas of western Russia, but across the Steppe and Siberia. He may survive, but has been weakened and will never recover the power he had.

    Some advice, stay away from open windows and let others grab the door knob.

    4
  3. grumpy realist says:

    There’s also reports that Russia is forcibly grabbing people from the occupied territories and shoving them into the Russian army.

    Let’s see…you take people who don’t want to have anything to do with a war, arm them, and then put them near other people who are perfectly willing to use them up “against the enemy”.

    Yup, I see a lot of “friendly fire” deaths.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    The goal of the United States in this war is to weaken Russia. It’s working.

    6
  5. JohnSF says:

    Provoking the Daghestanis too much is probably not wise.
    They tend to be a copiously armed and rather prickly bunch; the Chechen jihadis came to regret picking a fight with them.
    At the moment the local authorities seem willing to go along with Moscow’s wishes.
    If the politics of that shift, Moscow may have problems.

    Some of the securocrats in the Kremlin may be starting to have clenching moments as to the wisdom of dispatching so many rosgvardia security troops to Ukraine, presumably as a occupation force, then getting loads of them killed off using them as line infantry.
    Oops.

    1
  6. JohnSF says:

    The thing is, the sheer jaw dropping idiocy of Russian “lawmakers”, having witnessed the incompetence of the military system over the past six months, now surprised to find that “partial mobilization” is being also being screwed up.

    And this same system is now going to train, equip, provision and assign the new and recalled soldiers in an effective manner?

    There are already reports of untrained conscripts being sent direct to front units!

    The Muscovite elite seem to think that, if only they keep pressing the buttons and pulling the leavers, suddenly the Red Army of 1945 will arise once more invincible, like a cut-rate King Arthur in a commissars uniform.

    3
  7. Mister Bluster says:
  8. drj says:

    @JohnSF:

    The Muscovite elite seem to think…

    Perhaps. Or they are afraid of the consequences of pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. There is no imaginable (personal) upside to it, right now.

    As to the emperor himself… who knows.

    I’m getting Führerbunker vibes myself: isolated, moving severely attrited BTGs around on a map, some Wunderwaffen thrown in there as well. Maybe that’s not fair, but I just can’t discern a rational strategy.

    2
  9. Slugger says:

    Let’s see now. An unpopular war with setbacks despite fighting an opponent who has no navy and no air force. Top generals who don’t appear to have any ideas. Unrest in the streets of the big cities. A draft that the sons of the elite are able to evade and whose burdens fall on the backs of groups that don’t have clout. Where have I seen all this before?
    Hey, Mr. Putin, Henry Kissinger is still alive; phone him for advice.

    4
  10. JohnSF says:

    @drj:
    But the thing is, there’s been a steady drumbeat from the “nationalist right” element of Putin’s “support ” calling for “harsher measures”; “all out offensive” etc.
    IMO it’s to head off that political threat that Putin decided on the “partial mobilization”.
    And now they seem genuinely taken aback that it’s misfiring.

    Though, Russia being Russia, the Frankenstein kludge will probably just lurch onward into the next scenes.

    1
  11. Kathy says:

    Remember at the beginning of this disaster, there was a push aimed straight at Kyiv, as well as invasion on of Russia’s and Belarus’ borders with Ukraine? Then that stalled and Mad Vlad’s legions redeployed to the east and south only, but Vlad the Mad insisted it was all going according to plan?

    Anyone can see that a plan that wastes lives and resources on a pointless push to the capital, and then abandons gains over large areas, is a plan not worth implementing. Why, then, say it’s all going according to plan?

    Because the alternative is to admit the original plan was a mistake. Not in its objectives, but in the ability of Russia to carry it out.

    Dictators don’t like to admit mistakes.

    Putin has two basic choices: 1) press on to the bitter end, whatever that may be; 2) cut his losses, try to hold on to what territorial gains he might have made, go home, and keep the threat of invasion alive for future use.

    The second admits the whole thing was a mistake, and the further mistake that the high water Russian mark is past and now Vlad is in for diminishing returns.

    So the bitter end it is.

    3
  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    If, as has been reported, the Russians are really calling up 1.2 million, that number of bodies will carry some weight on the battlefield. If. If they actually get anything close to that number. If they can equip them. If they can train them. If they can provide officers and what passes for NCO’s in this amateur-hour army of Putin’s.

    The Russians seem to be betting that they have more bodies than Ukraine has bullets. Untrained, poorly-equipped and probably unwilling Russians are going into battle against very experienced, very motivated, pretty well-armed Ukrainians. You can’t even call the Russian draftees amateurs, they’re steps below amateurs who may be motivated at least, they’re just cannon fodder. Before this ends Russia will have taken more casualties than the US did in Korea, plus Vietnam, plus Gulf Wars 1 and 2, plus 20 years of Afghanistan.

    And what Russian triumph can possibly justify this? Ukraine cannot be occupied short of wholesale slaughter and destruction, and then good luck holding onto it. The Putin python is trying to swallow a steer. It’s lunacy. Putin’s best scenario now is he keeps what he already had before he started this war. There is literally no outcome at this point that will paint Putin as anything but one of history’s great fools.

    12
  13. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    It beggars belief.
    In WW1 it was shown that me, even well trained professionals, did not have a prayer in head on assaults with rifles and bayonets against barbed wire, machine guns, and ranged in artillery.
    Modern weapons turn WW1 firepower up to 11.
    “Cannon fodder” in modern warfare is just a waste of resources better used on effective formations.
    One of Russia’s most asinine decisions in this campaign has been using DNR/LNR militias as line infantry.
    Generally, they’ve just ended up dying.

    Korea, plus Vietnam, plus Gulf Wars 1 and 2, plus 20 years of Afghanistan.

    Russia blowing past all those markers and heading for World War table placings.

    Thing is, you need an army that is well motivated and well led to endure that sort of carnage.
    Even the French Army in WW1, which (silly jokery notwithstanding) was one of the most formidable fighting forces the world has ever seen, was driven to mutiny at times.

    Even if the Russians don’t revolt, the simple, horrible, mathematics are that the Ukrainian can eliminate them quicker than they can turn up, given continuing NATO weapons supply at scale.

    5
  14. Scott says:

    Do you think he will end up being drafted? That would make me laugh so hard!

    Putin grants Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden

    President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden, according to a decree signed by the Russian leader on Monday.

    Snowden is one of 75 foreign nationals listed by the decree as being granted Russian citizenship. The decree was published on an official government website.

    11
  15. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Here is a quote from a tweet by Slava Malamud I read in Ballon Juice this AM. There is a phrase for this in Russian: zakidat’ myasom, “to bury (them) in meat”, meaning to throw enough expendable, uncounted, doomed conscripts at the enemy to overwhelm it with numbers, and let the veterans sweep in.

    1
  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mr. Prosser:
    That was certainly what the Soviets did. But that was do or die against an invasion. And it was the 40’s, long before social media. We’re going to be getting more intercepted phone calls between scared-to-death conscripts and their frightened mothers. Heard one the other day involving a wounded guy who starts out all stiff upper lip but is soon crying to his wife.

    I still think Ukraine should offer any Russian who surrenders, not a POW camp, but a one-way train ticket to a western country. Die here in Ukraine, or go check out Warsaw, Tblisi, Paris. . .

    2
  17. Andy says:

    It’s not exactly clear just how widespread the protests and refusenik sentiment are, and how they will affect things going forward.

    There is just a lot of uncertainty.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If, as has been reported, the Russians are really calling up 1.2 million, that number of bodies will carry some weight on the battlefield.

    Those guesses should not be believed. Russia hasn’t mobilized forces since WW2 and the structure of the armed forces no longer supports the mass mobilization model (Russia had been transitioning from a mass-mobilization model to a hybrid volunteer/conscription model starting around 2008). Therefore there are structural limitations on the number of forces (“throughput”) that Russia can process and turn into new units. The Russian military lacks the necessary elements to support that kind of increase in manpower – even the increase in 300k is questionable in terms of how quickly they can be fielded – and it will take a long time to create those elements. Heck, that’s not even something the US could do – we don’t have a mass mobilization system either. We can activate reserve and guard units and potentially use conscription for replacements, but creating new formations would take a significant amount of time and you’d have to divert experienced officers and NCOs from existing units to form the cadre for new units. Those are precisely the type of personnel Russia is very short of right now – most were killed or wounded in the first month.

    The first tranche of new Russian manpower looks like they will be going to existing units which have been undermanned from the beginning of the war, and are even weaker due to losses. This has long been a known weakness for Russia, but was especially highlighted in the loss of the Kharkiv region. It turns out that where Ukrainian forces broke through, that part of the line was only defended by a handful of company-sized units (nominally ~150 personnel per company, but likely more like 75). Russia simply doesn’t have enough manpower to defend the lines it currently has, much less undertake offensive operations.

    This is one of the reasons operational commanders reportedly asked to abandon Kherson and fall back to the east side of the Dnipr as a new defensive line. That makes sense from an operational POV, but it is obviously contrary to Russian political goals for this war.

    Overall I think the situation has gotten a lot murkier, and the future is highly uncertain. Russia’s political commitment to this war was demonstrated by mobilization – if they go further, as expected, conduct “referendums” and then annex these territories, then that will be fully crossing the Rubicon. It would leave little room for any negotiated settlement and signal that Putin is effectively staking his regime and the current Russian government on this war.

    3
  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To repeat myself from yesterday,

    “I will explain to the Russians what is happening in Russian, Fifty-five thousand Russian soldiers died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity.

    “These are the options for you to survive.”

    – Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy

    1
  19. JohnSF says:

    @Mr. Prosser:
    Except it rarely worked.
    If you try that against dug in defences with weapons set up for a “beaten zone”, and especially if there’s barbed wire in use, your “cannon fodder” will fed them cannons at ranges of 1000 to 2000 metres.
    Utterly pointless.

    A grandfather was with the Shropshire Rifles at the Somme: even well trained assault infantry had small chance of success in that sort of situation.

    4
  20. Gustopher says:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin escaped to his secret palace near Gelendzhik, close to the Black Sea coast,

    This sounds a lot like the complaints that Biden keeps going to Delaware.

    (Remote workers just aren’t respected — but if you can’t measure productivity better than hours spent in office, you’re a bad manager. Putin can war-crime from the Black Sea as well as from Moscow.)

    6
  21. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The other major difference is in WWII the nazis were intent on conquering the Soviet Union, and subjugating the native population (if not exterminating the Slavic peoples entirely). That made it worth facing and enduring all the horrors of war.

    In contrast Ukraine won’t invade Russia, much less conquer it, nor subjugate anyone. At most they’ll go after war criminals in territories they recover. The last would have a good incentive to fight, and an even better one to flee.

    1
  22. Michael Cain says:

    @JohnSF:

    will fed them cannons at ranges of 1000 to 2000 metres.

    Given satellites, drones, and partisans for spotters and contemporary NATO artillery, the grinder is going to get farther and farther from where the Ukrainian troops are. The latest-gen Excalibur artillery rounds are supposed to include the ability to autonomously target specific vehicle types, including moving vehicles. If they can find and hit railroad locomotives, the new recruits are going to walk the last 30-50 km.

    1
  23. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:
    True enough; was thinking in terms of WW2 and WW1.
    Modern warfare takes that and turns it up to 11.
    Universal automatic weapons replace relatively few HMG; artillery is even more responsive.

    Trying to force your way through with untrained and ill equipped and poorly supported men is just sheer bloody murder to no purpose.
    It was appalling enough at Passchendaele, and least then they had the excuse of not knowing it would fail in advance.

    2
  24. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    The Russian front in WWI was quite different from the trench warfare in the Western front. More maneuverability and shifting lines, at least at first. Then, too, Russia mobilized much faster than Germany estimated they would, and achieved gains in the beginning of the war.

    Funny thing, after things began to go badly for Russia, Czar Nicholas Romanov His Own Self, decided to take control of the conduct of the war from the generals. Sounds very much like something Mad Vlad I just did, too.

    Though I doubt he’ll wind up shot death with his entire family in a House of Special Purpose.

    2
  25. Franklin says:

    He has been resting his “body and soul” there, Rusamova said in a Telegram post, enjoying the facilities of the palace …

    Hey, now, no rest for the wicked!

    (I’m sure a comrade on the front line would love to have a few days off …)

  26. dazedandconfused says:

    Michael,

    Beware of mirror-imaging the Russian force. We may make everybody into infantry first but it’s not actually necessary to do that. Tooth to tail can be 1 to 10. These conscripts can be useful in supply and engineering, look for them to drag in mechanics, drivers, construction and road/rail workers. The Russians seem to be configuring for defense so there’s a hell of a lot of defensive works to create, ditches to dig, roads and rails to fix. Most of this war has been artillery duels so the infantry rifle training has not been a factor outside of that 10% tooth part. When you pull from the general population you pull a lot of know-how which does not exist in most of the 18-25 demographic.

    Not saying this will be decisive, just pointing out these conscripts are not necessarily going to be used for human wave assaults and can be useful even with practically zero training. We should be careful not to place our template over them.

    2
  27. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    Yes; but where forces did come into contact, it very often “locked up”.
    Some of the bloodiest fighting of WW1 was in the Carpathian Mts. between Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies.
    Similar in Palestine, but on a smaller scale: the numbers engaged were insufficient to “fill up” continuous lines in depth.
    My other grandfather was at Megiddo (Always regret I never knew him to get him a T-shirt: “Armageddon: Been there, done that.”)

    1
  28. grumpy realist says:

    @dazedandconfused: Except if you pull your “workers” from your heavy industry and your “medical people” from your doctors and nurses, you have ricochetting effects on your industrial production and general healthcare.

    It’s certain that countries have been able to mobilise and “keep the back offices going” (Rosie the Riveteer, Land Girls in the U.K. in WWI), but the one thing you CAN’T do is try to reorganise your society to provide such (with a lot of hoopla about “sacrifices” AND at the same time brush off the whole thing as not-a-war.

    Putin can’t figure out whether he wants to treat the Ukrainians as The Nazis Round II or miserable little pipsqueaks who can’t say boo. Which is part of the reason he’s in such a pickle at present.

    1
  29. MarkedMan says:

    No experience with war, but have seen what happens when posers rise to the top of an organization and then things start to fall apart. Their primary goals are to a) appear to be backing leadership 1000%, and b) constantly scan to see who is likely to replace leadership and prepare to jump ship with them. Bottom line, don’t look for actions that make sense. Look for actions that support what leadership asks for no matter how disastrous the consequences.

    5
  30. charon says:

    https://twitter.com/PhillipsPOBrien/status/1574133885113204736

    @GeneralStaffUA
    in their evening update says the Russians are already sending some of the just forcibly raised conscripts into fighting units after no training whatsoever. If true, this is desperate stuff.

    1
  31. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Thing is though, Russian supply and support elements are still, mostly intact from the outset.
    Some have been lost, from the forward elements, and doubtless more bodies to hump and haul are always useful.
    But the Russian main losses seem to have been in line infantry, and a lot of analysts reckon that shortages of such have been a major issue for them.

    As to defensive fighting, the continuing Russian problem is they simply don’t have enough troops to get anywhere near a continuous defence line.
    Less of a problem if they can cover with artillery, but even that is going to become increasingly difficult for them.

    Though agreed that they are not going to be used on the offensive, if the Russians are anywhere near sane. So maybe they will, if Putin has some genius idea.
    At any rate, the Russians still need to abandon Kherson and shorten their lines considerably, or even a stand pat will see them ground to bits in the winter.
    Again, reports on Russian channels that the pro’s are telling Putin just this, but he’s still as stubborn/greedy/unable to choose as ever.

    2
  32. JohnSF says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Another teensy problem:
    Russia at best of times has a massive problem with draft evasion.
    Turn that up to 10 and you get a massive number of people trying to work “in the grey”, so not available to fill vacancies where they’re needed, not paying taxes etc.

    Meanwhile you’re pulling people out of key jobs because your vital worker manpower assignment is useless, because for twenty years of more the conscription officials have used all that solely as means to extract bribes and trade favours.

    And state budget cuts of 10% nominal (c. 30% ? after real inflation?) are being imposed.
    Because of course the economy is doing really well, and sanctions aren’t hurting at all.
    And still worse because priority is going to go to defence, munitions, metropolitan areas, and siloviki graft.
    Not necessarily in that order.

    And falling hardest on the region, where people are really upset about being drafted in droves, rather then the favoured Muscovites.

    2
  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:
    I think the Russians are in worse shape than I sense you do. They’ve thus far failed at everything from logistics to air power to ground combat. These are structural problems of organization and training which are not likely to be fixed in a few months. It looks as if they’re down to dumb artillery, and not enough even of that.

    1
  34. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @JohnSF: @Andy:

    I was listening to a BBC piece on radio this weekend, and a Senior UK military analyst was speaking of how much trouble Russia is in due to the lack of manpower. They are calling up pretty much everyone, but they’re not training them. They’re basically being given a uniform, or part of a uniform, a rifle, a helmet, and some bullets and being shipped out. There is no “basic training”. And many are just bugging out first chance they get. Additionally, they are not creating the infrastructure to supply these new recruits with food, water, ammunition, shelters, etc. Many Russians are putting down their weapons and just blending into the Ukrainian population.

    It was a fascinating report.

    4
  35. JohnSF says:

    @EddieInCA:
    Seeing very mixed messages about what’s going on from media and officials and institutes.
    Except that there’s a lot of good old snafu.
    Asked a military guy informally about what he knows; his reply, basically: “FIIK; except that it’s all very Russian.”
    IMO too soon into the process to be sure.

    But the basic maths and economics seems unchanged.
    And never mind tactics or even supply (aka logistics): Russians don’t have enough men for the task, and have wasted forces on dispersed effort, and continue to do so.
    Russian air force continues to be ineffective.
    Ukrainians have more men, increasingly improving weaponry and force quality, and to impose a adverse loss rate on Russians, in men, equipment, and (possibly) munitions.

    It’s been the same since the Kyiv offensive stalled out.
    Russia remains unable to take the decision to un-jam itself from its losing positions.

    Putin repeatedly misses decision points: should have mobilized and shut off gas to Europe in late Spring.
    Well, actually should have just abandoned the whole wretched damnable business after “decapitation” failed.
    But:

    I am in blood
    Stepped in so far, that, should I wade no more,
    Returning were as tedious as go o’er

    1
  36. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF:
    From The Guardian, this interesting opinion note from political analyst Olga Chyzh evokes some factors that seem in Russian context quite plausible as to what is at play in the otherwise really baffling behaviour: that Putin is playing (and if I understand her argument correctly, favouring) the Security lobby, that Conscription is the demand of a military leadership

    Apart from the military risks, mobilisation also carries serious political risks for Putin’s inner circle. It raises the stakes, threatening to throw a wrench into the delicate balance of power between the rival blocs. In some sense, Russia cannot lose a war if it only ever participated in a “special military operation”. Once announced, mobilisation is the military’s last card: either it turns the war around or Russia will face an embarrassing defeat. If Russia wins, the generals will get all the credit, further tilting the balance of power away from the FSB. If Russia loses, the military will take the blame and the FSB will gain ground. In either case, one bloc wins while the other one may panic. And panic in the inner circle creates risks for its members and the regime itself.

    So conscription delayed and now only done after Military side faction went public is a Very Russian sort of internal back-stab to let them hang.

    That the bizarre game in reality in Putin’s mind

    While the generals are clamouring for more cannon fodder, the intelligence elites know that going for broke is rarely the best strategy. Their preference is to tread more lightly, to use wits rather than muscle, to win by deception, misinformation, blackmail and bribery. An example of the FSB at its finest was the 2014 takeover of Crimea, in which it denied the presence of Russian soldiers and spoke instead of “little green men”. The intelligence elites do best outside the media spotlight, not with the entire world watching, breath held. They need this war to leave the news cycle, or at least drop below the fold, to do their dirty work. The best way to achieve this is by getting Ukraine to enter peace talks, so that Russia can “freeze” the war and win some time.

    So try to burn time until his more successful dirty games can be played.

    Given the queer timing and pattern of certain far right factions in Europe calling for such, her read at least seems coherent (also in terms of Russian internal political patterns). Bonkers, but then the Nazi-Soviet war has so many examples of perverse backstabbing…

  37. Michael Cain says:

    At some point this afternoon I briefly considered the notion that sending 100,000 untrained men to the front is an invitation to have 100,000 men surrender and become POWs that the Ukrainians have to deal with. Wonder what NATO has sent in terms of handling a major POW population?

  38. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think the Russians are in worse shape than I sense you do. They’ve thus far failed at everything from logistics to air power to ground combat. These are structural problems of organization and training which are not likely to be fixed in a few months. It looks as if they’re down to dumb artillery, and not enough even of that.

    I agree they are in very bad shape, and they tend to perform poorly in most critical warfighting areas. Hence why I’m super-skeptical of the 1.2 million mobilization number you mentioned. They are likely to have problems getting the 300k.

    But the important thing to keep in mind is that war is political activity to achieve political goals, and the quality (or lack thereof) of the military force is not always decisive depending on the political goals.

    1
  39. Scott says:

    Just listened to the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN throw out the idea that since it was the USSR who was the permanent member of the Security Council, then the Russian Federation is not a permanent member. Pretty sure that was dealt with in the intervening years but nothing like muddying waters. I mean, if Russian can have illegitimate referendums in Eastern Ukraine to throw sand around why not others?

    2
  40. dazedandconfused says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yes, although imagining the new conscripts to bolster production within Russia is another example of mirror-imaging. They can be used to do that too, there can be hardly any separation between private industry and military in Russia. There is no need for displacement of medical personnel too. This is right next door to them.

    The biggest problem by far is lack of moral. He made no attempt to gin up domestic support for this war. How much training did most of the Taliban have? The North Vietnamese who shelepped tons of supply on modified bicycles down the HCM trails while getting pasted from the air? The Viet Cong? Illiterate peasants handed AKs. We gave Iraqis and Afghans months of training who wouldn’t fight. Training can be extremely over-rated. There is no replacement for will-to-fight, and the most important factor is Putin’s largest problem.

    2
  41. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: Nicely done.

  42. JohnSF says:

    @Lounsbury:
    TBH I’ve almost given up trying to figure out the snake basket of Russian elite politics.
    I’ll gratefully leave that to the FO people who actually get paid for wandering through the wilderness of mirrors.
    But what I AM damn sure of, is if Moscow loses its grip on Daghestan, Tatarstan, etc due to local elite deciding to align with local popular discontent, Russia has very serious problems.
    And (similar but different) if it decides to bear down on Muscovy/Petersburg for manpower and money.
    Choices, decisions, oh my.

  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lounsbury: I read that piece and it certainly sounded plausible, but I don’t know enough about Russian power politics to say anything more. This:

    They need this war to leave the news cycle, or at least drop below the fold, to do their dirty work. The best way to achieve this is by getting Ukraine to enter peace talks, so that Russia can “freeze” the war and win some time.

    has the problem of needing the Ukrainians to cooperate to succeed. Why would the Ukrainians enter peace talks when they are winning? And everything the Russians do telegraphs that they are losing? And this being after Zelenskyy has stated boldly and often that Ukraine will accept nothing less than the total expulsion of Russian forces from all Ukrainian territory including Crimea.

    Not that conditions on the ground can’t change but short of nuclear weapons I can’t see Russia doing anything (in the near term anyway) to bring Ukraine around to suing for peace. The use of nukes has consequences nobody can foretell.

  44. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Andy:

    But the important thing to keep in mind is that war is political activity to achieve political goals, and the quality (or lack thereof) of the military force is not always decisive depending on the political goals.

    A very good point. Zelensky isn’t going to negotiate as long he has the upper hand militarily and in terms of public and foreign support. Putin’s absolute minimum bid would have to be, I keep everything I started with plus some little face-saving plum. His rock bottom, slinking-shamefully-away bid is a long way from where Zelensky is right now.

    The 64 dollar question is, will the West hold firm in support? My guess is that if Europe gets through the winter they’ll stay united. Big if. Pray for global warming to hit hard this winter.

  45. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    …hardly any separation between private industry and military in Russia…

    True enough for the direct arms/munitions sector.
    But the problem is going to be the expanding circles of in/tech/service support.
    This is NOT easy to manage.

    I spent a lot of time some years back investigating the most efficient state directed war economy of all time (IMO): that is UK 1939/45.
    Made both Nazis and Soviets look amateurish.
    It took a lot of effort to make it work; and it had a massive downside on the post-war civil economy: it burned wealth to maximise military capacity.
    I seriously doubt Russia is capable of anything anywhere near comparable.

    The alternative model was the US: using market model free enterprise-ish contractors and almost bottomless money to achieve industrial/military supremacy.
    But Russia 2022 is nowhere close to the autarkic ascendancy of USA 1941-45.

  46. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Lounsbury:

    And panic in the inner circle creates risks for its members and the regime itself.

    They need to be careful about approaching upper floor windows

  47. JohnSF says:

    @Lounsbury:
    @Michael Reynolds:
    It’s not monolithic: Putin is not Stalin, or Hitler; or even Xi.
    He is the “ruler”: but he as a the “nobles” who have some agency.
    At the moment they appear to be maneuvering for power under the “Big Roof” (Putin) not against him.
    But Putin will tend to trim his sails to whichever faction is leading; at the moment the “mobilize for war” idiots. So, give them at least a bit of what they want, and if it doesn’t work, try to discredit them with all the other factions.
    Balance atop the haystacks.

  48. JohnSF says:

    @JohnSF:
    Wretched edit failure!
    He is the “ruler”: but he has the “nobles” who have some agency, and whose interests cannot be wholly overridden.

  49. Barry says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “If, as has been reported, the Russians are really calling up 1.2 million, that number of bodies will carry some weight on the battlefield. If. If they actually get anything close to that number. If they can equip them. If they can train them. If they can provide officers and what passes for NCO’s in this amateur-hour army of Putin’s.”

    It’s been pointed out that Russia could not feed, equip, arm, move competently and supply ~170K troops, pre-HIMARS era. And that was regulars, with likely far higher morale.

    The

  50. Barry says:

    @JohnSF: “Thing is though, Russian supply and support elements are still, mostly intact from the outset.”

    I’ll wager that their transportation and maintenance resources are depleted, and they were not up to the task back from the beginning.

  51. JohnSF says:

    @Barry:
    Oh yes, they were poor, and they’ll have lost equipment due to damage, wear and tear, etc.
    But in manpower terms, behind the final 25km they’re unlikely have suffered very high casualty levels; those back on the supply lines in Russia, virtually nil.

  52. Lounsbury says:

    This should have been here.

    Denmark, Germany and Poland warn of ‘sabotage’ after Nord Stream leaks
    Berlin says Russia’s involvement cannot be excluded after damage to gas pipelines at centre of Europe’s energy crisis

    Sweden’s National Seismology Centre said it had detected two powerful blasts the day before in the area of the gas leaks. “There is no doubt that these were explosions,” Björn Lund, a member of the seismic network, told Swedish state broadcaster SVT.

    Note the placement is close to where the new Norwegian Baltic pipeline to Poland has just begun operations.

    Little blue men-ish.

    tomorrow the gas markets will be somewhat excited.

  53. dazedandconfused says:

    Bring your own bandages…

    “Ask your wives, girlfriends and mothers for pads…”