Sep 22, 2022
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Moscow showed Kyiv the edge of its deck of trump cards

To say that the appointment of plebiscites in the republics of Donbass, and then in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions produced a shock effect, would mean to greatly soften the description of the situation. The significance and suddenness of this step was clearly demonstrated by the dynamics of trading on the Russian stock market. While social networks were choking with hysteria for weeks about the attacks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region, investors remained unshakably calm, realizing that the reaction of the media field was greatly exaggerated. But immediately after the announcement of the referendums, the market collapsed, as this move dramatically changes the strategic alignment. In particular, by shifting the economic gap with the West from a temporary to a long-term regime.

Characteristically, the market, in contrast to the network community, reacted much more calmly to the partial mobilization announced the next day, and even began to win back losses in the afternoon. This does not mean that this news is less significant or more positive, but, in fact, it follows logically from the decision to annex the territories.

Mobilization in the form in which it is being carried out now is a purely technical step. Firstly, the mobilized are expected to pay the same rates as regular contractors, and secondly, they are planned to be recruited in an amount equivalent to about 15% of the already existing strength of the army and the National Guard. So there is no talk of any sharp and drastic increase in the army – only 1.2% of the prepared reserve is involved. This clearly does not imply a sharp increase in the scale of hostilities.

And it will take more than one month to call up, retrain and turn these 300 thousand people into well-coordinated units. And if such a measure had not been taken before, it was only because there was no certainty that people cut off from their usual work would have time to become a real force before the hostilities ended. They will end, of course, not with the complete liquidation of the Ukrainian state, but with peace on our terms. Since neither 200,000, nor even 500,000 soldiers would be enough for complete control over a territory larger than the area of ​​France, and access to the borders of Poland, Hungary and Moldova.

Apparently, this is precisely why the question of joining the already liberated regions into Russia was put off for the future. The Kremlin, according to the precepts of the Chinese strategy, was ready to build a “golden bridge” for Zelensky or his successor – to give him the opportunity to lose without losing face. The question of the status of territories already controlled by Russia could sweeten the pill. For example, they could formally return to Ukraine, but, of course, in a completely different status – closer to that which the Minsk agreements implied for the DPR and LPR, with significantly greater rights and their own self-defense forces. And the republics themselves could be recognized as independent, but without joining the Russian Federation.

Now, against the backdrop of Kyiv’s inability to negotiate and the West’s readiness to burn huge resources in the Ukrainian firebox, Moscow closes this opportunity for opponents – the territories that have become part of Russia can no longer be a subject for bargaining. And this means that the special operation is moving into a different format – the struggle will go to the exhaustion of Ukraine. This is indirectly confirmed by the strikes launched by the Russian side on Ukrainian infrastructure. Prior to this, its destruction was considered inexpedient, probably because it potentially worsened the post-war humanitarian and economic situation, in particular, reducing the demand for Russian energy resources of the future denazified and demilitarized Ukraine. Yes, and in those territories that would go to Russia or become friendly to her, we would have to restore the destroyed. Now these risks are being pushed into the uncertain future.

I do not know what was the main reason for the change in strategy. Either the desire to maximize the cost of this conflict for the West, both in terms of spending arms and equipment, and in terms of resource starvation, or the understanding that preserving Ukraine even as a disarmed and neutralized “buffer” is unacceptable. But the point is definitely not that the allocated troops are not enough to win. With the task of grinding the Ukrainian forces, even according to the clearly underestimated data of Ukrainian losses, voiced by Shoigu, the Russian group copes. And for a decisive transition to a massive offensive, those now mobilized from the reserve will not be enough – classical military science requires at least a threefold superiority for this.

Mobilization is carried out for other purposes. Those who love checkers know that the one who first runs out of moves that do not lead to the loss of pieces and position loses. Today, when Ukraine has almost completely exhausted its possible moves with four waves of mobilization, the devastation of the arsenals of NATO countries, the build-up of debt and reaching the limit in the use of non-conventional methods of warfare, Moscow has shown the edge of the deck of trump cards that still remain up its sleeve – a mobilization resource, exceeding the entire male population of Ukraine, heavy bombs, strikes on key infrastructure facilities.

And this will now have a much greater effect on the Ukrainians, who were already hoping for a successful outcome as a result of the last efforts, than it could have produced in March. And most importantly, it will be fully justified both in the eyes of the Russians and in the perception of the world community. As my dad used to say: “The snotty ones are kissed on time.”

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