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Sep 23, 2022
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Putin crosses the last Rubicon

Guy Julius Caesar, from whom, in fact, this expression went, crossed the Rubicon one single time. Vladimir Putin managed to do this many times. The starting presidential Rubicon took place in 2014 – at the time of the reunification of Russia and Crimea and the beginning of the uprising in the Donbass. Putin’s second Rubicon is, of course, February 2022. And, finally, we are observing the third transition of the President of the Russian Federation across the “river of fate” in real time right now – in the last ten days of September and, possibly, in the first ten days of October.

In the news flow of these days, for absolutely understandable and logical reasons, Vladimir Putin’s decree on partial mobilization had the most powerful impact on the mood of the country. However, this decree is only one element of a large package of decisions, only a part of which is currently known to the public.

The leader of Russia has clearly formulated a fundamentally new political strategy. In the coming days, or at most weeks, we will find out exactly what this strategy is.

Dmitry Medvedev is a figure with a not entirely clear-cut status in the Russian power hierarchy. On the one hand, he is a member of the top political leadership of the state, the only deputy of Vladimir Putin himself in the Security Council. On the other hand, Dmitry Anatolyevich is the owner of a position specially created for him, which, strictly speaking, is not absolutely necessary. This raises the problem of interpreting his statements.

In what capacity does he act – a spokesman for the official position of Moscow, or even an extremely high-ranking, but still a commentator? Here, for example, is what is contained in Dmitry Medvedev’s latest entry in his Telegram channel:

“one. Referendums will be held, and the Donbass republics and other territories will be accepted into Russia.

2. The defense of all the joined territories will be significantly strengthened by the Russian Armed Forces.

3. Russia announced that not only mobilization capabilities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons and weapons based on new principles, can be used for such protection.

I omit the usual rhetoric for Dmitry Anatolyevich of recent days about “various retired idiots with generals’ stripes” who “should not scare us with talk about a NATO strike on Crimea.” The most important thing, it seems to me, he has already said.

But this is not the only and not the most important problem in interpreting the statements of the highest officials of the Russian state.

“I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for individual components – more modern than those of the NATO countries. And if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. It’s not a bluff.

The citizens of Russia can be sure that the territorial integrity of our Motherland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind rose can also turn in their direction,” these lines from Vladimir Putin’s address to the people two days ago were quoted so often that many almost learned them by heart. But what exactly is the meaning of the presidential signal to official Kyiv and NATO countries?

I want to remind you that after summing up the official results of referenda and other relevant procedures from the point of view of Russian legislation, Donetsk, Melitopol and Zaporozhye will become exactly the same parts of our country as Moscow, St. Petersburg or Kaliningrad.

Ukraine, of course, does not recognize the new status quo and will not give up trying to regain its “lost territories” by military means. But now the Kremlin will interpret such attempts as an attack on, to quote Putin verbatim, “the territorial integrity of our Motherland, our independence and freedom.”

Question: how exactly will such encroachments be stopped? Part of the answer to this question is contained in the very fact of the appearance of a presidential decree on partial mobilization. But is this partial answer really complete and unique?

Today I would not dare to give at least some unambiguous answer to this question. Vladimir Putin left himself a very wide margin of maneuver when making a decision – perhaps the most fateful decision in the modern history of our (and not only our) country.

At the moment, there are no formal signs that the Russian authorities are ready to abandon the term “special military operation.” But here is a fragment of Vladimir Putin’s recent address, which has already become no less famous: “In Washington, London, Brussels, they are directly pushing Kyiv to transfer military operations to our territory. No longer hiding, they say that Russia should be defeated by all means on the battlefield, followed by the deprivation of political, economic, cultural, in general, any sovereignty, with the complete plunder of our country.

Is it definitely stopped with the help of such a serious, but at the same time quite local and limited measure, as a “special military operation”? I have some serious doubts about this.

Turkish President Erdogan recently said that Vladimir Putin wants to end the Ukrainian conflict as soon as possible. I fully trust the political insider and political instincts of the Turkish leader in this matter.

But is there any need to add that the President of the Russian Federation wants to end this conflict on his own terms as soon as possible? It may very well be that I misunderstand something and interpret something incorrectly. After all, only Putin himself and members of his inner circle have the full knowledge of Putin’s intentions.

Therefore, I will speak very carefully and carefully. It is entirely possible—just possible, not guaranteed—that we are fast approaching something very fateful. For example, by the time when official Kyiv, under the pressure of force majeure circumstances, will still be forced to make a clear choice. But in any case, we are definitely on the verge of something unprecedented – it is not clear what exactly, but exactly what the living generations of citizens of the Russian Federation have not yet encountered.

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