Putin wants total war

January 4, 2023

Putin has ordered civilian hospitals to be prepared to accept soldiers wounded in Ukraine for treatment.

This means that the Russians are expecting heavy casualties that the military hospitals will not be able to handle. Since heavy casualties usually result from offensive operations, this implies that VSRF will try — as expected — to seize the initiative despite recent setbacks and go on the offensive. They have about 200,000 soldiers from the fall mobilization to use, but analysts do not believe these would be sufficient for serious breakthroughs. Girkin estimates that at least another 500,000 would be needed, and Zaluzhnyi noted that the Russians have about 1,500,000 in reserve from which to draw. Thus, it is likely that mobilization will accelerate in preparation for a massive increase in the numbers of troops sent to Ukraine. It is likely that this is what Lavrov was referring to recently when he threatened that the Russian army will impose the desired terms on Ukraine.

In preparation for what will be doubtless be a hugely unpopular callup of reservists, the Kremlin has launched a propaganda campaign. First, Putin delivered the New Year’s Address from a military base, surrounded by soldiers. Second, the propagandists have launched what, in essence, is a death cult — droning on and on about the low value of Russian lives unless they are given in the service of the motherland. (Meanwhile, none of them has rushed to die in Ukraine, of course.) Third, the Kremlin is using front groups, like that fake Association of Military Widows, that are clamoring for total mobilization for victory. The idea is to make it look like there’s huge popular pressure for this that would “force” Putin to respond despite him not really wanting to. It seems preposterous (and the group is easily shown to be fake) but the illusion will work — as more media picks up the story to report on the call from these “widows”, the impression is created that there is a majority out there that wants and supports this. It is precisely this manufactured consensus that allows governments to implement the policies they want because potential opponents are silenced by the perception that there are just too few of them to make a difference. Fourth, the Defense Ministry acknowledged the losses at Makiivka with what appears by their standards to be unseemly haste. The willingness to admit to losses — although even now they are lying about their magnitude — is certainly new, but in keeping with the course.

Whether any of this can win the war for Putin is extremely doubtful. The hundreds of thousands of mobiki are ill equipped, badly trained, and very poorly motivated. They lack competent command, and they know it. They have to fight with obsolete equipment that the Soviets put into storage half a century ago. And they will be going home in body bags in large numbers just when the Russian economy will be straining to provide for consumer goods since it will be more and more oriented toward the war.

Far from showing exhaustion with the war, the West is ratcheting up its support for Ukraine. France became the first to deliver IFVs, and will likely soon be followed by the US and Germany. I am fairly confident Western tanks will be delivered as well. The US has also increased its capacity to produce ammo, with results to be expected in just a few months. All countries of the global West are increasing their defense spending, and will provide Ukraine with artillery and air-defense systems in larger quantities. The Russians will have to launch their offensives without command of the skies, yet another sure multiplier of losses.

Meanwhile, Russia’s lone hope — China — is in turmoil. Xi’s failed COVID policies have unleashed social protest, and their sudden relaxation has plunged the country into a frenzy of infections. Some experts estimate that the daily deaths there could reach 25,000 by the end of January. I just watched a video where people were burning a dead relative in the street because the city crematoria were already working at capacity. China will need help to deal with this situation — maybe they will accept the vaccines that we are offering them? But the new Foreign Minister just gave a speech that sounded like an invitation to cooperate with the US, even going so far as saying that the future depends on the US and China working together. Amen to that. But very bad news for Putin, who must be under serious pressure from Xi to end the war as soon as possible.

Putin may have decided to go va banque in Ukraine with total mobilization. It is unlikely to win him the war.

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