Putin Reminds Us How Easily War Could Spread

Still, 'mobilization of reservists risks provoking widespread anger' at home
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2022 4:45 PM CDT
Putin Reminds Us How Easily War Could Spread
Ukrainian servicemen climb on a fighting vehicle outside Kyiv, Ukraine, April 2, 2022.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

(Newser) – Vladimir Putin is "not out of tricks," writes the Globe and Mail editorial board, and he proved as much Wednesday by backing sham referendums on Russian accession in four occupied territories of Ukraine, calling up 300,000 reservists, and threatening every possible defense of Russian territory. Here are four reactions to Putin's speech:

  • Weak attempt at justification: In "resorting to a Potemkin vote to annex territories from which its soldiers are in danger of being evicted," Russia is distracting from that fact that Putin's invasion "has been an error-ridden disaster that has weakened him domestically and internationally," continues the Globe and Mail editorial board. He underestimated his opponents and the support they would receive while overestimating Russia's military might. And now comes "a weak attempt at providing some sort of justification, in Russia's favor, of a war" that has killed tens of thousands and "made refugees of more than six million others."

  • No real help: The assumed annexations seek to contain Ukrainian advances, which threaten much of the territory captured by Russia, and could allow Russia to send conscripts into these areas, according to the Economist. But it would also "commit Mr. Putin to the financial and political upkeep of a war-torn region under perpetual risk of attack." Meanwhile, "the spectre of the conscription of young men and the mobilization of reservists risks provoking widespread anger at Mr. Putin's regime while offering little short-term help on the battlefield." It notes training and equipping 300,000 reservists "would probably take more than a year."

  • Passing off defeats as victories: "Beginning a new phase of the war, the cornered Putin is dragging a significant portion of Russians behind him" while trying to "pass off defeats as victories," writes Andrei Kolesnikov at CNN. In touting Ukrainian territory as Russian, Putin can claim justification to transform his supposed special military operation "into the official status of war and to create the possibility of general mobilization," Kolesnikov adds. But "the longer Putin delays ending the war … the harder it will be for him to make peace later on in terms that could be portrayed as victory."

  • Putin 'at his most dangerous': Putin's speech "at once inverted a war of aggression against a neighbor into one of defense of the 'motherland,'" and served as "a reminder of how easily the war in Ukraine could spread," Roger Cohen writes at the New York Times, noting a cornered Putin "is Mr. Putin at his most dangerous." If the bogus referendums lead to Russian annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, then ongoing Ukrainian efforts to recapture those areas "could, in Russia's view, be viewed as an attack on Russian soil, justifying a nuclear riposte."
(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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