Monday, September 26, 2022

He's In Trouble

Vladimir Putin is in trouble. His army is experiencing reversals. And he's calling up kids to replace his dwindling forces. Michael Harris writes:

In making these announcements, Putin has planted both feet in a bear trap. U.S. military experts who study developments in Ukraine with a lapidarian’s eye think that conscription will lead to more reversals on the battlefield. Does Russia even have the capacity to take such a large number of men and turn them into soldiers overnight? The Americans don’t think so. They say these new conscripts will be ill-trained, poorly equipped, and demoralized—which is a pretty good description of the ragged Russian units already in Ukraine. Putin has even taken to using mercenary convicts to shore up his battered forces.

Putin -- convinced that he  is a very stable genius -- has personally taken control of his army:

No modern, professional army operates like that. Command and control in combat is a vital component that goes out the window when the leading politician of a country makes himself the boss-hog general. Putin simply doesn’t know his ass from a bomb-crater when it comes to conducting a war. The results in Ukraine are making that painfully clear.

When Putin sent his invaders into Ukraine, most observers thought the Zelenskyy government would fall in a few days. There was a time when Russia controlled roughly 20 per cent of Ukraine.  Now, with continuing Western support, the betting is that Ukraine can not only reclaim lost territory, it may even be able to win the war.

And, once again, he's making nuclear threats:

If Putin is still rational, he will understand that the person who lifts the lid on that Pandora’s Box won’t see anything good happen. Russia is not the only country with tactical nuclear weapons. The West would be under tremendous pressure to ride to the rescue if Putin actually used his most fearsome terror weapon on Ukrainians. 

However, there are signs that ordinary Russians have had enough:

There is a real possibility that the war in Ukraine will not be decided on the battlefield of the world’s bread basket, but in the public squares of Russia. When was the last time you saw men, women, and children taking to the streets to oppose Vladimir Putin? That is exactly what they have been doing in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

More than 1,800 of them have been detained, half of that number are women and children.

Why are they in the street, knowing that their lives could be blown out like a candle, by a regime that doesn’t tolerate opposition? In a country where people keep falling out of windows, the sudden knock on the door could come at any time. They are in the street because they have heard the news from the front, where thousands of young Russians have been killed or wounded in this misbegotten and mismanaged war. According to the Ukrainians, who lost 9,000 military personnel in the first six months of the war, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces have killed or wounded 45,000 Russian troops.

The message in Russia is getting clearer: Putin’s “special military operation” is not a patriotic effort to liberate Russians or to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. It is Putin’s folly, a dreadful meat grinder that mothers in Russia have come to see as a threat to their families. That’s why 18 different regions in Russia have actually called for Putin’s resignation. Sadly, dictators don’t resign, they get even.

Or they are overthrown. Stay tuned.

Image: qz.com



24 comments:

jrkrideau said...

Note : Links available on request. Blogger is refusing to accept 'https' so I just peeled out all the links.

Vladimir Putin is in trouble.

Yep, the last Levada poll I can find only gave him an 83% approval rating. It may have plummeted to the approval rating of Joe Biden by now but I have not seen any indication of this.

The Levada-Centre seems to be considered reliable by most Western analysts. It is funded, in part, by the US National Endowment for Democracy.

I see Michael Harris has a sound grasp of Russia and its Ukrainian "Special Military Operation. /sarc

When was the last time you saw men, women, and children taking to the streets to oppose Vladimir Putin?

Does he mean a big one like the Khabarovsk demos in 2020? Or maybe the rather pathetic demos in 2001 in support of Navalny. I probably missed some more recent little ones at the beginning of the recent mess.

According to the Ukrainians, who lost 9,000 militaryUkrinian personnel in the first six months of the war, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces have killed or wounded 45,000 Russian troops.

These are the same Ukrainians who told about the heroic fight to the death of Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island only to have the Ukrainian navy admit that the entire garrison surrendered? If you believe those casualty figures Zelensky is claiming, I have a lovely bridge for sale. Owen, would you prefer some nice holiday property just north of Hwy 7? Bring waders.

The alternative figures given by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu gives are Ukrainians 61,207 deaths and 49,368 troops who were injured, and Russians 5,937 dead. If I am reading this correctly he does not seem to be talking about wounded Russians. Both of Shoigu's figures probably lowball actual casualties as he is likely only talking about regularly constituted military forces and not counting militia and mercenary casualties on either side. Based on this and some recent statements by one of Zelensky's closest advisors, I think the Russian figures are probably closer to the truth.

As opposed to the Ukrainian “Ministry of Truth”, the Russian Ministry of Defence does not seem to deliberately lie though they clearly can be wrong. They just don't tell anyone much of anything.

--- To be continued---

jrkrideau said...

--- continued ---
Conscription What's that famous movie line, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”? This, probably, is not Harris' fault though thirty seconds of fact checking (i.e reading the Russian statements) would show that this is not conscription, at least in Canadian term. I don't know if this was a Russian or Western media misinterpretation but what Russia is doing is a partial mobilization of its reserves. The men being called up are former members of the regular Russian military, not untrained, raw recruits. I think the upper age for the recall is to 35 for enlisted and about 50 for officers.

The Americans don’t think so. They say these new conscripts will be ill-trained, poorly equipped, and demoralized

Was it the Americans who predicted that Russia was going to run out of munitions in Week III of the attack?

An excerpt from Putin's speech, “Before being sent to their units, those called up for active duty will undergo mandatory additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation.”

Putin has even taken to using mercenary convicts to shore up his battered forces.

It was Zelensky who released and armed convicts in the first few days of the war. It worked out well, with a wave of assaults, robberies, and shootouts between rival gangs in Kyiv.

There, apparently, is a recent photo of the head of the WagnerUkrinian Group trying to recruit prisoners but I have not seen it.

Putin—convinced that he is a very stable genius—has personally taken control of his army:

And where did he get this idiotic idea? Last I heard General Gerasimov is still Chief of Staff.

…the betting is that Ukraine can not only reclaim lost territory, it may even be able to win the war.

About that bridge….

And, once again, he's making nuclear threats:

Maybe Mr Harris should have actually read the text of President Putin's speech? It is available in English on the Kremlin website. Maybe we can find him a Cole's Notes version?

They have even resorted to the nuclear blackmail. I am referring not only to the Western-encouraged shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which poses a threat of a nuclear disaster, but also to the statements made by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons – against Russia.

I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have. In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.


Note that this covers a lot more than just nuclear weapons. Some of those hyper-sonic missiles are impressive.

That’s why 18 different regions in Russia have actually called for Putin’s resignation.

Any citation? Otherwise, I flatly disbelieve it. One outgoing local district council in a region of Moscow did make such a call. All, reportedly, are members of the opposition Yabloko party.

Owen Gray said...

War creates a fog, jrk. However, it does seem to be true that Putin's need for more troops is not being met with a patriotic response.

Anonymous said...

So jrk, if things are going as swimmingly as you claim for Russia and that we are being fed a pack of lies/western propaganda with the Russians telling the truth, please explain the Putin press conference where he behaved like a cartoon villain. He basically stated he was just playing with Ukraine but now he was really mad and they would feel the force of his wrath with his new 300,000 man army. Oh, and he once again threatened to use nukes. Farthest thing from a victory dance. Where was the smirk he had like the one in Helsinki with Trump if things are going so well? Explain the 35 km long line of cars at the Finnish border of Russian citizens with Shengen passports leaving post Putin announcement of mobilization or are the Finns in on it and lying too?

mr perfect

Anonymous said...

I see jrk has expanded his reasoning for why he believes Russia over every other Western democracy and intelligence agencies throughout the world over the war in Ukraine. He reminds me of a young gentleman at my gym who told me the pandemic was a sham and it was all a part of the plan for One World Government, you just needed to find the right websites on the internet to know what's going on. I would suggest reading people such as Adam L. Silverman over at the blog Balloon Juice who is covering this war. Silverman is a security contractor with a doctorate in political science and criminology who has his sources. Because of his profession, Silverman would damage his career being a propagandist. He's more trustworthy than those connected to the FSB information centres operating outside St. Petersburg.

mr perfect

jrkrideau said...

However, it does seem to be true that Putin's need for more troops is not being met with a patriotic response.

Depends on your sources. I have seen a report of inter-city buses from St. Petersburg to Helsinki being fully booked a couple of days ago but the writer notes that there are only 5 per day and if people were leaving it would mainly be by private auto. A video on twitter purports to show a mob of young Chechians enthusiastically heading to a recruiting office but there is no provenance to it.

I suspect that few in Russia are really happy about the call-up but the last opinion polls, before the call-up seemed to support the "special military operation" as the lesser of several alternatives including a high probability of atrocities in the Donbass.

The outpouring of hatred in the West against Russians shocked almost every Russia, apparently. Musicians were fired in New York and Berlinbecause they would not denounce their Gov't.

When La Fédération Internationale Féline banned Russian cats from competition we had reached the level of total farce. We then witnessed an amazing display of xenophobia and total ignorance of history when the University of Florida closed the Karl Marx Economics Reading Room. Apparently no one told anyone in the University that Marx was German and Russia has been a capitalist state for the last roughly 40 years.

At the moment, I tend to be very dubious of most Western commentators such as Harris and, come to think of it, pretty well any former US military commentator, since they display an amazing ignorance of Russia in the 2020's. Some, especially the US ones, do not seem to have heard of the collapse of the USSR and others seem not to have realized that the basket case Russian Federation of the 1990's, which may well have been the last time they saw Russia, is not the rather prosperous Russia of 2020.

I keep hear that Russia has an economy the size of Italy's but the CIA's World Fact Book lists it as No. 6 in Purchasing Power Parity just a bit below Germany while Italy is in No. 12 position.

In the very early days of the war I kept reading about ill-clad, starving Russian recruits stumbling around Ukraine. begging for food. I might have even believed it except that the idiots writing this did not seem to know that the structure of the Russian army had chanced drastically since the Second Chechen War with far fewer conscripts plus the Russian Constitution forbade the use of conscripts outside Russian territory. If someone like me with a rather casual interest in Russia could find this out in about 5 minutes of googling I see no reason to believe these recent reports from the same gaggle of incompetents.

My favourite incompetent's story. During the siege of Mariupol a CBC reporter in Lviv, only about 1,000km away to the northwest, was giving an enthusiastic report on the fighting and mentioned that Mariupal was on the Black Sea. Well, close but no cigar.

So all these stories about"Putin's need for more troops is not being met with a patriotic response" are quite possible but I am not going to believe it until I see a lot more evidence.

Owen Gray said...

I'll let jrk respond, perfect.

Toby said...

The arms industries are undoubtedly loving Mr. Putin and Mr. Zelenskyy.

Owen Gray said...

War is always profitable for some, Toby.

jrkrideau said...

Anonymous Anonymous @ 2:02 pm

Well we certainly are being a pack of lies by a lot of the Western press. If it cannot tell thue difference between a conscript and a reservist . well...

He basically stated he was just playing with Ukraine but now he was really mad and they would feel the force of his wrath with his new 300,000 man army.

Give me the actual quote.

he once again threatened to use nukes.

Read the speech and get back to me.


Explain the 35 km long line of cars at the Finnish border of Russian citizens with Shengen passports leaving post Putin announcement of mobilization or are the Finns in on it and lying too?

What 35km long line I know nothing about it one way or the other.

jrkrideau said...


@ Toby

We, either as a country or as a NATO member, are under no obligation to send arms to Ukraine. Maybe the arms industry should thank NATO?

In any case, the arms industries are making out like bandits.

Owen Gray said...

We have learned a lot about Putin over twenty years, jrk. It's dangerous to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Unknown said...


"As opposed to the Ukrainian “Ministry of Truth”, the Russian Ministry of Defence does not seem to deliberately lie though they clearly can be wrong. They just don't tell anyone much of anything."

For goodness sake jrk, of course the RMOD deliberately lies. I'm not sure which alternate universe you live in but anyone living in the real world would know this.

It's a well known fact that Russia lies and cheats in high level athletics. Think elaborate state run doping at Sochi. This is a country that will dope a 15 year old girl and consider it a normal thing.

This is a country that will shoot down a civilian airliner and lie about it.

This is a country that clumsily assassinates people and lie about it.

What on earth would make you think the RMOD would somehow be a fountain of truth in a cesspool of lies?

jrkrideau said...

We have learned a lot about Putin over twenty years, jrk. It's dangerous to give him the benefit of the doubt.

What have we learned?

Reading some of the fantastical things. particularly in some of the gutter press, I'd say most of the West knows almost nothing about Putin but do have a great idea of some twisted caricature of the man. He's crazy, power-mad, is suffering from terminal cancer, Parkinson's and a host of other ills, is the world's wealthiest man, a KGB thug, and so on. So far based on no credible evidence. Oh, and he walks funny.

The truth, more likely, is that he is a very intelligent and well educated (LL.B and PH.D Russian equivalents) man with service as an intelligence officer in the KGB, and roughly 30 years in city and national government/politics.

He also has been head of state for most of the 20 or so years as Russia went from a wreak under Yeltsin where rival gangs had shootouts in the streets of St Petersburg and Moscow and Western businessmen needed armed bodyguards to what appears to be a peaceful and quite prosperous country. As I mentioned before the CIA Fact Book ranks Russia No. 6 in the world in PPP which now that I check means No. 2 in Europe.

I think Western leaders are consistently misjudging him, characterizing him as some kind of CIA mafia thug who got lucky. This blindness is incredibly danger to us. He is not some crazy man flailing around. He is not a Boris Johnson; he is more a Metternich. Now that Merkel is gone he probably has more than twice the experience as any Western head of government.

Russia has been establishing excellent relations with China, India, Iran, doing deals with Saudi Arabia, and is a founding member of SCO and BRICS. When we hear that Russia is isolated this means mainly that NATO members not the rest of the world. Given the response to the OAS conference Biden held in San Francisco where even the President of Mexico did not attend it is more that the USA is isolated.






Owen Gray said...

Putin is highly intelligent, jrk. And, yes, he's like Metternich. But that does not absolve him for what he's done. His attacks on civilian targets were not collateral damage.

Graham said...

Putin? Highly intelligent? Not in my estimation.
Anytime I get a little down about all things putin I watch this to remind me he’s just a chump like anyone else and as such he is beatable .
https://imgur.com/gallery/UwO7GmU

Owen Gray said...

All of us can fall on our faces, Graham. It all depends on the time and the place. Thanks for the clip.

jrkrideau said...

@ Unknown 10:18 pm

Thank you for reinforcing my point.

@ Owen.

His attacks on civilian targets were not collateral damag

Read the recent Amnesty International report.

Ukraine: Ukrainian fighting tactics endanger civilians

Military bases set up in residential areas including schools and hospitals
Attacks launched from populated civilian areas
Such violations in no way justify Russia’s indiscriminate attacks, which have killed and injured countless civilians


https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/08/ukraine-ukrainian-fighting-tactics-endanger-civilians/

jrkrideau said...

@ Graham
Thanks, love it. I am still laughing 5 minutes after my first view and I am on my second viewing now. It is hilarious.

Owen Gray said...

"We must be very clear: Nothing we documented Ukrainian forces doing in any way justifies Russian violations. Russia alone is responsible for the violations it has committed against Ukrainian civilians. Amnesty’s work over the last six months and our multiple briefings and reports on Russia’s violations and war crimes reflect their scale and the gravity of their impact on civilians."

Amnesty looks at the whole picture, jrk.

jrkrideau said...

So Ukraine does not have Military bases set up in residential areas including schools and hospitals?

It is reassuring to see that internally AI remains united. Amnesty International’s Ukraine chief resigns after report criticizes Kyiv https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/07/amnesty-international-ukraine-pokalchuk-resignation/

Northern PoV said...

Harris is lipping lately, imho.

From the same article ... " a split is forming in Russia’s military."

he cited no source that I could find.

btw, there is a spilt in the USA military too, the Christianists are taking over.
(another source-less comment)


e.a.f. said...

jrkrideau, In my opinion you are enot in touch with reality regarding the state of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Putin may even be concerned about his own safety. Given the number of oligarchs and senior people, (11 I think so far) who have had accidents or just died suddenly.

Although Putin may make the decision to fire nuclear weapons, he personally won' be "pushing" the button. If he gives the order he may find, no one is interested in following it. Those gnerals have a nice life and aren't that interested in ending it. People understand that if Putin sends nuclear bombs to NATO countries or Ukraine he will be receiving some back.

Some of the newsstories are coming out of the Scanda countries, which usually give an accurate
relection of what is going on. It is not likely that Xi or Modi made the statenebts they have, if they thought Russia could win.

Ukrainian military people have something to fight for. Russians, not so much. The Russian military has never been a good place to be. Their figures most likely are not truthful because if the population becomes aware of how many soliders are being killed in the war, they could have a repeat of what happened when too many Russian soliders were killed. A lot of Russian mothers don't like their sons die in foreign wars which don't benefit any one. They protested, it caused problems so the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan.

As long as the U.S.A. continues to send military equipmment along with other countries, the Ukrainians will continue to fight.

jrkrideau said...

@ e.a.f
In my opinion you are not in touch with reality regarding the state of the war between Russia and Ukraine.

I may very well be wrong but at the moment I doubt it. The Donbass Republics and Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts are just finishing referenda about joining Russia as the Kyiv regime begs (demands?) military supplies from Canada. This really makes me think that Ukraine is on the ropes. It is one thing to be fighting over disputed ground and, quite another, to be holding referenda.

And before you ask, yes I think the results of the referenda will be valid for a number of reasons especially in Lugansk and Donetsk though we will need to hear from the international observers on this.

Lugansk and Donetsk have been fighting a civil war against Kyiv for eight years. They do *not* like the Kyiv regime. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are a bit more dubious but since they are culturally and linguistically much more Russian than Ukrainian they probably will go for the Russian option. If nothing else the "banning" of Russian language in Ukraine was not appreciated by people in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

From a simple well--being point of view, Ukraine, reportedly, is the poorest country in Europe; Russia is (relatively, like in European) rich. Being Russian means better infrastructure, better job opportunities, probably better medical care, and a chance for your children to attend world class universities. Maybe become a cosmonaut?

We also have to consider that many legitimate voters who would have voted *no* are likely refugees in Western Ukraine or Canada so we have a self-selecting voter pool. I am not saying this is good, just likely.

So, if we see really high (+85%) pro-Russian votes I will tend to believe them.

The fact that the city of Zaporizhzhia is still in Kyiv hands while most of the rest of the oblast is in Russian hands is, shall we say "interesting". Does the oblast divorce the city?

As long as the U.S.A. continues to send military equipment along with other countries, the Ukrainians will continue to fight.

To give the cynical Russian response, "NATO will fight to the last Ukrainian".

How much military equipment is left to send? Not much without degrading NATO forces to paper tigers. Apparently some US weapons production lines have been shut down for years and others are going to have problems ramping up production.