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In 2016 Putin Helped Put Trump Into The White House-- Is Karma Coming For Putin Now?

"Pushing The Line" by Nancy Ohanian

From what I can gather from European media there are long lines of cars at Russia’s borders with men who don’t want to be drafted. Putin has decreed a partial mobilization and every flight to the countries where Russians usually escape to— Turkey, Serbia, Azerbaijan and Armenia (as well as Dubai)— is booked up. With sanctions in many European countries keeping Russians out, flight prices to Belgrade and Istanbul have soared. Euronews reported the queue to get into Georgia from Russia is about 10 kilometres long. In fact large numbers of men of military have been rushing to leave the country while they still can. And traffic into Finland is getting so heavy— in doubled on Thursday (in the thousands)— that the Finnish government just announced it will “significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens” by restricting new visas. Most of Russia's closest European neighbors are doing the same thing.

The BBC reported yesterday that though 300,000 Russians are being called up to fight in Ukraine, the defense ministry “has revealed a host of occupations it says will be exempted from conscription aimed at boosting its war effort in Ukraine. IT workers, bankers and journalists working for state media will escape the ‘partial mobilization’ announced by Putin on Wednesday… Announcing the exemptions on Friday, Russia’s defence ministry said employers must compile a list of workers who meet the criteria and submit it to its offices. But it accepted some sectors had to be excluded to ‘ensure the work of specific high-tech industries, as well as Russia's financial system.’ Some commentators have observed that the text of the mobilisation decree has been left vague— potentially allowing it to be widened if necessary. And one paragraph remains entirely classified. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday this referred to the total number of Russians who could be conscripted, which he said could not be disclosed.” That redacted paragraph likely says a million Russians could be conscripted, not 300,000.

The NY Times reported that “the head of Russia’s union of air traffic controllers wrote a letter on Wednesday to the Russian prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, to warn that conscription would ‘jeopardize the normal functioning of the entire aviation system, including security and the regularity of flights of civil and state aviation, including aviation of the Air Force of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.’ Many of Russia’s pilots and doctors are technically capable of being called up if deemed necessary, raising fears of losing members of highly-trained professionals in the work force. Dmitry Khubezov, head of the Russian parliament’s committee on health protection, said that those with combat experience would be prioritized and that an estimated 3,000 medical workers would be called up, in remarks reported by the Russian news agency Tass. On Wednesday, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, told the Russian people that only ‘those who served in the army, primarily those who have combat experience and a military specialty,’ would join the ranks of the expected 300,000 men pressed into service. However, it quickly became clear, including from the Defense Ministry itself, that many men who did not meet these criteria— including those who lacked even the basic military service that is mandatory for men without an exemption— were being called up.”

Anne Applebaum has good contacts in Ukraine and has been covering the war— from there— for The Atlantic. This week she wrote that the Kremlin is in disarray and crisis. She wrote that Putin’s suddenly delayed speech— from Tuesday to Wednesday— signals indecision and chaos at the very top of the food chain. “No elements of the delayed speech were completely new or unexpected. Russian authorities have long intended to hold sham referenda in the Ukrainian territories they occupy. Putin and his television propagandists have been making subtle and unsubtle nuclear threats since February. Quietly, a creeping mobilization has been going on for many weeks too, as the Russian army has sought to recruit more men to replace the soldiers who it still does not admit have been killed, wounded, or exhausted by the war. But now that Ukraine has successfully recaptured thousands of square miles of Russian-held territory, the sham referenda are being rushed, the nuclear language is being repeated, and the mobilization expanded. These are not the actions of a secure leader assured of his legitimacy and of the outcome of this war… For the past six months, Putin has been telling the [mostly apathetic, mostly silent majority] that there is no war, just a special military operation; that Russia has suffered no losses, just some temporary setbacks. Given that the army is victorious and everything is fine, most people need not alter their lives in any way. Now events have forced Putin to change his language, but it seems there are limits. Thus he speaks not of a true mass mobilization— which would involve conscripting young men in enormous numbers— but of partial mobilization: no students, no general call-up, just the activation of reservists with past military experience. Supposedly Russia has 300,000 such people, though it’s not clear how many of them are actually fit to fight or whether there are enough weapons and gear for them either. Presumably, if better equipment were available, it would already be on the battlefield.”

She also noted that “Under a law approved by the Russian Parliament yesterday, you can be sent to prison for up to 10 years. If you desert your guard post in Donetsk or Kherson (or change into civilian clothes and run away, as some Russian soldiers have done in the past few weeks). The state has also decreed new penalties for mutiny—‘using violence against a superior’—and stealing while in uniform. If the Russian army were a reliable, enthusiastic, dedicated fighting force, then the state would not need to declare harsh punishments for deserters, looters, and mutineers. But it is not. Over the next few days, the bogus referenda will gather headlines, and the nuclear threats will create fear, as they were designed to do. But we should understand these attempts at blackmail and intimidation as a part of the deeper story told by this delayed speech: Support for Putin is eroding— abroad, at home, and in the army. Everything else he says and does right now is nothing more than an attempt to halt that decline.”

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