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Mobilization and “referenda”: Russia escalates the confrontation with the West

Soldiers Russian mobilization
Mobilized Russians. File photo: TASS
Mobilization and “referenda”: Russia escalates the confrontation with the West
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
As Putin throws an ultimatum to the West in the form of orchestrated “referenda” in the territories Russia occupied in Ukraine, he also admits battlefield defeat by announcing mobilization. Now is the time for the West to chose confrontation over dishonor, as otherwise, a wider confrontation is unavoidable.

Russia has already defined NATO as a threat and a party to the conflict. It has publicly declared that the West is waging an information war, economic war, acts of aggression, war with Russia through a proxy, and a total war. It sees our defense aid to Ukraine as proof of our participation. In December 2021 it even handed over a set of ultimatums to the USA and the Alliance after having waged a Hybrid War against the West for years.

As a further step, Putin today announced partial mobilization in Russia, thereby signaling his commitment to defeating both Ukraine and the West. He has already signed the relevant decree. Mobilization activities start today.

What will partial mobilization in Russia change?

“I believe that it is necessary to support the implementation of partial mobilization in order to defend Russia, its sovereignty and integrity,” Putin said.

According to the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu, the mobilization resource in Russia is almost 25 million people, a little more than 1% are subject to partial mobilization. Shoigu said that during the partial mobilization, a total of 300,000 reservists will be called up. He clarified that “those who have served, have a military specialty, combat experience” are subject to partial mobilization. At the same time, “there is no question of any mobilization of students; conscripts are not subject to being sent to a special operation.”

Shoigu stated that partial mobilization is primarily needed to control the liberated territories and the more than 1000 km front line.

This comes a day after the state Duma introduced concepts of mobilization and wartime in Criminal Code, and the Russian-sponsored militants demanded an immediate referendum to join Russian Federation.

President Putin also stated that Russia would recognize the outcome of the “referenda” on “accession to Russia,” which the leaders of the “LNR/DNR” and local collaborators in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblast decided to hold this month.

Quislings of Russian-occupied Ukraine announce annexation “referendums” amid Ukrainian offensive

The decision to hold the sham referendums in the occupied territories is a sign of fear in the face of Ukrainian advance. It is, however, also an escalation of the broader confrontation between Russia and the West.

Following the announcement of partial mobilization in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has once again threatened Western countries with nuclear weapons.

He presented the West – not Russia – as the aggressor, and framed Ukrainian acts of self-defense as attacks on Russia. His statements were fraught with disinformation, lies, and propaganda.

“The West has overstepped all imaginable boundaries in its aggressive anti-Russian politics. Constant threats are being directed at our country and our people.


Some irresponsible politicians in the West discuss plans to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons and systems that will allow [Ukraine] to carry out strikes on Crimea and other regions of Russia, but it’s more than just talk. These terrorist attacks, undertaken with the use of Western weapons, have already been carried out on towns and villages in Belgorod and Kursk Oblasts.”

According to Putin, NATO is conducting “real-time” reconnaissance in southern Russia. Meanwhile, “Washington, London, and Brussels are directly advocating for hostilities to be pushed onto our territory” and say that “Russia must be defeated by all means” on the battlefield and deprived of any sovereignty, Putin claimed.

“They have resorted to nuclear blackmail. And I’m not just talking about the Western-encouraged attacks on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which poses the risk of a nuclear disaster, but also about the statements made by high-ranking representatives of leading NATO countries regarding the possibility, and permissibility, of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons – against Russia. 


I would like to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also has various means of destruction at its disposal, including some that are more modern than those of NATO countries,” Putin said.

Putin said that Russia’s “territorial integrity, independence, and freedom” will be protected “by all available means”.

“And those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the tables may turn on them,” the Russian president warned.

As previously stated, because of the expressed fear of the Western leaders for a broader confrontation between nuclear powers, the term “Russian territory” has become inevitably linked to what Russia defines as its territory and, therefore, justifies the use of nuclear arms according to its doctrine. It claims sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula even though it is undeniable Ukrainian territory. The same will be the case once it annexes Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson.

The Russian “fait accompli” strategy – which is founded on the threat of the use of nuclear arms to stop anyone from intervening militarily in a Russian-induced conflict – is in a sense nuclear war. While nuclear arms have not been used, the threat is made credible by its use of military force, extreme violence, and atrocities, belligerent diplomacy, extensive information operations, lies, and manipulations. The nuclear threat has coerced the world’s only superpower and the biggest military alliance in history from doing what is needed to ensure Euro-Atlantic security.

If Russia goes ahead with the referendums and joins all four regions to Russia then Ukraine — and potentially its Western backers too — would, from a Russian perspective, be fighting against Russia itself. That would raise the risk of a direct military confrontation between Russia and the NATO military alliance, a scenario that President Joe Biden has said could lead to World War Three because NATO members are supplying arms and giving intelligence to Ukraine.


Unless Ukraine agreed to stop fighting for its lost territory, then Russia would have to commit significant military forces to defend the newly annexed regions – which are still not fully under Russian control. Putin has made a bet on escalation,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the political analysis firm R.Politik. “All this talk about immediate referendums is an absolutely unequivocal ultimatum from Russia to Ukraine and the West.”

The threats are themselves powerful means. The battlefield is both in the physical domain as well as the cognitive sphere. The Hybrid War occurs both in the mind of key policy- and decisionmaker as well as populations. It confuses and manipulates. The hybrid war aims to destabilize, create fear, and promote passivity. Through disinformation, lies, cyber-attacks, extortion, provocations, fabrications, military escalation, and more, a “virtual reality” is created that motivates countries to make the political decisions Russia wants.

President Putin is escalating the broader confrontation with the West – which Russia declared in December 2021 and the West has denied ever since – in an attempt to force the US and NATO member states to disengage and stop supplying Ukraine with weapons and ammunition.

Continued support to Ukraine, fighting to liberate Ukrainian territories in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Crimea, will be portrayed as a Western attack on the Russian Federation, thereby hypothetically triggering a nuclear response according to the State Policy of the Russian Federation on Nuclear Deterrence.

The Russian nuclear “fait accompli” is a crucial element of the ongoing psychological war. It will cause anxiety across all parts of society, triggering both discord and potentially, demonstrations and riots. It is meant to undermine both political and diplomatic cohesion to weaken Western resolve.

The declaration of partial mobilization is, however, more than just an escalation of the war. It is also a Russian recognition of a failed strategy and a defeat on the battlefield. It is an admission that the so-called “special military operation” is a war in Ukraine. It is an acknowledgment of a Russian lack of military power and a failed reform of the Russian Armed Forces.

“I don’t see Putin using nuclear weapons” – military strategist Lawrence Freedman

For the West, this is a moment of truth. This is the moment to remember the words of Winston Churchill: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Alternatively, rewriting one of his other famous quotes: “You are given the choice between confrontation and dishonor. You might choose dishonor, but you will have a broader confrontation.”

I hope our political leaders will be “brave as Ukrainians” and do the right thing: Uphold and strengthen its support for Ukraine.

This is the moment in time when they must acknowledge that all of Europe is a part of a broader confrontation with Russia and that the strategy of de-escalation has fundamentally failed. It is time to take one step forward and engage actively in Ukraine.

Forward deploy forces to Ukraine. Close the Sky. Break the Maritime Blockade. Deter Russia.


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