On 21 January 2022 I announced a possible scenario in the event of Russia declaring war on Ukraine. That Friday I literally warned of the following:
"If the Pacific and Indian scenario were to remain calm, President Biden also points out a strategic point of evidence: the forces massed are not sufficient for an action such as the one we are talking about, they should be at least 500,000 troops, hence the "another thing is whether they actually do what they can with the forces massed on the border. It would be a disaster for Moscow". And indeed, it would be a disaster for Moscow, because additionally, Lukashenka would feel insecure and seek to protect himself, so he would try to talk to whoever is needed to stay in power, the Caucasus would flare up, and we would see how far Turkey's influence already goes in various terms, Central Asia would move.... Not to mention the ability to leave Russia unable to move its economic apparatus (you know that war is fought with three things: gold, gold and gold? What do the prices of hydrocarbons, from which Russia now benefits because it has access to the market, matter if they double or even quintuple... but Russia cannot access the market, to cite a simple example?").
Likewise, in my recent analysis of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, I highlighted the following aspects:
The reaction in Russia to the Russian army's disaster on the north-eastern front in Ukraine has unleashed the wrath of the "real war party" in Moscow, ultra-nationalists and hawks of various stripes who are calling on Vladimir Putin to "start getting serious", including the group where the late Darya Dugina and Dugin himself, and of course, those who support them, fit in. Why? Because they see the possibility of achieving the goal of general mobilisation being decreed closer, and with it the promotion of the Special Military Operation to a patriotic war and the tactical nuclear weapon from an instrument of propaganda to an element of the available arsenal. I recommend reading this article by Michael Kofman and Anya Loukianova Fink, entitled "ESCALATION MANAGEMENT AND NUCLEAR EMPLOYMENT IN RUSSIAN MILITARY STRATEGY", to try to anticipate possible Russian actions in the event of such a scenario.
Russia's president is not making any clear statements on the matter, although the declarations of the "Great Patriotic War 2.0" ultras annoy him, the inevitable reverberations in public opinion irritate him, but after all they are figures outside the nervous centres of the system and their weight really and for now turns out to be limited, although Russia cannot afford to lose in Ukraine, in fact it has already cost it a lot, beyond the economic, as far as China's position in the relationship between the two is concerned. This generates movement within power circles: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, in fact, would like to take advantage of this situation and run for the federal circle of power, for the Ministry of Defence or to head a new military corps.
For the time being, signs of concern about the war situation have already appeared, as we reported on the Instituto Symposium's Twitter feed, something that could be the organisation of a sort of vague internal front in the face of a winter that will materialise in the form of economic complications that for now are limited, exposing difficulties in strategic sectors such as air transport.
However, if the sense of possible defeat spreads, resistance will be eroded from within and it would be the beginning of an end, which for the moment is difficult to be sure, but which could be a repeat of the Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese war that precipitated the events that led to the First World War and a series of revolutions in Russia. If Russia sinks into a sense of failure, nothing is impossible. I stress again: Russia cannot do without Ukraine, in any respect, and build on it, which does not necessarily mean peace.
This would explain why Putin opted to ignore the celebrations of the 875th anniversary of Moscow's founding, with the traditional fireworks on 10 September, despite calls for cancellation from many quarters, implying that in Ukraine "everything is going according to plan and the goals will be achieved", as stated by the number two of the National Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, who liaises between the warring extremists and the more cautious factions.
So what about general mobilisation? It is clear that this situation is approaching, although Putin is resisting general mobilisation now, because both the Defence leadership and much of the army (but note, no longer all) are of the opinion that a general call to arms would not make a decisive difference and would assign the outcome of the war in an "intermediate" phase to the military dimension alone, so they conclude that for the time being it is necessary to wait. So they conclude that for the time being it is necessary to wait. For what? For the levers of pressure on gas supplies "with the expanded West", and particularly with Germany, which is "locked in" by technology and other factors with China in an even more intense way, on the one hand, and France, on the other hand, on the other; and France, on the other hand, suffer from a mixture of geopolitical ambitions, a clear blindness as to its true weight in the current and forming European Union, plus what would come by way of pressure on France in Africa, the need for uranium (and remember, France seems to have forgotten, that there is uranium in Spain... but it has forgotten because it has forgotten because it has forgotten that there is uranium in Spain...). ... but it has forgotten because it is focusing on Turkey, an Anglophile, and its containment... something difficult when one bears in mind Turkey's real position in Africa and its link with Europe, as I explained here), and meanwhile, observing how the midterms evolve in the United States.
Indeed, there are dissidents in the Russian power machine, and that they are now tolerated is significant. The call for 'more war' is gaining proselytisers among the siloviki, the men in the security sector closest to Security Council chief Nikolai Patrušev. In theory, though, no one would dare rebel against Putin's orders. But what has happened could heat things up, depending on how the parties involved read the murder of Darya Dugina.
To this must be added the vision of the Russian population, of which there are already several indicators. The latest of these is the result of the ruling United Russia party in the elections for 14 governors and hundreds of local assemblies at various levels has exceeded the already flattering forecasts. According to preliminary data, the Communist Party (KPRF), a supporter of a general call to arms and seen as a refuge for voters orphaned by a real opposition, did not perform well... this serves to understand the nature of the Communist Party as a cog in the dominant power structures of the Russian Federation. The more markedly national-patriotic positions advocated by writer Zachar Prilepin's Za Pravdu ("For the Truth") did not break through.
This makes Putin want to go ahead with referendums in the occupied territories of southeastern and southern Ukraine that are to lead to annexation, so that this will be decided on November 4, National Unity Day, a bank holiday reintroduced into the Russian holiday calendar in 2004 in place of the October Revolution commemorations, which existed in the Russian Empire and was more explicitly dedicated to the "liberation of Moscow from the Polish invader": you can imagine the connotations, when Russian-made fake news has imagined the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth rebuilt and attacking Russia as if it were in the past.
Once annexed, the Ukrainian counteroffensive would become an act of war against the regions declared an integral part of the Russian Federation, with all the relevant consequences, just as war was declared on Ukraine last February on this very basis. Including an implicit and perhaps then inevitable green light for general mobilisation, which the Russians would have to accept in the name of defending the homeland, by which time it will be clear whether the wedge driven by Russia and China has achieved its goal with Paris and/or Berlin, with a focus on Turkey.
Well, let's start with Turkey, which is postulating itself on the Central Asian chessboard along the lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where the movements crystallise around a more powerful China and a weaker Russia, being Russia the big loser of the recent summit in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) of this forum, something that we have been pointing out since these lines in the Journal Hermes Kalamos. Turkey is moving in this direction, as we have noted, and is considering joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, in a sort of double manoeuvre: pressure on the EU, with its position as a link to the MENA area in opposition to Russia, and on the other hand, it perceives a question of relative weights and communicating vessels: if China crushes Russia and swallows it up, perhaps Turkey can take advantage in the Caucasus and Central Asia, hence its move, which has many meanings. Hence Turkey's statement today, Tuesday 20 September, through its president, that 'The lands that were invaded will be returned to Ukraine'.
Hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia come on top of border clashes between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which could force Moscow to intervene... or prove its weakness in a very interesting way for both scenarios, where there should be no doubt that moves will be made. I am currently writing a special dossier on Azerbaijan and Armenia, and I am monitoring the Central Asian region, among other scenarios and their possible consequences, such as North Africa and the case of Algeria, which will either have to lean openly towards China or seek an entente via Turkey and other elements to fit into the region, or submit to very high tensions due to Russia's potential drift in the region.
In the context of the Samarkand summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the president of the Russian Federation that now is "not an era of war". Indeed, Putin publicly acknowledged New Delhi's 'concerns' about the conflict for the first time, a day after doing the same during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, make no mistake, China and Russia are more attuned than we are told, and more attention needs to be paid to what they do. On 16 September 2022, we can read this interesting article in The Moscow Times: "Putin and Xi praise 'great power' ties in talks that defy the West".
But all these scenarios and lines of discourse, far from calming Russia, which, I insist again, is dependent on getting Ukraine, whether by fully occupying the country, establishing an occupied and annexed zone and another subordinated one along the lines of Putin's relationship with Kadyrov in Chechnya, or any other kind of possible relationship. Indeed, Reuters reported on 16 September that Russia's economy is unlikely to return to pre-war levels before the end of the decade, as the Ukraine war and tighter sanctions worsen long-standing economic deficiencies, according to Scope Ratings in a report seen by Reuters.
On the other hand, there are the various consequences of the war in Ukraine for the Russian arms industry, including the poor performance of Russian arms in the conflict and the loss of units, which will force the Russian arms industry to improve the performance of its weapons and stop exporting in order to concentrate on supplying more and better weapons to the Russian army. This has an interesting impact. Russia's importance as an arms supplier to Asian states is likely to diminish in the short term due to export constraints resulting from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Russia's need to use more of its own weaponry in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, sanctions imposed by the US and the EU, may open a door for exports from competing arms suppliers, such as the US, France and Turkey or China, among others.
Russia's arms industry has long depended on exports to Asia and its former backyard in Central Asia, where China has replaced Russia. Moscow's two largest arms customers are India and China. More than 61 per cent of Russian arms sales between 2017 and 2021 went to Asia and Oceania. Southeast Asia is another profitable market for Russian arms producers, with Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets exported to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Moscow has also sold air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles and helicopters throughout the region. Indeed, more recent data on arms sales in Asia is revealing for Russia, and opens the window on China wide.
This is in line with a trend that has been evident for more than a year, and which points to the tendency for the big Chinese military firms to gain importance and the Russians to lose it. We must be aware that China's transformation, for which it has the territory, resources and population, has transformed Africa into the equivalent of what China was for the West in the last thirty years, its hegemony over strategic minerals, the control it exercises over Russia, the way it is projecting itself in Latin America and a long etcetera that must be added to its technological capabilities to launch the Industry 4. 0 supported by its e-CNY or digital yuan... to this China could add a booming military industry that would take advantage of this context to establish a zone of exclusivity for its arms industry, something that was already a mild trend, but that with these conditions and China's transformation needs will only exacerbate, and incidentally, put Russia in the position of loser... again. This is also the case in Africa, as China's military engagement with African countries has become more complex and extensive as it deepens ties and expands influence, and China is increasing its market share of arms sales and technical support in Africa as Russia and Western countries face new challenges, as seen here.
It is for this reason that Vladimir Putin called on Russia's defence industry to increase its arms production. Meanwhile, Russia's Finance Ministry is considering plans to raise taxes on energy exports, as the Kremlin seeks to shore up its war budget amid Western sanctions. Additionally, Putin has just praised Russia's highly effective weapons and announced plans to activate Russia's defence industry in terms of production.
Hence, despite the Kremlin's comments on 13 September regarding the general mobilisation and that it was not on the agenda, things are beginning to change.
Indeed, Russia is going to annex these territories by referendum between 23 and 27 September in order to reinforce the defensive line drawn up by the Russian army and thus maintain communications with Russian-dominated southern Ukraine as best it can in the event of a Ukrainian advance, and as I explained above, by establishing these territories as Russian, some first and others somewhat later, although the dates could vary, the mobilisation that Russia is preparing, as I pointed out, is coming closer. While the annexation would not be recognised as legal, it raises the possibility that any attack on Russian forces stationed there could be considered an attack on Russian soil, which could escalate the war.
In this case France is positioning itself intelligently, as the Kremlin's pressure manoeuvre towards the Hexagon through various ways is obvious, and in passing France, like Germany, must considerably improve its profile in Eastern Europe: by all means. Without neglecting European integration, which, I insist, is something we cannot waste any more time on, because there is no more time and no more room for manoeuvre. Interests aside, subordinate them to a common interest once and for all and give them the federal weight that is vital. There is no other way. Hurry up at once.
On the other hand, State Duma deputies unanimously approved amendments to the Russian Criminal Code in the second and third readings. I followed the session on the Duma website. In the second reading, 381 deputies voted in favour of the amendments and one abstained. In the third reading 389 deputies voted in favour, as I pointed out the Duma is the Kremlin's photocopier. The upper house of Russia's parliament, the Federation Council, is expected to pass the bill on Wednesday, according to forecasts I am seeing in the Russian state media.
Wartime prison sentences will come into force on the day President Vladimir Putin signs the bill into law.
Several articles of the Criminal Code have been added to the draft law for the second reading in order to "gain the support of the plenary". These include "Voluntary surrender" (Article 352.1, up to 10 years imprisonment) and " Looting" (Article 356.1, up to 15 years).
With the newly passed law, committing an offence "during mobilisation or martial law, in time of war" was added to the list of aggravating circumstances.
The law also increases the prison sentence for unauthorised abandonment of a unit during mobilisation or martial law (Article 337 of the Criminal Code) to 10 years, which amounts to desertion. It also establishes the criminal liability of persons in the reserve and those called up for military training, in case of non-appearance or desertion.
The law also introduces penalties in Article 332, paragraph 2.1 of the Criminal Code for a subordinate's failure to comply with a superior's order given during martial law, in time of war or during an armed conflict, as well as for refusal to participate in military or combat activities. According to the adopted amendments, this could result in imprisonment for two to three years.
Soldiers who refuse service can be imprisoned even without martial law, according to military lawyer Maxim Grebenyuk to the independent news website Vyorstka, who points out that the language of the legislation punishing soldiers during is that of an "armed conflict", adding that the amendments would affect both those already fighting and those preparing for deployment.
The soldier who is on active duty so far, with the so-called "special operation" if he declared himself a conscientious objector and therefore refused to participate in a special operation this was something not criminally punishable but now he would be prosecuted according to Article 332 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Failure to obey an order will be equated with refusal to take part in hostilities.
In this regard, it is worth noting the way in which this "pantomime" has developed, beyond the block vote in the Duma. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, played a role in this:
Zyuganov, speaking at a session of the State Duma on 13 September 2022, called the "special operation in Ukraine" a war and demanded general mobilisation:
"How is a special military operation different from a war? You can stop a military operation at any time. You cannot stop a war; it ends with victory or defeat. What I am saying is that there is a war going on and we have no right to lose it. We must not panic now. We need a complete mobilisation of the country. We need completely different laws."
Russian Communist Party spokesman Alexander Yushchenko explained that Zyuganov was referring to the mobilisation of the economy and the political system, not the population.
But, in fact, the CPRF Duma deputy Mikhail Matveev proposed that governors and legislators enlist in the army as volunteers, saying Matveev that as governor of the Khabarovsk region he would go to Ukraine as a volunteer, but that he could not because he had no right to leave his important post. Incidentally, the residents of the Khabarovsk region submitted a petition proposing to "help the governor fulfil his dream of joining the fighting in the Donbass", which has been signed today, 20 September 2022, by 46,735 people.
In Russia, however, criminal cases have been brought against individuals under the offences of pouring "forgeries" and "discredit" on the Army, using part 2 of Article 207.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Interestingly, on July 8, 2022, Alexei Gorinov, a municipal deputy of the Krasnoselsky district of Moscow, was sentenced to 7 years in a penal colony based on the article on "falsifications" about the military. According to investigators, the politician made a series of statements "with false information about the Russian Armed Forces" during a meeting of the Council of Deputies. Gorinov called the "special military operation" in Ukraine a "war" and spoke of the death of Ukrainian children. Something that until now by legal imperative did not happen, nor was it a war.
In the end, the passage of this bill paves the way for general mobilisation and begins to make it clear that Ukraine turns out to be a war. The rouble-denominated MOEX stock index fell 8.7% to its lowest point since 16 August, while the dollar-denominated RTS stock index plunged 9.2%.
In an interview with the Kyiv Post, Major General Vadym Skibitskyi, representative of the Ukrainian Defence Ministry's General Intelligence Directorate, also commented on the Russian moves.
It seems that if this goes according to plan we could see Russian Electronic Warfare on the move and other weapons in the Russian arsenal, of a different type, as I said... we could be getting close to tactical nuclear weapons.