The refusal to order the mobilization of Russian military forces has puzzled a lot of people who don’t understand what Putin is talking about when he uses the phrase “hybrid war”:
One of the most important dimensions of this war is the economic front. Europe is being driven to the brink by the energy crisis. The Wall Street Journal keyed in on what I believe to be the most apt descriptor of the crisis, warning of a “new era of deindustrialization in Europe.”
A full mobilization would be very costly for Russia’s economy, risking the edge that it currently holds in the economic confrontation with Europe. This, I believe, is the main reason that the Russian government was quick to quash rumors of mobilization today. There are other steps on the escalation ladder before going to total war footing.
There are already rumors that Russia is planning to change the formal designation of the war, from “Special Military Operation”. While that could mean a formal declaration of war, I think that is unlikely. Rather, Russia will likely give the Ukraine operation the same designation as its operations in Syria, loosening the rules of engagement and beginning to target Ukrainian assets in earnest.
We saw a foretaste of this last night, when Russia wiped out over half of Ukraine’s power generation with a few missiles. There are many more targets that they can go after – more nodes in the electrical grid, water pumping and filtration facilities, and higher level command posts. There is at least some probability that Russia begins targeting the command facilities with NATO personnel in them. Plausible deniability works both ways; because NATO is not officially in Ukraine – only “volunteers” – targeting their personnel is not an overtly aggressive act.
Russia also has many ways to boost its force deployment in Ukraine that fall short of full mobilization. They have a pool of demobilized contract soldiers that they can call up, as well as a pool of reservists that they can raise with a partial mobilization.
The Russian line is hardening. Just in the past 24 hours, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were “no prospect for negotiations” with Ukraine, and Putin said “Unfriendly forces are targeting us, and we must take initiative in order to succeed in confronting them.” Medvedev went even further just now: “A certain Zelenskyy said that he will not hold a dialogue with those who issue ultimatums. The current ‘ultimatums’ are a warm-up for kids, a preview of demands to be made in the future. He knows them: the total surrender of the Kiev regime on Russia’s terms”
If you believe the Russian government is utterly incompetent and duplicitous, feel free to view statements like this as bluster. But given the warning shot at Ukrainian power generation yesterday, my sense is that Russia is preparing to escalate to a higher level of intensity, which Ukraine cannot match with its indigenous resources. The only other player on the escalation ladder is the United States.
Dark times area ahead for Ukraine – and perhaps for Americans on the other front of this war.
As the Allies proved in WWII, and as the Chinese colonels recognized in their landmark Unrestricted Warfare work on military grand strategy, war is a human activity that is a subset of economics. And the battle for control of Europe will be dictated by energy resources, not by population size or tactical brilliance.
Napoleon didn’t lose to the Coalition Powers because he lacked manpower, technology, or military prowess, but because England controlled the seas. The outcome was always inevitable unless France could somehow break that control. NATO cannot defeat Russia because Russia is energy self-sufficient and Europe is not. So, the question is: how long are Europeans willing to freeze and starve at the behest of US-based neocons in the name of Ukraine?
Russia hasn’t mobilized because doing so would, counter-intuitively, weaken its grand strategic position. Which, of course, is why the NATO forces are attempting to provoke it into doing so. But unless someone in Europe or the USA can introduce a new energy source, NATO cannot win this war. And it’s very clear that Putin, Xi, Modi, and the other BRICSIA leaders all understand this. And the nature of the war will become increasingly apparent as US attempts to escalate the military elements are met with energy-related escalations as well as military responses.
And apparently, some of the NATO leaders realize this too.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey’s goal is membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization