Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is preparing to annex four occupied regions in Ukraine, accompanied by the nuclear threat and partial mobilization decision. After the Plan A, which returned from Kiev and could not anchor in Odessa, Plan B, which envisages annexing the occupied regions to Russia, is passed. Of course, these are not declared plans. Our readings outside! On the other hand, the sabotage of Nord Stream seems to be a response to Putin. The rules of the game change reciprocally. While the reactions inside Russia are growing, the ‘second division’ scenario after 1991 comes to mind, which Putin focused on while blaming the west.
Are Putin’s moves a Russian roulette or a strategy that excludes the option to lose?
The withdrawal of the Russian army from Kharkiv as of September 6 gave some impulse to the Western wing, which saw the only solution at the expense of destroying Ukraine, in the absolute defeat of Russia, to increase military aid. Previously, with the foresight that Russia would not be defeated, the proposition of “peace in exchange for land” was cooked underfoot. Volodymyr Zelenski, who said, “The war started in Crimea and will end in Crimea,” with the weapon of the West, understood that Kharkiv’s honor would be given a little more shoulder. On the other hand, while Russia is consuming its energy in Ukraine, it loses its influence in the periphery it attaches great importance to: The conflicts on the Azerbaijan-Armenia line, where it stepped in as a peacekeeping force, and the recurrence of the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border dispute are two examples of this.
THE CRIMEAN SCENARIO IS REPEATED
Here, Putin’s move came in the face of such a picture. While partial mobilization was announced on September 21, it was also decided to hold a referendum for accession to Russia in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia. While the partial referendum was met with protests, there were scenes of escape from Russia. Although this creates excitement outside, there is no hesitation in Putin’s plan.
According to the results of the referendum, which lasted for 5 days as of September 23, 98.42 percent in Luhansk, 99.23 percent in Donetsk, 87.05 percent in Kherson and 93.11 percent in Zaporizhia supported the proposal to join Russia. Not all of these regions are under Russian control. Thus, the annexation process, which would add the region known as ‘New Russia’ in history to the Russian Federation, was thus started. Probably in the first week of October, the issue will be put on the agenda of the Russian parliament.
Putin is expected to deliver a speech in parliament tomorrow. It is not clear whether he will address the MPs or the nation. Bets are placed on what he will say: Will he declare martial law? Will it ban the reservists from going abroad? Will he support the annexation decision of the four regions and ask the Federation Council and Duma to complete the legal processes? Will he make a speech about his responsibilities in the Russian geography similar to the one on February 21? It is eagerly awaited.
IS THE NUCLEAR THREAT A BLUFF? WHAT IS THE STRATEGY?
So, where will partial mobilization and referendums carry the crisis? There is not a single door through which this route will lead. It seems that the places where the referendum was held will be fortified with 300 thousand reserve soldiers. After the annexation process is completed, Putin can return to the table to end the war by saying “The operation has achieved its purpose”. But if Ukraine does not stop, the second scenario will be triggered. Attacks against these regions, which have been declared Russian territory, will be deemed to have been made directly against the Russian Federation. In this case, a “special operation” could turn into a war. Putin is trying to draw a deterrent line with the threat of using nuclear weapons. Obviously, the aim is for the West to accept the new situation regarding the annexed regions and end the flow of arms.
Putin’s statement in his address to the nation on September 21, “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can turn in their own direction… If our territorial integrity is threatened, Russia will use all available means, this is not a bluff” is not seen as a bluff on the NATO side either. While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that they take Putin’s nuclear rhetoric seriously, he emphasized that the alliance will have two tasks: one to continue supporting Ukraine and the other to prevent the conflict from escalating.
The Americans say that they conveyed the message to the Kremlin that this would have a heavy response. Is the sabotage of Nord Stream a cash reward? It’s possible.
Putin could not find the support he was looking for at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, he was faced with suggestions to end the war and gave the signal that he could return to the table. The fear is that withdrawing without breaking a piece of Ukraine will be a defeat, that it will not end here and that a new wave of fragmentation will be triggered for the Russian Federation. Full withdrawal is not an option for Putin. That’s why he tries to create the conditions where he can stop the war by talking about nuclear weapons.
The picture that casts a shadow on Putin’s plans is formed inside. There is an increase in the number of young people trying to go abroad upon the call for 300 thousand reserve soldiers. Although the penalty for evading military duty during mobilization was increased from 5 to 10 years, the border crossings with Georgia, Kazakhstan, Finland and Mongolia became active. The agglomeration at the Verhni Lars Border Gate, which is used especially in the transitions from the Republic of North Ossetia to Georgia, gives the appearance of an escape. Russia is planning to establish a military branch here immediately to prevent escapes. Novaya Gazeta claimed that 261,000 people left Russia between September 21-26. The Insider, on the other hand, gave the number of people crossing the Russian-Georgian border as 115 thousand. Georgian Internal Affairs announced that these figures do not reflect the truth. According to the Ministry, daily passes amounted to 10-11 thousand. That’s a 45 percent increase. However, 60 percent of the arrivals debuted again. The number of people entering Kazakhstan is 98 thousand. 64,234 of them left the country.
Judging by the Kremlin, it seems that Russia is not in a state of unease that would require closing the borders or going to martial law.
MOBILIZATION REVOLUTION: WILL THE CAUCASUS GET OUT OF CONTROL?
While Putin has been under the rain of sanctions, he may crown his dreams of expansion in the scattered Soviet geography at the expense of taking a little more burden. But here, the scenario may shift in the direction that Putin fears, namely inwards. Fault lines inside Russia could be triggered if things go wrong and the war escalates. The place where the eyes will immediately look is the Caucasus. While the current unrest does not justify a grand scenario, it could threaten the fragile stability in the region.
The motivation to protect the Russian population threatened by neo-fascism in Ukraine, the perception that Russia was threatened, and the goal of eliminating the danger at its source were enough for public support. If the operation is to be carried out by active-duty and professionals, if there will be no economic collapse and if it will not turn into a war at the end of the day, then Putin should do what he knows! But partial mobilization changes the situation. Mothers who do not want to send their children to die are taking to the streets. Demonstrations were held in places such as Krasnodar, Volgograd, Grozny, Makhachkala, Hasavyurt, Nalchik and Baksan. Of course, the objection is not limited to the Caucasus. Immediately after the partial mobilization area on September 21, Russians took to the streets in 39 cities, 1307 people were detained within 24 hours. Of those detained, 527 were in Moscow, 480 in St. He was in Petersburg. The number of detentions doubled in subsequent demonstrations.
However, the reflections of the mobilization in the North Caucasus are somewhat different. There is a general perception that the Caucasian peoples suffered more casualties in Ukraine than the population, and that the summons received as part of the partial mobilization were also disproportionate. In addition to Chechnya, it is understood that special attention is given to Dagestan, the largest republic of the North Caucasus with a population of 3 million. Magomed Magomedov, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Chernovik Newspaper, attributes the majority of those who went to the Ukraine war on a contract basis from the republic to economic poverty. He says that military service has turned into a social ladder, that most of those who go to Ukraine are unemployed young people with university degrees, but none of them expected to participate in such a serious operation. There is also the Wagner dimension of the issue. There have been reports recently that Wagner is working to get inmates in prisons to the front for $1500. According to Gulagu.net’s claim, 300 people from the prison in the town of Tlyustenkhabl in Adygea joined Wagner. It is understandable that the number of Chechens traveling to Ukraine is disproportionate because of the leading role of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who works as Putin’s special war minister. If it were up to Kadyrov, who took the lead in branding those who objected to the war as traitors, Kyiv had already fallen. Local leaders may also try to prove themselves to the Kremlin. Yunusbeg Yevkurov, former president of the Republic of Ingushetia, is now the Deputy Minister of Defense of Russia. He was with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who went to inspect the recruits in the Western Military District.
Going out into the street in Grozny, Nalchik or Makhachkala is St. It’s not like holding a show in St. Petersburg. Since the war in Chechnya, the region has been intimidated and left at the mercy of siloviki. Chechnya is under the iron fists of Kadyrov. Dagestan has been a de facto ‘special operations’ area since 1999. Putin’s heavy hand is always working there. Special conditions in the Caucasus do not allow mass demonstrations as in the 1990s. The participants in these last demonstrations are essentially just the hearths where the fire fell. As such, there is no appearance of an insurrection. Simply, the feeling in the Caucasus is this: “We paid the heaviest price in Ukraine, now leave us alone and knock on the door of the others.”
In fact, Kadyrov said that since the war began, they have sent three times more troops than planned and that partial mobilization will not be in Chechnya. Of course, it cannot be said that Kadyrov is not idle. 1ADAT, the social network of dissident Chechens abroad, claims that hundreds of Chechens have been threatened to enroll in the “volunteer” union. Civil organizations affiliated with the opposition, which describe these events as ‘abductions’, also report that they have received complaints about being forced into the volunteer army.
The Caucasus aside, Putin’s public support is not upside down despite the growing backlash. According to the Levada Center’s survey, the approval rate for Putin’s actions dropped to 77 percent in September. This rate, which was 71 percent when the war started, was around 82-83 percent. This shows that it would be misleading to give Putin a lifetime based on the mobility at the borders.
In summary, although the picture is not as heavy as it is drawn from the outside, it may happen to Putin that he fears. A very dangerous turn has been entered in Ukraine. If Putin cannot take this maneuver, unexpected pages may open in Russia’s fragile geography.