After Russia pulls out of Ukraine, what could Putin do next?

A general mobilization would allow the military to rely more on Russia’s 2 million reservists, allow it to expand the project, and put the Kremlin in a position to pressure its manufacturing base to be on its feet. war. However, this would require heavy training and a repurposing of gear and economy, meaning it could take at least until spring for this to have an effect on the battlefield.

It could also lead to backlash in Russia’s major cities, where life has continued in many ways as usual and residents have not suffered the same number of casualties as its rural provinces so far.

“If you start taking young men from Moscow and St. Petersburg, who are politically more powerful than those from the provinces, and they start dying in Ukraine while Russia is losing, that’s a very risky position politically. for Putin,” said Kristine Berzina, senior researcher in security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said this week that the Kremlin was not considering full mobilization but that debate was welcome – up to a point.

“Critical viewpoints can be considered pluralism as long as they stay within the bounds of the law,” he said. “But the line is very, very thin. You have to be careful here.

Sue for peace?

Other voices in Russia called for an end to the invasion and the withdrawal of forces.

Politician Boris Nadezhdin’s comments on Russian television that the Kremlin had no chance of winning and that it should focus on peace talks made waves online this week.

“We are now at the point where we have to understand that it is absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine,” Nadezhdin said on state-controlled NTV on Sunday, where he further criticized the Kremlin for its “methods of warfare.” colonial” and the use of contract soldiers and mercenaries. without mobilization.

Nadezhdin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he did not fear arrest and did not believe he violated Russian laws prohibiting disparaging the military or spreading “false information” about the conflict.

“There was not a single falsehood at all, not a single falsehood in what I said,” he told the news agency. “There was a statement of absolutely obvious facts.”

Nadezhdin is a former liberal member of the Russian parliament.Sergei Ponomarev / AP file

Moscow and Kyiv entered into negotiations at the start of the war, but failed to make substantial progress towards a peace agreement. Given Putin’s territorial ambitions and Ukraine’s growing confidence in its ability to reclaim lost land, any deal may require concessions that neither side is willing to accept.

The potential damage from the growing criticism of Putin is clear, with pressure both to intensify the military campaign and to end it growing. Putin even admitted Thursday after a meeting with the Chinese president Xi Jinping that Xi has”questions and concernsabout the war.

Calls for his resignation, like that of 50 city deputies launched in a petition this week, could point to greater threats to Putin’s ability to hold onto power, Kimmage said, and they could mean some Russian politicians are starting to cover up. their bets and seeing cracks in his strongman veneer.

“That will be the most interesting dynamic to watch in Russian politics over the next two months,” he said. “They do it with a certain political risk, but if the Russian army really loses, I don’t think Putin can survive this defeat.”

The nuclear option?

With his own position possibly more vulnerable as the war turns in Ukraine’s favour, some analysts have warned that a cornered Putin could turn to The Russian nuclear arsenal.

Fears of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and NATO have eased since the start of the war, but analysts said a small-scale tactical strike against Ukraine could remain a possibility, especially if the outlook of Putin continue to deteriorate.

Such a move would most likely provide limited military gains while provoking a geopolitical backlash in which the situation could spin out of Kremlin control.

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