- Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a “partial mobilization” calling up 300,000 reservists effective September 21. He made clear that he no longer sees the Ukraine intervention as a limited “special military operation” but as a fight against “the entire military machine of the collective West.”
- “In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff,” Putin said in a televised address.
- The four partially Russian-occupied oblasts (regions) of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson will hold referenda on accession to Russia starting on Friday.
- Collective Western reaction was derision – “sign of failure,” said UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace; “panic,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte; “sign of weakness, sign of Russian failure,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken; “act of desperation,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – topping all.
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia will be unable to win a nuclear war and would face unprecedented consequences if it used nuclear weapons.
- After fast and substantial gains last week, the Ukrainian offensive in the East/Center theater over the past three days has made minimal progress and lost momentum. The offensive in the South announced with fanfare (as a feint?) in late August has not taken off.
Ukrainian forces continue to press on Russian positions around Lyman and points east. The assault on Lyman has, according to an anonymous Pentagon official, evolved into an artillery duel.
The Russians have established two north-south defensive lines, the first along the Oskol River, the second some 20 kilometers further east along the Kharkiv/Luhansk oblast border.
Further south, action around Bakhmut continues with fighting reported in Soledar for the first time in a week. Russian bloggers claim that Russian forces finally have control of Zaitseve, just southeast of Bakhmut.
Russian forces continue to operate northwest of Donetsk City, pushing out of Pisky to Pervomaiske and Nevelske, as well as to the southwest towards Marinka for small grinding gains behind massed artillery support.
To the extent that there is a battle, it’s an engineering battle in the Kherson region as Ukrainian artillery continues to strike at Russian Lines of Communication (LOCs) while Russian engineers continue to build and repair pontoon bridges and operate ferries across various rivers.
Russian sources say that northwest of Kherson Ukrainian forces are on the defensive on the M14 Roadway to Mykolaiv, as well as some 30 kilometers west of Kherson along the coast road in the area of Oleksandrivka
Around the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, some 60 kilometers northeast of Mykolaiv, Russian forces probed into the left flank of the Ukrainian salient just south of Davydiv Brid. The bridgehead has now existed in its present shape for some six months.
The Situation is developing an overall interim net assessment of the current status of opposing forces and likely dispositions into the winter months.
Suffice it to say here and now that the unison “judgment” of Western leaders has a lot more in common with the regimented official language (“Sprachregelung”, or “speech code”, in the East Germany of old) than with reality.
We listened carefully to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech and disagree not only with Western leaders’ scripted rhetoric but also with our colleague Stephen Bryen (see his accompanying piece here) – at least on one point: Putin’s speech was not incoherent.
Putin has quite coherently and with ample reason concluded that the war is no longer (if ever it was) a matter between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about Ukraine and Russia but rather is about Russia and the West – with America in the lead.
Putin made clear as the driven snows to come that he knows that the West – and first and foremost the US – does not want a strategic settlement but rather the destruction and decapitation of the Russia he has long led.
Putin will therefore no longer fight a limited war and can be expected to deploy the entirety of his resources to win the fight. The final sentence in his speech was very clear: Putin now sees himself in the historical line of Russian leaders who saved the Motherland from destruction.
“It is our historical tradition and the destiny of our nation to stop those who are keen on global domination and threaten to split up and enslave our Motherland. Rest assured that we will do it this time as well,” he said.
Stephen Bryen is right: We are at a moment more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Not because Putin is incoherent, but because of his apparent cold determination to survive and win, and because of US President Joe Biden and his advisers’ evident inability to devise or even so much as consider a diplomatic solution.
Western military pundits, and perhaps also NATO Secretary General Jens “Great Dane” Stoltenberg, who simply regard the Russians as finished will want to consider these realities.
Yes, a denuded Kharkiv front, with the benefit of real-time NATO intelligence and virtually all Western weapons, was rolled up by well-trained Ukrainian forces enjoying up to 5:1 troop superiority. The Russians were taken by surprise and paid for it dearly.
There are many examples of that in military history. In World War II there were four battles of Kharkiv, battles involving millions, not a few thousand. The Germans won three; the Russians won the last one that counted.
A Russian mobilization, to be sure, will take time – even a partial one of reservists who have previously served. But the call-up creates the opportunity within two to three weeks to shift trained and fully equipped forces, for example, from the Far East to the Donbas front. They can be replaced as the reservists come up to speed.
As or more importantly, this will now be a total war. Civilian infrastructure will be targeted as Russia’s air and naval forces will be fully utilized. The shifting tides of war will not likely immediately turn back in Russia’s favor.
But short of direct NATO ground or air intervention, a cold, hard and destructive winter looms on the horizon.
Follow Uwe Papart on Twitter at @uwe_parpart