Russian service members march during a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 76th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Red Square in central Moscow. File/Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced that reservists with previous military experience have been called to fight the ongoing war in Ukraine, and he also warned that Russia will use the ultimate weapon to defend itself and asserted that this was not a bluff. United States President Joe Biden condemned Russia for violating the UN Charter in attacking Ukraine and criticized Putin for indulging in nuclear blackmail. Putin’s call of reservists is seen as an acknowledgement of Russia’s recent setback on the battlefront, and the need felt by Moscow to send reinforcements. Russia’s Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu said, “I cannot but emphasise the fact that today we are at war not so much with Ukraine and the Ukrainian army as with the collective West.” Shoigu said that apart from supplying arms to Ukraine, the West was indirectly involved in the war through the use of Western communication systems, information processing systems, reconnaissance systems, and satellite intelligence systems.” Putin has made out the war in Ukraine as a defence of Russia because it is assumed that Donetsk and Luhansk in the east of Ukraine now occupied by Russian forces and supported by pro-Moscow leaders in the region is part of Russia. It is also being argued in the defence ministry that Ukraine is shelling border-areas inside Russia, and that now the battlefront stretches across 1000 km.
Last week’s Ukrainian success in east Ukraine has led to the speculation that Russia was on the verge of losing the war, and that the call-up of the reservists is an act of desperation. The Russians have not denied that there has been a setback, but the call-up of reservists is an indication that Russia does not plan to accept defeat in a hurry, and that it plans to wage an extended war. The Ukrainian hope as well as that of the West that Russian collapse in Ukraine is certain is turning out to be premature with the Russians only too ready to fight a longish war, and their resolve to defend Donbas in Ukraine comprising Donetsk, as well as Luhansk.
The Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting a determined war against the Russians in the last seven months, but it has been made possible by liberal aid from the United States in terms of weapons, materials and money. In many ways, the Ukrainians and the Russians want to fight because each seems to believe that they are fighting for a legitimate cause. When the war started on February 24, Russia’s main purpose to affect a regime change in Kyiv and Moscow seemed to have believed that the Ukrainian armed forces will join hands with Russia. It did not happen. That is why, Russia changed its war plans to capture Kyiv, and it focused on retaining the territories in the east of Ukraine where pro-Russia local rebels has established their power.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has plans to recapture all the territories under Russian control including Crimea. Zelensky’s war aim seems to be unrealistic unless there is a dramatic collapse of the Russian army, and the people in Crimea. Donetsk and Luhansk do not support the Russians. The Ukrainian problem is complicated because most Russians are bilingual and they speak Russian and Ukrainian, and this lends ambiguity in the attitude of the Ukrainians in the eastern regions.
The hardened stance of the US, Great Brtain, the European Union (EU) countries and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) has emboldened Ukraine to stay in the war and its unwillingness to have any negotiations with Moscow. And Russia feels that it has no option but dig in its heels and be prepared for the long haul. The peace efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be in vain.