WACO, Texas — Vladimir Putin suddenly called for a "partial mobilization" on Wednesday, and warned that Russia would be willing to use Nuclear weapons to defend itself.
A "mobilization" is essentially a military draft and the NBC reports state Russia is looking for at least 300,000 additional soldiers to replace the military losses in Ukraine. Protests against the draft broke out in Moscow and other Russian cities. More than 1,300 people were arrested as a result.
Ukrainian-born Baylor Professor of Political Science Sergiy Kudelia has been studying tensions between Russia and Ukraine since long before the conflict started. Kudelia told 6 News Friday there are several historic implications to actions taken by Russia this week.
"Vladimir Putin is in a very vulnerable spot right now. Some consider it to be the most vulnerable since he came to the presidency 22 years ago," Kudelia said.
According to Kudelia, Russia has not called for any sort of military draft, even a partial military draft, since back in World War 2. It's something Russians read about in textbooks, but have seen in their lifetime.
"For many Russians this is a scary thing," Kudelia said. "Even those Russians that were most nationalistic on Ukraine, realize they could now be sent to the battlefield and die."
Kudelia told 6 News he is now seeing some reports of Russians burning military enlistment offices.
Despite claims of Russia's state media, Kudelia said the demand shows all Russia's political factions that their country is losing.
"Dissatisfaction with the war is growing in Russia, both on the right and on the pro-west side. On the right, the nationalists aren't happy the Russians are losing. Many in the liberal camp are against the war completely and many mainstream Russians are seeing the effects of the sanctions against Russia,"
Kudelia said Putin's only option, if he is going to stay in power, is to double down on the war effort.
At the same time, Kudelia said Russia's forces have not achieved key objectives in Ukraine, which were set back in February, and have actually been pushed back over the last several weeks. In fact, Ukrainians are taking back Kharkiv, very close to the Russian border and could threaten the Donbas region in Ukraine which Putin is currently holding.
Now, Kudelia said, the military failures may also be leading to divisions between Russian military leadership and Putin himself.
"We've read the latest report today by Reuters that suggest that there are differences within the Russian military on the conduct of the war and many members of the Russian military are not happy with the fact that Putin's political leadership is interfering in strategic planning of military operations," Kudelia said.
Kudelia said local protests and uprisings would not be enough to remove Vladimir Putin from power, but the county's military leadership could eventually challenge Putin's power if this rift continues. He said many Russia soldiers have already complained they are not adequately equipped on the battlefield and are being used as "cannon fodder."
During Putin's address on Wednesday, the leader also made several references to Russia's nuclear arsenal.
"If there is a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, and for protecting our people, we will use all the means available to us, and I'm not bluffing" Putin said. "Those trying to blackmail us with Nuclear weapons should know that the tables can turn on them."
Kudelia said Russian television programs have already been discussing how nuclear weapons could be used in the conflict. At the same time, Kudelia said the chance of actually seeing such weapons used should be very low.
"What he is trying to say about the possibility of a nuclear strike against any enemy, is that Russia will protect itself by all means possible. If Russia's existence is at stake he would use the most destructive weapons possible," Kudelia said.
Kudelia told 6 News that Putin is now framing the narrative of the conflict as a fight between Russia's motherland and "the west" and is attempting to convince his people that western powers want to attack Russia. Whether or not Putin would actually use nuclear weapons offensively in Ukraine is a different story.
"If that happens Putin would be crossing a very serious line," Kudelia said. "There is a significant international taboo on the use of nuclear weapons. He has already crossed a lot of red lines...but he would be violating a very significant line that has been in place for decades."
Kudelia said any use of nuclear weapons, even if they were smaller "tactical strikes," could lead to an escalation where other world powers would feel justified in using similar weapons. While Kudelia feels the chances of any such weapons being used are very slim, he does not know how desperate Putin will become as the war continues.
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