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Putin May Have No Choice But to Declare War on Ukraine

Tanks in Ukraine
Tanks from Ukraine's Army in combat. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Russian Mobilization Means a Long, Grinding War of Attrition in Ukraine – There is growing anxiety that Russian President Vladimir Putin will shortly declare war on Ukraine and mobilize Russian military reserves for use in his fight. The announcement seems likely to fall on May 9, V-E or Victory in Europe Day. Nazi Germany surrendered on that date in 1945, and it is a major Russian holiday. So far, Russia has not taken the formal step of a war declaration against Ukraine. Putin originally titled his invasion a ‘special military operation.’ He expected a blitzkrieg victory – a quick, in/out decapitation of the Ukrainian government.

Instead, Putin has stumbled into massive conflict. Ukraine did not roll over; it fought harder than anyone anticipated. Putin was defeated in the battle of Kyiv, and the conflict has grown into a proxy war with the West. Putin is now fighting the combined weight of Western economies, supporting a highly mobilized, high-morale client army.

Putin is now desperate. Facing this surprisingly tough and now well-resourced opponent, he needs to mobilize the total weight of Russian power if he is to win conventionally. His other options – admitting defeat and retreating, or escalating with a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) – have massive downsides. Failure could jeopardize him at home; WMD escalation could easily spin out of control. Perhaps if he can throw enough men and material at the eastern Ukrainian Donbas region, he can still claw out enough success to declare some manner of ‘victory.’

A Declaration of War

The conflict is very obviously not a ‘special military operation’ anymore. Not even Russian media can obscure what has exploded into Russia’s largest conflict since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Originally, Putin sought to obscure the conflict from his own people. Even his own soldiers did not fully know of the plan to invade Ukraine.

The intention was to prevent popular resistance by blocking the Russian public from knowing about the war until it was over. By the time the Russians knew what happened, the whole thing would be finished. Like the snatching of Crimea in 2014, this ‘special military operation’ was to be a fait accompli. This information blackout strategy left the field open to Ukraine which aggressively shaped the world’s perception of the conflict. As the war backfired, Putin could no longer hide it. So he rhetorically doubled down, casting the conflict as an existential battle with the West.

Framed this way, Russia must mobilize all its resources to win. A declaration of war legally allows Putin to do that, including the broader use of conscripts in the war.

Mass versus Quality

This is tough news for the Ukrainians of course. It suggests Putin will re-double his efforts in Donbas. If Putin can genuinely mobilize tens of thousands more soldiers – it is unclear if he can get away with that scale of mobilization without domestic resistance – then he can flood the battlespace with new units in a bid to simply overwhelm the Ukrainians. For Ukraine to fight this off, the West would need to dramatically scale up its assistance so that the quality of Ukrainian forces would outweigh all this new Russian quantity.

If Putin does mobilize like this, this promises a major expansion of the war and a substantial escalation in the amount of violence. The fight will become a brutal grind as Russia seeks to overwhelm Donbas’ defenders with sheer mass.

Russia Ukraine

Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremony of the international military-technical forum.

Silver Lining?

The only good news from this course of action would be the Russian rejection – at least for the moment – of the use of WMD in Ukraine. There has been running anxiety for more than a month – since the Kyiv assault bogged down – that Putin would try to break the emerging stalemate with a WMD escalation. This would be a significant qualitative shift in the war – something which more conventional mass instead through mobilization is very clearly not. WMD use would almost certainly pull NATO directly into the war; a NATO-enforced no-fly zone, sought by Ukraine from the start of the conflict, would be a likely response, plus a massive step-up in the quality of NATO weapons transferred.

Putin has wisely avoided this difficult course so far. Where a slide into WMD combat would end is frightening to contemplate. If Putin declares a mobilization on May 9, that would almost certainly indicate a deferral of possible WMD use. More Russian soldiers in Ukraine means more of them exposed to potential WMD fallout. And conquering Ukraine, if parts of it are devasted by WMD, makes no sense.

This shift would portend a more prolonged, brutal war, making a WMD strike less likely.

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well. 

Written By

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well. 

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Alex

    May 4, 2022 at 10:09 am

    German journalist Thomas Röper: Ukrainians are very afraid that the Russians will leave.
    The journalist spoke about the distortion of facts in the Western media:

    “I was three times in the south (Ukraine). The first trip was also to Melitopol. And so, on this trip, I was most impressed by the fact, or the fear that you see there in the eyes of people. And not among those who do not agree with the military operation, and according to my estimates, this is a minority. It is they who swear, the camera writes, and they will say how much they disagree. And those who agree are the majority.

    I see it in the squares, when there are hundreds of people, they walk past the soldiers and say in a whisper: “Thank you guys, don’t leave.” They are very afraid, and they said it directly. They are very afraid that the Russians will leave and there will be reprisals. What, in my understanding, happened in Bucha, by the way.

    And the fact that now, Alina said, from Mariupol is another such example. The woman was afraid to just speak the truth. Afraid that, God forbid, the Russians would leave and there would be reprisals. I don’t want to take too much time now, I just want to give one example, because the West always says it’s Russian propaganda if they say that Azov and other units of the Ukrainian troops use civilians as a “human shield”.

    I write in German, and the other day I read an article in the German magazine Spiegel, which is probably known to many. And there was a very surprising offer. So they wrote… Everything, of course, sounded very positive, but they wrote that in Mariupol… More precisely, they (the newspaper) were told by people in Zaporozhye who had come from Mariupol, telling them that their national battalions held them, “politely of course”, held peaceful residents to the basement, and took positions in the apartments above these basements. It sounds in the Western media as if they are protecting them. Excuse me, what is this? If the fighters take up their combat positions above the basements where civilians are sitting, and how voluntarily they went to this basement.

    Most people know the truth, but the Western media do not need this truth, they have a different manual, you need to do everything the other way around, and if it doesn’t work out the way America wants, you get sanctions, but the EU countries, not Russia, they will die after the first package of sanctions.

    • Ulf Larsen

      May 4, 2022 at 11:58 am

      Here is the “journalist” Thomas Röper:

      https://xhamster.com/posts/518312

      The little he is known for is being part of the Russian propaganda effort in the illegal Russian war against Ukraine.

    • Abraham Lincoln

      May 4, 2022 at 12:35 pm

      Mr. Roper “German journalist” is a Russian paid stooge. As is Alex.

  2. RogerBacon

    May 4, 2022 at 10:37 am

    Hell would freeze over if I ever agreed with Alex the Russian (Polish?) Troll but he’s right when he says Western media is full of propaganda. That doesn’t make Russia’s invasion justified though. There was nothing in Ukraine that was a threat to Russia.
    Democrats in America spent three years spreading the lie that Russia interfered in the US 20216 election and caused Hillary to lose. Total lie. Real reason she lost — everyone knows her and hates her. However, now the Democrats actually BELIVE their lie and so this war support for Ukraine is payback. They want nothing less that regime change in Russia and they are willing to support Ukraine down to the last Ukrainian to see it done.
    I hope this war ends soon. I don’t like seeing two White Christian nations killing each other’s sons. The only ones who benefit are the globilists.

    • Alex

      May 4, 2022 at 11:00 am

      Of course, Roger, you will not agree with me. After all, there are no Bandera Nazis in Ukraine who raped, tortured and killed Ukrainian women and children of Donbass for 8 years. Then people like you didn’t give a damn about Ukraine and you said that Donbass was bombing itself or that Russia was doing it in general. And hundreds of thousands of people who begged for help to Russia and now hug them – these are all Putin’s actors. You’re right, hell will freeze over, but your eyes won’t open.

      • RogerBacon

        May 4, 2022 at 11:09 am

        Don’t forget that the creation of Germany’s National Socialists (i.e. “Nazis”) was a reaction to the killings of the Marxist communists in the decades earlier. Communists are FAR worse that so-called Nazis and every death at Nazi hands can be attributed to communists because their bloody history created the Nazis.

        • Alex

          May 4, 2022 at 12:21 pm

          OK. Fight the communists. There is no communism in Russia for a long time. But there is communism in China. Go ahead, China will just destroy you.
          And don’t tell me about the Bandera Nazis. I know what kind of creatures they are and how my people suffered in the Volyn massacre, Lvov pogroms and other purges by these nonhumans. Look at the photos of that time and find out what these bastards were doing.

        • from Russia with love

          May 6, 2022 at 5:07 am

          that is, you want to say that the Nazis are normal guys because they had to fight the communists? glad to see that you do not deny the direct participation of Western countries in the creation of Nazism, fascism and direct participation in the financing of Hitler 🙂
          but what “bloody crimes” of the communists are you raving about here? As far as I remember, the Nazis came to power accusing the Communists of setting fire to the Reichstag. then they decided to hold a public trial and it was a mistake. in a Nazi-occupied country, a Nazi-controlled court failed to prove communist involvement in the Reichstag fire. worse, everyone learned about the torture by which they tried to force a confession from the accused.
          very dirty story.

      • Abraham Lincoln

        May 4, 2022 at 12:36 pm

        There are no Nazis in Ukraine, crackhead Alex.

  3. Andrew M Winter

    May 4, 2022 at 11:04 am

    Interesting comments that don’t really bear on the article.

    Here, ” There is growing anxiety that Russian President Vladimir Putin will shortly declare war on Ukraine and mobilize Russian military reserves for use in his fight.”

    Good Gawd, just three hours ago this very venue reported these casualty figures.
    “The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 24,500 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 194 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 155 helicopters, 1,077 tanks, 491 artillery pieces, 2,610 armored personnel carriers, 163 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 10 boats, 1,867 vehicles and fuel tanks, 81 anti-aircraft batteries, 303 unmanned aerial systems, 38 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 87 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.”

    Now go here for the numbers, in context:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battalion_tactical_group
    170 BTGs only ten tanks each plus 40 IFVs or APCs.
    1700 combat ready tanks.
    6800 IFVs or APCs depending on the unit.

    The Russian Army en toto has lost almost three quarters of their combat ready tanks and a third of their entire force of IFVs and APCs, i.e. serviceable tank with a trained and seasoned crew, same for IFVs and APCs.

    That means to even prepare for the offensive in the Donbas Russia
    has already seriously dipped into their pool of reserves of men and materiel.

    There won’t be a declaration of war folks. Not happening. It is way too late to declare war after you have already lost over half your entire nations military for and gotten nothing worth while to show for the expenditure.

    • from Russia with love

      May 4, 2022 at 12:30 pm

      very interesting. those figures that you publish Ukrina reported a month ago. do you have any suggestions why during this time Russia is still not defeated and continues to liberate Ukraine? do you have any suggestions why the Russian planes continue to fly and strike, but the Ukrainian ones completely left the sky?

  4. Alex

    May 4, 2022 at 11:15 am

    This is the end of Russia. Russia ran out of tanks. Vedt said so the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, it is also the Ministry of Lies. Now even Mongolia can capture Russia. Clown.

    Director Oliver Stone described the scenario of US nuclear sabotage.

    The author of the films “Ukraine on Fire” and “In the Struggle for Ukraine” noted that now the West is already masterfully and with the use of brute force is waging an information war against Russia.
    American director Oliver Stone said that the most gloomy scenario for the development of the conflict in Ukraine remains a nuclear provocation by the United States. He shared this message on Twitter.

    According to him, in this case, Washington will not even have to cover its tracks, since Russia is considered to be the main initiator of all atrocities. Stone wondered if the United States was creating “the conditions for a high-yield nuclear explosion of unknown origin somewhere in the Donbass” that would incur the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians.

    “Of course, if this, God forbid, happens, the whole world, like Pavlov’s trained dog, will blame Russia for everything. This guilt has already been established in advance, regardless of who presses the button,” the director wrote.

    The United States deliberately hushed up the crimes of the Kyiv regime against the civilian population in Ukraine, which have been going on since 2014, Stone recalled. He also stressed that now the West “with skill and brute force” is waging an information war against Russia.

    Earlier, US General Mark Milley said that the likelihood of a clash between the great powers is growing. The military also spoke about the events in Ukraine, calling them the biggest security threat in Europe, and possibly the whole world, for “more than 40 years of his military career.”

  5. Vladolph Putler

    May 4, 2022 at 11:43 am

    The numbers of Russian losses might seem large, but keep in mind, they have been forced to pull Soviet era junk out of storage, and have been doing so for some time now. In addition they have already called up more conscripts, and called back reservists- who unlike western militaries, do not continue training. So both groups are “green” and heaved into units, have to *establish* cohesion under fire.

    Russia has plenty more junk, and plenty more conscripts to throw into it. Where they are short is experienced, cohesive units, modernized equipment (tanks/artillery) and precision munitions. Pretty desperately short on morale too.

    But a couple points: Russia using WMD’s makes Russia fair game for counter-strike in kind, and conventional escalation may have dire unintended consequences as well. There exists, no escalation ladder Russia can climb to a victory.

    That ship has already sailed. I think it was named after a housefly or something. Mosca, right?

  6. Alex

    May 4, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    Only a Bandera Nazi is convinced that because of the poorest third world country of Ukraine, someone will start a nuclear war. Ukraine was of strategic interest to the United States, but just like the Anglo-Saxons and “the whole civilized world” considered Ukraine to be garbage, they still think so.
    There may be provocations, and Oliver Stone is right. But there will be nothing further than a local conflict. US taxpayers want to live. This is the main thing – they want to live.

    • Him

      May 4, 2022 at 12:27 pm

      Alex, are you so ashamed of what your Russian grandfathers and great-grandfathers did being allies with Nazi Hitler at the start of WW2, that you push it out of your mind, pretending it never happened? (At the end of WW2, both were fighting each other – but at the start of WW2, the Russians were allies with Nazi Hitler).

      Alex, tell me the number of Bandera-Nazis in Ukraine?

      Then, tell me the number of the nation of Russia that allied with Hitler Nazis.

      You pretend it never happened.

      That is Alex being in denial.

      Your own family supported Russia being allies with Nazi-Germany. You, Alex, you are the big Nazi. Your own family. Nazi-thinking runs in your blood. This is why you think and write like a Nazi.

    • RogerBacon

      May 4, 2022 at 12:35 pm

      “Only a Bandera Nazi is convinced that because of the poorest third world country of Ukraine, someone will start a nuclear war.”
      I hope you’re right but it’s Putin that keeps talking about nukes. If the deep state does set off a nuke as the ultimate false flag to blame Russia (God forbid) Putin has only himself to blame. No one would even be thinking of nukes if Putin didn’t keep bringing them up.

      • Alex

        May 4, 2022 at 1:30 pm

        To speak is to warn that the Anglo-Saxons will not be able to do something without consequences. However, the question is: who was the only one in the world who used nuclear weapons against peaceful cities? Russia? No, the USA did it. Feel the difference – warn and do even without warning.

  7. CK

    May 4, 2022 at 12:47 pm

    It’s pointless to argue with this troll. He is not here for engagement, as he has realised recently pretty much everybody on this board is against him. He has been transparently exposed as the exceedingly obvious Internet Research Agency employee he is, working for Yevgeny Prigozhin – an oligarch with close ties to Putin.

    He is either operating out of the IRA headquarters building at 55 Savushkina Street, St.Petersburg if he is lucky, or more likely, out of a shed in the massive Arsenal Machine-Building Factory at Komsomol, 1-3, also St.Petersburg, if he is unlucky.

    I gather the latter, seeing as he is exceedingly stupid and dim-witted, as you have noticed. His tactics are fairly simple:

    Paragraphs and paragraphs of bollocks, dubious claims about “independent journalists”, random documentarians, conspiracy theorists, deluded claims that of course, have no backup, lie after lie after lie.

    Classical Kremlin troll approach. Just flood the internet, the comments, the media, with tosh, doesn’t matter what it is, just make sure you write some old nonsense. Make sure to say the claim is supported by some dude in Germany, France, the states. If it’s a “documentary” (usually from youtube) then the better.

    Anything that victimises Russia, always the victim, always the bullied, never the problem. It’s always the Nazis. It’s always some pseudo-historical point.

    Anyone that has had the misfortune to study his “tactics” sees the forest for the trees, the pattern of lies, disinformation, blanketing of random claims, deflection, obfuscation, and other words beyond your vocabulary.

    It’s hopeless Alex. Your lies are as short as your intellect. What a pathetic job, to sit in your government shed, spreading your pathetic, government lies.

    A pathetic job for a truly pathetic man. A better match could not be made in heaven.

    Having realised he can’t gain traction on this board now, he has resorted to two simple strategies:

    1) Be the first to comment on any article. This ensures anyone reading the article for the first time will inevitably stumble upon whatever his message of the day is, before it gets buried.

    2) Ideally, be the LAST person to comment on any article. Have the last say. For the same reasons as above. If there is a large discussion, people will usually scroll all the way down, and voila, you see his targeted message again.

    And that’s it. Every day, he blankets every article with the same copy + pasted content, over and over again. Saturation. This is how he ensures the message is seen one way or another.

    Funnily enough, if you copy + paste some of his bollocks onto google, you find other websites where you can almost verbatim find 100% matches. These are either Alex himself operating elsewhere, or the “daily script” these idiots are given by their supervisors to disseminate for this day, sent by other colleagues. You can find dozens of duplicates on other websites.

    Unfortunately, the shoddy or non-existent moderation and supervision of this website allows this to happen day, after day, after day. Anywhere else, he would have been banned by now.

    • Him

      May 4, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      Agreed. I’m done with arguing with Alex. Best to ignore him. Alex is no longer a novelty. Alex is getting boring.

  8. Alex

    May 4, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    Hysteria, fantasies, lies, madness – this is all that is left of the Bandera trolls. These bastards can’t even comment on the words of respected people all over the world. Project “Ukraine” is closed forever.

    • CK

      May 4, 2022 at 3:49 pm

      😀 😀 😀 😀

  9. Vladolph Putler

    May 4, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    IDK, it’s kinda nice to see what “the other side” might have to say. Such brilliance in propaganda demonstrated by the Kremlin’s greatest, is truly priceless. If Mr. Alex was censored, we would never know. Besides, I’d probably be booted by now too! XD (I will ignore the collective sigh)

    “Better to be silent and thought a fool- than to speak and remove all doubt.” 😀

    • CK

      May 4, 2022 at 3:57 pm

      True. It’s interesting to see what they are trying to pull. So much of it is so outlandish beyond reason.

      Entertaining no less though.

    • Him

      May 4, 2022 at 11:46 pm

      For just once, I’d like Alex-troll to comment on the alliance between Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Nazi Germany at the start of WW2.

      Alex carries on about Nazis in Ukraine, but refuses to look in the mirror and realise that it’s the Russians who were allies with Nazi Germany.

      That Russian-Nazi-Germany alliance would have continued, if not for Hitler turning around and attacking Russia.

  10. MHJ

    May 5, 2022 at 2:22 am

    A declaration of war will give Putin the opportunity to introduce drafting of young civilian Russians. Good luck with that. Remember Vietnam and the “draft” – and the uprising and demonstrations. I remember the song:

    Well, come on all of you, big strong men
    Uncle Sam (Putin) needs your help again
    He’s got himself in a terrible jam
    Way down yonder in Vietnam (Ukraine)
    So put down your books and pick up a gun
    We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun

    And it’s one, two, three
    What are we fighting for?
    Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn
    Next stop is Vietnam (Ukraine)
    And it’s five, six, seven
    Open up the pearly gates
    Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! we’re all gonna die

  11. Alex

    May 5, 2022 at 8:08 am

    The offer of Ukrainian militants at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol to exchange civilians there for food and medicine is very similar to the demands put forward by the terrorists.

    As for the similar demands of the nationalists who are hiding in the underground premises of the Azovstal plant, then, of course, they are very similar to similar demands that were previously voiced by terrorists in Syria and in other places.

    The remnants of the Ukrainian military group are securely blocked along the entire perimeter of Azovstal. Russian troops are not storming the territory of the plant, but they are suppressing the attempts of the militants blocked there to reach the firing points.

    The flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Russia and Chechnya are set over the entire city of Mariupol. The city is completely under the control of the special military operation forces.

    The whole world sees how Bandera Nazis show their true colors. A driven rat will destroy itself sooner or later.

  12. CK

    May 6, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Day 72: Today, the Frigate Admiral Makarov spontaneously combusts in my land war against a country without a navy.

    The special naval operation to make said ship tractor proof continues as planned.

    I remain a master strategist.

  13. Alex

    May 6, 2022 at 9:30 am

    And now let’s hear the truth, not Bandera’s Nazi fakes:
    The Bandera Nazis of Ukraine rejoiced that they had arrested the Ukrainian independent journalist Anatoly Shariy in Spain. Anatoly Shariy moved his member on the lips of the Bandera Nazis and is already at large! This is democracy in Europe, and not lawlessness like you have in impoverished Ukraine, Bandera pigs 🙂

  14. CK

    May 10, 2022 at 10:17 am

    Ah, the truth.

    A concept as far removed from Alex, as Sveta’s love for him, or as the idea of victory in Ukraine is to Putin.

    There’s a certain beauty in that symmetry, I suppose.

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