Putin is 'in charge and he will fight back' warns Tobias Ellwood
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Vladimir Putin’s incendiary televised address, during which he hinted at the use of nuclear weapons, was a clear attempt to make the West “blink” and further proof that his forces were “on the back foot” in Ukraine, an expert has claimed. Dr Precious Chatterje-Doody also suggested widespread draft-dodging was likely with Russia’s President outlining plans to call up 300,000 reservists and widespread concerns about the possibility of full conscription.
During the course of his speech, Putin said: “To defend Russia and our people, we doubtlessly will use all weapons resources at our disposal, This is not a bluff.”
His remarks drew widespread condemnation, with UK Prime Minister Liz Truss using yesterday’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly to claim he was “desperately” trying to justify his “catastrophic” failure in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden warned: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Dr Chatterje-Doody, a lecturer in Politics and International Studies at The Open University, told Express.co.uk: “Putin is a very charismatic speaker. His address gave a straight-faced and passionate case that the West wants to rule the world, it’s out to destroy Russia, and Russia has to be prepared to take any necessary measures to foil these evil plans. He seemed calm and focused.
“Sadly for him, Western leaders are getting wise to Russian attempts to control the narrative. They had dismissed his main argument even before the speech aired.
“So, when Putin said that these pseudo-referendums justify any possible escalation to protect so-called ‘Russian territory’, Western leaders already made clear that’s nonsense.”
With respect to his reference to nuclear weapons, she added: “Putin’s war conduct so far shows we shouldn’t rule anything out, but of course in the first place he’s using these threats to make Ukraine and its Western supporters blink.”
Seven months on from Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and with Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops having pushed Russia back in large areas of the east, Dr Chatterje-Doody suggested his attempt at intimidation would fail.
She said: “Most Western leaders weren’t surprised at the contents of Putin’s speech, so it’s unlikely to prompt a strategic re-think.
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It’s clear to all involved that Russian forces are on the back foot
Dr Precious Chatterje-Doody
“Obviously, that’s the Kremlin’s hope, but it’s clear to all involved that Russian forces are on the back foot. Russia is trying to negotiate from a position of weakness, hence the dramatic threats.”
Putin’s surrogates, including former adviser Sergei Markov, did the rounds yesterday, including an interview with the BBC in which he suggested a nuclear strike on London was not out of the question – but Dr Chatterje-Doody argued such a move was standard practice for a regime she pointed out was preoccupied with public opinion.
She said: “Russia’s foreign policy is always at least 50 percent theatre. Even the referendum requests from the Russia-backed separatist leaders appear coordinated so that Putin can pretend he’s supporting a grassroots movement.
“Then all of the ‘usual suspects’ from the Kremlin’s entourage are sent out to bolster the regime’s tough talk across various media outlets. It’s a standard pattern.
“The Kremlin is obsessed with public opinion – it helps legitimise the ruling regime. That’s why there’s a whole Russian propaganda cottage industry and why censorship was ramped up around the invasions.”
Across Russia, an estimated 1,300 people have been arrested in protests that followed Putin’s remarks, and Dr Chatterje-Doody said it was only the start.
She explained: “Only a minority of very vocal Russians actively support this war. The vast majority are just unwilling to risk opposing it.
“They pay it lip service but mostly pretend it’s not happening. This mobilisation announcement could make this impossible, as it affects potentially millions of Russian men who would have previously thought themselves ‘safe’.
“We can expect lots of attempted draft-dodging and we’ve already seen a leap in flight princes out of Moscow.”
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