The announcement of a partial mobilization without an openly documented number or time frame marked the Kremlin’s transition to an escalation scenario — one we talked about back in late spring, and its likelihood has only increased since then as Russia weakened on the battlefield. Interestingly, the law on mobilization training and mobilization of 1997, a kind of atavism of the Soviet era, clearly states:
“The President <…> in cases of aggression against the Russian Federation or an immediate threat of aggression, the outbreak of armed conflicts directed against the Russian Federation, announces a general or partial mobilization with an immediate report to the Federation Council and the State Duma.”
Of course, the aggression is carried out by the Russian Federation itself. This means that the mobilization is intended, if not to realize the Kremlin's plan - in the form of the destruction of Ukraine as a state and Ukrainian culture (this is impossible), then at least to improve Russia's foreign policy positions in the current critical situation. Here, too, the Kremlin may attempt to wrest acceptable ceasefire terms from Kyiv and its allies, followed by multilateral negotiations—by continuing the war, trying to rescue defeated Russian troops, and even bringing NATO countries into the war.
The continuation of the war, mobilization and escalation is an attempt to knock out acceptable conditions for a ceasefire from Kyiv and its allies.
Nevertheless, mobilization gives rise to a whole range of problems that inspire confidence in its own failure and inability to seriously affect anything.
Firstly , "rubber mobilization" without deadlines and clear parameters inevitably undermines the credibility of the Russian government - and even on the part of those who were not against the war in words. In other words, mobilization delegitimizes the Kremlin.
Secondly , in Russia, with its authoritarian rule, the republican type of mobilization that we see in Ukraine and which we saw earlier in history, for example, during the Great French Revolution or the American Civil War, is simply impossible. This type of mobilization is based on mutual trust between the authorities (at all levels) and civil society. In addition, he needs civil society itself, with its horizontal connections and consolidation, on which, among other things, the supply of the Republican army relies.
All this is impossible in an authoritarian system. Only violent mobilization is possible in it, and in the form we saw it with Lenin and Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot. Moreover, to be successful, this type of mobilization needs a huge rural population, which is a resource for mobilization waves. At the same time, it should be sufficiently scattered in space to make it as difficult as possible to offer organized resistance to the authorities.
"Rubber mobilization" without deadlines and clear parameters inevitably undermines the credibility of the Russian government - and even on the part of those who were not against the war in words
Russia left the agrarian society, so the impossibility of successful mass forced mobilization and, moreover, its uselessness and even harmfulness for success in modern warfare became obvious to the Soviet command in the 1980s. A little later, already in perestroika, the natural problem of the immorality of such mobilization with its fundamentally anti-human and anti-cultural character began to be discussed. Nevertheless, Russia was unable to create the armed forces of a democratic republic, as well as this republic itself.
As a result, she will have to carry out violent mobilization in a reality unsuitable for mass unpunished violence. The Russian citizens, clinging to the sprawling remnants of their former lives throughout the months of the war and taken by surprise by the mobilization, will resist more and more. And first of all, this resistance will grow within the framework of a developed culture of sabotage, and not open protest. And the growth of violence will inevitably begin to give rise to retaliatory violence: Dagestan confirmed this vector over the past weekend.
Resistance will primarily grow within the framework of a developed culture of sabotage
Here, however, there is one critically important, but for some reason little noticed contradiction. The authorities force mobilized citizens to sign a contract - which de jure means their "self-mobilization" - with the help of psychological pressure, threats and use of legal illiteracy (at the same time, according to Article 421 of the Civil Code on freedom of contract, this is a priori voluntary). So the Kremlin is trying to leave a loophole for itself: “Boy, we didn’t force you to go to this war, you yourself signed the contract.” This removes the issue of the very paragraph of the law on mobilization, which determines its implementation by the fact of aggression or the threat of aggression against Russia. In addition, neither the current nor the new "mobilized contractors" in the conditions of even partial mobilization are no longer able to terminate their contract. It turns out not even a mobilization army in the style of the XIX-XX centuries, but a kind of "military servility."
In essence, the Kremlin is shifting its responsibility for the war onto the mobilized citizens with this step. He, apparently, is trying to stop the threat of politicization of previously apolitical Russians in advance, since each of them can be poked into the status of a contract soldier. Moreover, he is trying to build a defensive line in advance in case of a future international tribunal: “It’s not only we, the specific leaders, who are to blame, those many thousands of Russian citizens who signed a contract to kill Ukrainians are to blame – by and large, the entire Russian people.”
The Kremlin shifts its responsibility for the war to mobilized citizens
Thirdly , in the course of the military reform of 2009–2012 in Russia, cadre units were disbanded, which were supposed to be deployed in the event of mobilization at the expense of just mobilized citizens. Thus, the question arises: where to send the mobilized today? The only answer is: to those units that suffered losses in Ukraine and were withdrawn from the battlefield for resupplying. However, this means that not only privates are lost there, but also partially sergeants, ensigns and officers - that is, just those who should command the mobilized. Accordingly, further growth of confusion and organizational chaos in the troops is inevitable.
Fourthly , the current "partial mobilization" is focused on the mobilization of manpower and does not imply the introduction of martial law. And it is already obvious that the Russian economy, and indeed the authorities, are simply not ready for such a turn. To put it bluntly, a factory that was running a standard eight-hour day making rockets of some kind cannot be converted to work 24/7. For this there is neither sufficient equipment, nor a sufficient number of employees, nor the corresponding capabilities of suppliers and subcontractors. The same can be said about the authorities: it is impossible from 8:00 to 17:00 with a lunch break five days a week to send people to kill Ukrainians, to try to fight their resistance and the growing imbalances. Thus, a transition to martial law and full mobilization is extremely likely - and they, according to the same law on mobilization preparation, will make it possible to mobilize government bodies and enterprises.
As a result, authoritarian, forced mobilization inevitably leads to an attempt to reanimate the planned economy. However, it is obvious that faith in the success of such a model is the lot of idiots, and the command-administrative system itself will only aggravate the ongoing self-destruction of the Kremlin and Russia as a whole.
Fifth , the choice of the Kremlin, which is weakening and has lost a significant part of its army, in favor of escalation as a whole exacerbates the isolation of Russia and finally sets it in opposition to the rest of the world. In this situation, mobilization only prolongs the agony of the regime and increases the moral and material price that the Russian people will have to pay as a result of this war. And here we can recall that, for example, Germany completed the payment of reparations for the First World War only in 2010, 92 years after its defeat.
Today, unlike the state of affairs on February 24, 2022 of this year or even last spring, the very statehood of Russia has been called into question. And even if the country survives as a result of this war and can be re-established in one form or another, we will still pay our bills in the 22nd century.