Mobilization set up for failure the hardliners within Putin’s inner circle, the very group that had clamored for it. Once it fails to turn the war around, they will face a choice between taking the fall or turning against their leader.
In order to stay in power, any leader, even Putin must maintain the support of some proportion of the constituents. For autocratic leaders, like Putin, this means securing continued support of his inner circle, whether through policy, private payoffs.
Putin’s inner circle consists of two rival blocs: the heads of the military/security structures and the top-ranking intelligence officers (the FSB).
The hardliners (the military) who called for mobilization are short-sighted. They see the best-case scenario in which the over-whelming troop numbers force Ukraine to accept peace of Russia’s terms.
In this fantasy, the military is the heroes, unstoppable but by the weight of their new medals. What they are forgetting is that nothing in this was has gone according to Russia’s best-case scenario.
The reality is that Russia lacks the logistics and officer personnel to manage the army of its current size. Quadrupling the troop numbers, as the promised 300,000 would mean, would exponentially exacerbate these problems.
And when the generals’ dreams of glory come crashing down, the FSB (their rival bloc) will be there to make sure none of todays’ hardliners ever climb from under the rubble.
Putin can see this coming. There is a reason he postponed mobilization for as long as he could. He waited so long that some of the hardliners (Kadyrov, Prigozhin) found the courage to publicly call him out for it.
Even once his speech was scheduled to air, Putin postponed the announcement for yet another day at the last minute. He didn’t want mobilization, his hand was forced.
Putin knows that a likely defeat will sow panic among the members of his inner circle. And when narcissists panic, they destroy everything around them.
It’s Putin’s side of the bargain to ensure the safety of his inner circle, and he did this by postponing escalating his “special operation” to a full-scale war for as long as he could.
Now that all the military’s cards have been played, it’s only a matter of time before they have to choose between taking the fall or turning on their leader.
Asst Prof of PolSci, @UofT_PolSci, statistics, network analysis, spatial statistics, terrorism, human rights, repressive regimes. Views are my own.
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