Details: Yusov said there had been a surge of requests after the successful counteroffensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Kharkiv Oblast and the announcement of partial mobilisation in the Russian Federation.
Quote: “Then we started getting phone calls not just from soldiers who were on the territory of Ukraine as part of the occupation army, but also those who had just been mobilised and were still on the territory of the Russian Federation, or their relatives, or even people who suspected that they might be mobilised and were checking just in case.
In a few weeks, we have already [received] more than 2,000 such requests.”
Background: The state project called I Want to Live is designed to help military personnel of the Russian army safely surrender to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
To receive information on how to surrender, Russian military personnel or their relatives and friends should call the 24-hour numbers:
+38 066 580 34 98;
+38 093 119 29 84.
Russians are guaranteed civilized treatment, in line with the norms of the Geneva Conventions.
Russia’s Small Nuclear Arms: A Risky Option for Putin and Ukraine Alike
David E. Sanger and William J. Broad – October 4, 2022
WASHINGTON — For all his threats to fire tactical nuclear arms at Ukrainian targets, President Vladimir Putin of Russia is now discovering what the United States itself concluded years ago, U.S. officials suspect: Small nuclear weapons are hard to use, harder to control and a far better weapon of terror and intimidation than a weapon of war.
Analysts inside and outside the government who have tried to game out Putin’s threats have come to doubt how useful such arms — delivered in an artillery shell or thrown in the back of a truck — would be in advancing his objectives.
The primary utility, many U.S. officials say, would be as part of a last-ditch effort by Putin to halt the Ukrainian counteroffensive, by threatening to make parts of Ukraine uninhabitable. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe some of the most sensitive discussions inside the administration.
The scenarios of how the Russians might do it vary widely. They could fire a shell 6 inches wide from an artillery gun on Ukrainian soil, or a half-ton warhead from a missile located over the border in Russia. The targets could be a Ukrainian military base or a small city. How much destruction — and lingering radiation — would result depends on factors including the size of the weapon and the winds. But even a small nuclear explosion could cause thousands of deaths and render a base or a downtown area uninhabitable for years.
Still, the risks for Putin could easily outweigh any gains. His country could become an international pariah, and the West would try to capitalize on the detonation to try to bring China and India, and others who are still buying Russian oil and gas, into sanctions they have resisted. Then there is the problem of prevailing winds: The radiation released by Russian weapons could easily blow back into Russian territory.
For months now, computer simulations from the Pentagon, U.S. nuclear labs and intelligence agencies have been trying to model what might happen and how the United States could respond. It is no easy task because tactical weapons come in many sizes and varieties, most with a small fraction of the destructive power of the bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
In a fiery speech last week full of bluster and menace, Putin said those bombings “created a precedent.”
The modeling results, one official familiar with the effort said, vary dramatically — depending on whether Putin’s target is a remote Ukrainian military base, a small city or a “demonstration” blast over the Black Sea.
Great secrecy surrounds Russia’s arsenal of tactical arms, but they vary in size and power. The weapon Europeans worry the most about is the heavy warhead that fits atop an Iskander-M missile and could reach cities in Western Europe. Russian figures put the smallest nuclear blast from the Iskander payload at roughly one-third of the Hiroshima bomb’s explosive power.
Much more is known about the tactical weapons designed for the U.S. arsenal back in the Cold War. One made in the late 1950s, called the Davy Crockett after the frontiersman who died at the Alamo, weighed about 70 pounds; it looked like a large watermelon with four fins. It was designed to be shot from the back of a jeep and had about one-thousandth of the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
But as the Cold War progressed, both the United States and the Soviets developed hundreds of variants. There were nuclear depth charges to take out submarines and rumors of “suitcase nukes.” At one point in the 1970s, NATO had upward of 7,400 tactical nuclear weapons, nearly four times the current estimated Russian stockpile.
By that time, they were also part of popular culture. In 1964, James Bond defused a small nuclear weapon in “Goldfinger,” seconds before it was supposed to go off. In 2002, in “The Sum of All Fears,” based on a Tom Clancy novel, a terrorist wipes out Baltimore with a tactical weapon that arrives on a cargo ship.
The reality, though, was that while the blast might be smaller than a conventional weapon would produce, the radioactivity would be long-lasting.
On land, the radiation effects “would be very persistent,” said Michael G. Vickers, the Pentagon’s former top civilian official for counterinsurgency strategy. In the 1970s, Vickers was trained to infiltrate Soviet lines with a backpack-sized nuclear bomb.
Russia’s tactical arms “would most likely be used against enemy force concentrations to stave off a conventional defeat,” Vickers added. But he said his experience suggests “their strategic utility would be highly questionable, given the consequences Russia would almost assuredly face after their use.”
For deadly radiation, there is only one dramatic, real-life comparison on Ukrainian soil: what happened in 1986 when one of the four Chernobyl reactors suffered a meltdown and explosions that destroyed the reactor building.
At the time, the prevailing winds blew from the south and southeast, sending clouds of radioactive debris mostly into Belarus and Russia, although lesser amounts were detected in other parts of Europe, especially Sweden and Denmark.
The radiation dangers from small nuclear arms would likely be less than those involving large reactors, like those at Chernobyl. Its radioactive fallout poisoned the flatlands for miles around and turned villages into ghost towns. Eventually the radiation caused thousands of cases of cancer, although exactly how many is a matter of debate.
The ground around the deactivated plant is still somewhat contaminated, which made it all the more remarkable that the Russians provided little protection to troops that moved through the area in the early days of Moscow’s failed bid to seize Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in February and March.
Chernobyl, of course, was an accident. The detonation of a tactical weapon would be a choice — and likely an act of desperation. While Putin’s repeated atomic threats may come as a shock to Americans who have barely thought about nuclear arms in recent decades, they have a long history.
In some respects, Putin is following a playbook written by the United States nearly 70 years ago, as it planned how to defend Germany and the rest of Europe in case of a large-scale Soviet invasion.
The idea was to use the tactical weapons to slow an invasion force. Colin Powell, the former secretary of state and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recalled being sent to Germany in 1958 as a young platoon leader, where his primary responsibility was tending to what he described in his memoir as “a 280-millimeter atomic cannon carried on twin truck-tractors, looking like a World War I Big Bertha.”
Decades later, he told a reporter “it was crazy” to think that the strategy to keep Western Europe free was for the United States and its NATO allies to risk using dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, on European soil, against advancing forces.
The very name “tactical weapons” is meant to differentiate these small arms from the giant “city busters” that the United States, the Soviets and other nuclear-armed states mounted on intercontinental missiles and pointed at one another from silos, submarines and bomber fleets. It was the huge weapons — far more powerful than what destroyed Hiroshima — that prompted fear of Armageddon, and of a single strike that could take out New York or Los Angeles. Tactical weapons, in contrast, might collapse a few city blocks or stop an oncoming column of troops. But they would not destroy the world.
Ultimately, the large “strategic weapons” became the subject of arms control treaties, and currently the United States and Russia are limited to 1,550 deployed weapons each. But the smaller tactical weapons have never been regulated.
And the logic of deterrence that surrounded the intercontinental missiles — that a strike on New York would result in a strike on Moscow — never fully applied to the smaller weapons. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration feared that a terrorist group like al-Qaida might get a nuclear weapon and use it to destroy the New York subways or irradiate downtown Washington.
The CIA went to great lengths to determine whether al-Qaida or the Taliban had obtained the technology for small nuclear bombs, and the Obama administration held a series of “nuclear summits” with world leaders to reduce the amount of loose nuclear material that could be turned into a small weapon or dirty bomb, essentially radioactive waste that could be dispersed around a few city blocks.
As the Cold War ended, NATO admitted publicly to what insiders had long concluded, that the rationale for any nuclear use was exceedingly remote and that the West could dramatically reduce its nuclear forces. Slowly it removed most of its tactical nuclear weapons, determining they were of little military value.
Roughly 100 are still kept in Europe, mostly to appease NATO nations that worry about Russia’s arsenal, estimated at 2,000 or so weapons.
Now the question is whether Putin would actually use them.
The possibility that he would has sent strategists back to examine a war doctrine known as “escalate to de-escalate” — meaning routed Russian troops would fire a nuclear weapon to stun an aggressor into retreat or submission. That is the “escalate” part; if the enemy retreated, Russia could then “de-escalate.”
Of late, Moscow has used its tactical arsenal as a backdrop for threats, bullying and bluster. Nina Tannenwald, a political scientist at Brown University who studies nuclear arms, recently noted that Putin first raised the threat of turning to his nuclear weapons in 2014 during Russia’s invasion of Crimea. She added that, in 2015, Russia threatened Danish warships with nuclear destruction if Denmark were to join NATO’s system for fending off missile strikes. In late February, Putin called for his nuclear forces to go on alert; there is no evidence they ever did.
Last week, the Institute for the Study of War concluded that “Russian nuclear use would therefore be a massive gamble for limited gains that would not achieve Putin’s stated war aims. At best, Russian nuclear use would freeze the front lines in their current position and enable the Kremlin to preserve its currently occupied territory in Ukraine.” Even that, it concluded, would take “multiple tactical nuclear weapons.”
But it would not, the institute concluded, “enable Russian offensives to capture the entirety of Ukraine.” Which was, of course, Putin’s original goal.
How the US might respond to a Russian nuclear attack in Ukraine
Ellen Mitchell – October 4, 2022
As concerns grow over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling amid continued losses in Ukraine, what a U.S. response would look like has become an increasingly urgent question.
U.S. officials since the start of Russia’s attack on Ukraine have stressed there are plans being developed to counter a range of moves by Moscow but have kept specifics under wraps.
While the administration says there are no signs that the Kremlin has made moves toward a nuclear strike — and that Washington has not changed its own nuclear position — experts say the potential U.S. options could turn into a very real scenario given Russia’s floundering military campaign and an increasingly frustrated Putin.
Mark Cancian, a former Pentagon official-turned-defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said a U.S. response to a major Russian attack would be twofold — one military and one diplomatic.
“If the Ukrainians kept fighting, we would continue our flow of aid and we’d probably take the gloves off” in terms of weapons provided to Kyiv, he told The Hill.
At the top of Ukraine’s wish list is the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), a surface-to-surface missile that can travel four times farther than anything Kyiv has now in its fight against Russia. The embattled country has pressed the U.S. for the system for months, but Washington has been hesitant to provide it over fears it could escalate the conflict.
However, should Moscow use a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukrainian troops or civilians, or even detonate such a device away from populated areas, Cancian predicted the administration would finally allow Kyiv to have ATACMS or “anything else they wanted” to go after Russian targets.
On the diplomatic side of things, meanwhile, Russian use of nuclear weapons could very well prompt countries such as India, China and Turkey — the latter a NATO ally — to put pressure on Putin economically, according to Cancian.
“A nuclear strike would really, I think, put them under a lot of pressure to go along with the sanctions and take a tougher line towards Russia, so Russia would lose these lifelines that they’ve been clinging to and nurturing,” he said.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan last week said there would be “catastrophic consequences” should Moscow deploy nuclear weapons and said a more specific ultimatum had been delivered to Moscow privately.
President Biden has said since the start of the war that U.S. troops will not be sent to Ukraine, and experts warn that a nuclear response to a nuclear attack could quickly escalate into a nuclear world war.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus offered a prediction of how the U.S. would respond to a Russian nuclear attack on Sunday, though he noted that he had deliberately avoided speaking with Sullivan about it.
“I mean, just to give you a hypothetical, we would respond by leading a NATO, a collective effort, that would take out every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea,” he said.
Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, said Tuesday that U.S. officials “have continually consulted with allies about the Russia threat, and the nuclear threat that Russia poses is just one aspect of that, and certainly the NATO forum is our premier forum for consultation on these issues.”
One Austrian official told The Hill that it’s offered the country as a neutral ground for difficult negotiations and is ready to host de-escalation talks and maintain channels with Russia.
Though Putin’s national televised speech last month was not his first time raising the specter of nuclear war, current and former U.S. officials have raised new alarms over the Kremlin’s increasingly bellicose nuclear rhetoric as it moves to annex four regions of Ukraine.
Putin threatened on Aug. 21 that Moscow would deploy its massive nuclear arsenal to protect Russian territory or its people — which could now include the four Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions. However, both Kyiv and Washington have said they will not be deterred from continued fighting to take back those regions.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in an interview with CNN aired Sunday, said that while he hasn’t seen intelligence to suggest the Russian leader has chosen to use nuclear weapons, “there are no checks on Mr. Putin.”
“To be clear, the guy who makes that decision, I mean, it’s one man,” Austin said.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said Monday that the U.S. is “closely” watching Russian activity at the Zaporizhzhia power plant — another location Putin could choose to attack to escalate the war.
And former national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Sunday said Putin is “under extreme pressure” due to battlefield failures and domestic outcry over a mobilization order that could send hundreds of thousands of reservists into the war.
“I think the message to [Putin] is If you use a nuclear weapon, it’s a suicide weapon. And the response from NATO and the United States doesn’t have to be nuclear,” McMaster told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan on CBS.
Fears were further stoked this week when an online video emerged of a train in Russia appearing to carry equipment from a Kremlin military unit that handles nuclear weapons. The video, which Pentagon officials could not confirm, shows military vehicles allegedly from the secretive 12th Main Directorate of the Russian ministry of defense being transported on the train, according to Konrad Muzyka, an aerospace and defense analyst focused on Russia and Belarus.
The Kremlin unit is responsible for nuclear munitions, their storage, maintenance, transport and issuance, Muzyka tweeted Sunday.
“I have seen these reports. I have nothing to corroborate,” Cooper told reporters Tuesday when asked about the video.
Pressed on whether the Pentagon has seen anything to indicate that Russia is contemplating the use of nuclear weapons, she said officials “have certainly heard the saber rattling from Putin” but “see no signs that would cause us to alter our posture.”
Cooper also declined to answer questions on whether the U.S. has seen any movement of Russia’s nuclear forces, citing the protection of U.S. intelligence.
Some, including Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, have urged the administration to increase its nuclear readiness in Europe and move additional missile defense assets into the region.
“This administration needs to step up its game on missile defense,” Turner said on Fox News over the weekend. “We have assets in Europe, and we need to engage them so that we can provide protection to our allies.”
Much speculation has also been given as to the exact kind of weapon Putin might potentially use, with fears he could resort to using tactical nuclear weapons — meant to be used in a battle or on a specific population center to try to bring an end to the conflict.
“We always have to try to take the threat of nuclear use seriously and so we do, and that’s why we are watching very closely, and that’s why we do consult closely with allies,” Cooper said.
“But at the same time, at this point, [Russia’s] rhetoric is only rhetoric, and it’s irresponsible saber-rattling that we see at this point,” Cooper said.
For now, the U.S. will respond to Russian aggression by continuing to pour weapons and other aid into Ukraine, including four more of the advanced rocket systems Kyiv has credited with greatly helping its offensive begun at the start of this month.
The soon-to-be delivered High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems — used by the Ukrainians to target bridges, roads and munition storage areas Russia uses to supply its forces — are part of a new $625 million lethal aid package announced Tuesday.
Asked later on Tuesday whether the United States will provide anything to help the Ukrainians protect themselves against a possible nuclear strike, Cooper said Washington has already provided “a considerable amount of protective equipment against chemical, biological and radiological threats.”
She pointed to a military aid package from earlier this year that included “a number of personal protective equipment items” as well as “significant quantities” of such equipment given as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
Expert: If Putin uses nukes, U.S. could wipe out Russian forces in Ukraine
Michael Isikoff, Chief Investigative Correspondent – October 3, 2022
WASHINGTON — If Russian President Vladimir Putin makes good on his threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the United States would likely respond with a sweeping economic embargo combined with a massive conventional attack on Russian military positions that could quickly wipe out the Russian president’s invading military forces, said Joseph Cirincione, a national security analyst and leading expert on nuclear warfare.
But Cirincione also acknowledged that such a direct U.S. or NATO military strike against the Russian military — even in response to the Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield — could also spiral out of control. “There are no good responses once you start down the nuclear path,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to terminate it for the same reason that a poker player losing a hand is hesitant to fold. They keep thinking there’s one more move they could make, one more bet they could raise to try to cause the other side to fold. So there’s no good responses.”
Cirincione said that if Putin were to actually make good on his threat to go nuclear, it would not be a large-scale thermonuclear bomb attack, but a more limited deployment of tactical weapons — far more limited in scope but still a major and unprecedented escalation. And Cirincione said that the U.S. military response would not be limited to the battlefield. There would also likely be a sharp escalation in psychological warfare such as was used to unnerve Iraqi generals on the eve of the U.S. invasion of that country. “The U.S. was calling Iraqi generals in their home and telling them to stand down. And they did that for two reasons. One, to let them know we know where you live, right? Two, we can reach out and touch you,” said Cirincione, predicting that the U.S. might well adopt such a tactic in the Ukraine crisis.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that U.S. officials have warned that the Russians there would suffer “catastrophic consequences” if they used nuclear weapons, though he did not without specify what those were.
But even as Sullivan has gone public on the issue, Cirincione acknowledged that the threats have not deterred Putin from talking up a nuclear scenario. Last Friday, Putin gave a speech at the Kremlin in which he announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine mostly occupied by Russia but where it is getting pushed back by Kyiv’s forces. Putin said that Russia would use “all means available” to defend its territory. In a chilling passage, he noted that the United States was the only country to use nuclear weapons in wartime — dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of World War II — and then added: “By the way, they created a precedent.”
When asked about the fact that U.S. warnings have not in any way curbed Putin’s talk of nuclear weapons, Cirincione replied: “It tells me that he’s desperate and he’s convinced of his own power and that the pressure on him is not enough yet. So you’re absolutely right. He hasn’t stopped. Would he really do this? I think the answer to that is we don’t know.”
But one reason to be alarmed, said Cirincione, is that Russian military doctrine now explicitly contemplates the use of nuclear weapons, not just to respond to a nuclear attack on the country, but also in the event of a large-scale conventional military attack that endangers Russia’s national security. “They call this strategy ‘escalate to deescalate,’” said Cirincione. “We will use a nuclear weapon in a variety of ways.” As the Russians see it, if they used tactical nuclear weapons in such a scenario, they would argue: “‘We won’t be starting a nuclear war. We’ll be ending a conventional war,’” said Cirincione. “That’s how their thinking goes. And that’s why you have to worry about this more and more as Putin continues to lose the war in Ukraine. It’s exactly in these kinds of circumstances that the use of nuclear weapons comes into play in doctrine and in Putin’s thinking.”
“I consider Putin a fascist,” he added. “I think he has built a fascist regime in Russia. We have never seen a fascist regime with nuclear weapons before. We’ve had authoritarians. We’ve had some brutal dictators, but nothing on this scale before. So this is very dangerous territory.”
But it has been clear the Russian dictator must be removed from office for a long time now.
It has been clear because Putin’s actions and rhetoric demonstrate day in and day out that Ukraine can never be secure as long as he remains in office. It has been clear because none of Russia’s neighbors can be secure with a megalomaniacal lunatic next door who speaks of Russian empire and constantly threatens to rewrite the borders of sovereign states.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html
It has been clear because the world can’t be stable as long as the man who controls the planet’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons is one whose power is unchecked at home, who shows such contempt for both international law and human decency, and whose ambitions are so untethered to reality.
Justice also requires that Putin leave office. He is a serial war criminal, one of the worst the world has seen in the modern era. He has laid waste to a sovereign nation. He is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. He has embraced the language and practice of genocide. His armies have committed war crimes. Mass graves attest to his brutality. What is more, his crimes are not limited to the human suffering he has unleashed upon Ukraine. Other violations of fundamental laws and myriad atrocities can be traced to decisions he has made—from Russia’s leveling of Grozny in Chechnya to Russia’s active support for and participation in horrors in Syria; from the invasion of Georgia to Putin’s murderous campaign against dissidents within his own country.
Putin, for years, has provided evidence not only to international prosecutors but to every sentient being on the planet that he is not a legitimate leader. He does not deserve to be swathed in the protections normally accorded to foreign heads of state. He has no more claim on them than did past monsters—from Hitler to Saddam to Qaddafi, from Pol Pot to Milosevic.
The dead of Bucha and Melitipol or Izium make that case with their absence. So do the victims of Russian torture, of bombed hospitals, schools and train stations, of mass kidnapping, and of unceasing terror being visited by Russian missiles, artillery and troops upon innocents—victims of the misfortune of living next door to one of history’s most repulsive miscreants.
If the absurd spectacle of a “signing ceremony” asserting Russian control of Ukrainian territory featuring Kremlin stooges and nationalistic chants did not chill observers to the bone, then Putin’s belligerent language condemning “the enemy” in the West and his intimations that he might be within his rights to use nuclear weapons certainly should. He mocked international law. He condemned U.S. “satanism.” He called on Ukraine to negotiate but said that the fate of “Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson” was not on the table, that they would be parts of Russia “forever.”
When President Joe Biden said of Putin in May, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” it was followed by a swift “clarification” from the White House that the president “was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
But as we have gradually come to learn, Biden’s seemingly spontaneous comments on crucial issues of international policy to which he has devoted decades of study—whether they concern Putin or Taiwan—are not gaffes. They instead are expressions of common sense, acknowledgements of reality that diplomats may wish were unspoken, that cannot be the “official” policy of the U.S., but that are signs that the president understands clearly the reality on the ground and U.S. interests.
That is good because tiptoeing around the threat posed by Putin, hoping that accommodating him would lead to moderation in his behavior certainly has not worked. Indeed with every respectful, restrained response to Putin’s aggression or abuses, we have only seen an escalation of his offenses.
The “measured” responses to his aggression of the Bush or the Obama years did not work. Nor did the slavering obsequiousness of former President Donald Trump. Indeed, the ostpolitik of Angela Merkel and the vacillations of French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders have actually aided and empowered Putin.
No doubt Putin’s allies—like the talking heads at Fox News, the leaders of the MAGA caucus on Capitol Hill, and Putinistas across Europe—will warn that to even speak of the need to remove Putin from office will provoke him, perhaps even lead him to unleash nuclear weapons in Ukraine or against the West. How do we know that? Because that was the response to Biden’s moment of public honesty and realism on this issue.
Some of those experts correctly observe that the U.S. has a checkered history seeking regime change. They argue that there are no good alternatives to Putin, and so getting rid of him might produce an even worse outcome, whether that is the chaos associated with a leadership void or a more dangerous leader.
But go back and listen to his Friday speech. It makes clear that we are well past the point where the dangers of his remaining in power are greater than the dangers that might be caused by his fall.
Further, removing the world’s autocrats and thug heads of state has actually not generally produced worse successors. That was certainly true in the cases of Hitler, Mussolini, Milosevic, Pol Pot, and many others.
Next, acknowledging that Putin must go is not the same as making regime change a matter of public policy. For governments it can (and largely should) remain an unexpressed goal.
That said, certain sanctions imposed on Russia should remain in place until Russia changes key policies and positions that are indelibly associated with Putin, which in effect will mean until Putin is gone. Certain defensive postures of the west should remain in place until the threat from Russia has abated. We can do more than we currently are to help covertly support Russia’s opposition, especially those whose values align with ours.
Perhaps most importantly, we can ensure that any sort of lasting Russian victory in Ukraine is not an option and that Putin’s terms will never be met, his aggression never rewarded.
With such policies, we can actively encourage the people of Russia to recognize that their country will not have a future as long as Putin remains in power. Putin is assisting on this front. By undertaking a massive military conscription campaign, one that may call up as many as one million troops, who will then be under-equipped, under-trained, and likely victims of a war they did not seek against neighbors who are not in any ways their enemies, he has already lit the fuse on a potential national backlash. Millions and millions of Russians will increasingly feel the pain and loss associated with Putin’s war in ways that they did not before, in ways that Russian propaganda cannot hide or dress up.
Accepting the reality that Putin must go is just common sense at this point. Recognizing that reality, we should embrace policies that encourage the conditions that will make it come to pass. We should also prepare for the consequences of such a change and make sure to send Moscow the message that Russia’s neighbors and the community of nations welcome a more responsible Russia—while also making clear that we are ready to defend ourselves against one that makes the mistake of continuing (or making worse) Putin’s policies.
As for making the case to the Russian people that they must act, we need not do that. Putin, with speeches like Friday’s and self-inflicted catastrophes like Ukraine, is already doing that far more persuasively than we could hope to do.
ROME (AP) — The Brothers of Italy party, which won the most votes in Italy’s national election, has its roots in the post-World War II neo-fascist Italian Social Movement.
Keeping the movement’s most potent symbol, the tricolor flame, Giorgia Meloni has taken Brothers of Italy from a fringe far-right group to Italy’s biggest party.
A century after Benito Mussolini’s 1922 March on Rome, which brought the fascist dictator to power, Meloni is poised to lead Italy’s first far-right-led government since World War II and Italy’s first woman premier.
HOW DID POST-FASCISM BEGIN IN ITALY?
The Italian Social Movement, or MSI, was founded in 1946 by Giorgio Almirante, a chief of staff in Mussolini’s last government. It drew fascist sympathizers and officials into its ranks following Italy’s role in the war, when it was allied with the Nazis and then liberated by the Allies.
Throughout the 1950-1980s, the MSI remained a small right-wing party, polling in the single digits. But historian Paul Ginsborg has noted that its mere survival in the decades after the war “served as a constant reminder of the potent appeal that authoritarianism and nationalism could still exercise among the southern students, urban poor and lower middle classes.”
The 1990s brought about a change under Gianfranco Fini, Almirante’s protege who nevertheless projected a new moderate face of the Italian right. When Fini ran for Rome mayor in 1993, he won a surprising 46.9% of the vote — not enough to win but enough to establish him as a player. Within a year, Fini had renamed the MSI the National Alliance.
It was in those years that a young Meloni, who was raised by a single mother in a Rome working-class neighborhood, first joined the MSI’s youth branch and then went onto lead the youth branch of Fini’s National Alliance.
DOES THAT MEAN MELONI IS NEO-FASCIST?
Fini was dogged by the movement’s neo-fascist roots and his own assessment that Mussolini was the 20th century’s “greatest statesman.” He disavowed that statement, and in 2003 visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel. There, he described Italy’s racial laws, which restricted Jews’ rights, as part of the “absolute evil” of the war.
Meloni, too, had praised Mussolini in her youth but visited Yad Vashem in 2009 when she was a minister in Silvio Berlusconi’s last government. Writing in her 2021 memoir “I Am Giorgia,” she described the experience as evidence of how “a genocide happens step by step, a little at a time.”
During the campaign, Meloni was forced to confront the issue head-on, after the Democrats warned that she represented a danger to democracy.
“The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws,” she said in a campaign video.
HOW DID BROTHERS OF ITALY EMERGE?
Meloni, who proudly touts her roots as an MSI militant, has said the first spark of creating Brothers of Italy came after Berlusconi resigned as premier in 2011, forced out by a financial crisis over Italy’s soaring debt and his own legal problems.
Meloni refused to support Mario Monti, who was tapped by Italy’s president to try to form a technocratic government to reassure international financial markets. Meloni couldn’t stand what she believed was external pressure from European capitals to dictate internal Italian politics.
Meloni co-founded the party in 2012, naming it after the first words of the Italian national anthem. “A new party for an old tradition,” Meloni wrote.
Brothers of Italy would only take in single-digit results in its first decade. The European Parliament election in 2019 brought Brothers of Italy 6.4% — a figure that Meloni says “changed everything.”
As the leader of the only party in opposition during Mario Draghi’s 2021-2022 national unity government, her popularity soared, with Sunday’s election netting it 26%.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PARTY’S LOGO?
The party has at the center of its logo the red, white and green flame of the original MSI that remained when the movement became the National Alliance. While less obvious than the bundle of sticks, or fasces, that was the prominent symbol of Mussolini’s National Fascist Party, the tricolor flame is nevertheless a powerful image that ties the current party to its past.
“Political logos are a form of branding, no different than those aimed at consumers,” said Rutgers University professor T. Corey Brennan, who recently wrote “Fasces: A History of Rome’s Most Dangerous Political Symbol.”
He recalled that when Almirante made his final MSI campaign pitch to voters in the 1948 election at Rome’s Spanish Steps, he put the party’s flame symbol on top of the obelisk and illuminated it with floodlights.
“You can make whatever you want out of a flame, but everybody understood that Almirante was making a deeply emotional appeal to keep the spirit of fascism alive,” he said.
HOW DO ITALIANS FEEL ABOUT IT?
In general, the party’s neo-fascist roots appear to be of more concern abroad than at home. Some historians explain that by noting a certain historical amnesia here and Italians’ general comfort living with the relics of fascism as evidence that Italy never really repudiated the Fascist Party and Mussolini in the same way Germany repudiated National Socialism and Hitler.
While Germany went through a long and painful process reckoning with its past, Italians have in many ways simply turned a willful blindness to their own.
Historian David Kertzer of Brown University notes that there are 67 institutes for the study of the Resistance to Fascism in Italy, and virtually no center for the study of Italian Fascism.
In addition, Mussolini-era architecture and monuments are everywhere: from the EUR neighborhood in southern Rome to the Olympic training center on the Tiber River, with its obelisk still bearing Mussolini’s name.
The Italian Constitution bars the reconstitution of the Fascist party, but far-right groups still display the fascist salute and there continues to be an acceptance of fascist symbols, said Brennan.
“You don’t have to look very hard for signs,” Brennan said in a phone interview. “Fully a quarter of all manhole covers in Rome still have the fasces on them.”
DOES THAT MEAN ITALIANS SUPPORT FASCISM?
If history is any guide, one constant in recent political elections is that Italians vote for change, with a desire for something new seemingly overtaking traditional political ideology in big pendulum shifts, said Nathalie Tocci, director of the Rome-based Institute of International Affairs.
Tocci said the Brothers of Italy’s popularity in 2022 was evidence of this “violent” swing that is more about Italian dissatisfaction than any surge in neo-fascist or far-right sentiment.
“I would say the main reason why a big chunk of that — let’s say 25-30% — will vote for this party is simply because it’s the new kid on the block,” she said.
Meloni still speaks reverently about the MSI and Almirante, even if her rhetoric can change to suit her audience.
This summer, speaking in perfect Spanish, she thundered at a rally of Spain’s hard-right Vox party: “Yes to the natural family. No to the LGBT lobby. Yes to sexual identity. No to gender ideology.”
Back home on the campaign trail, she projected a much more moderate tone and appealed for unity in her victory speech Monday.
“Italy chose us,” she said. “We will not betray it, as we never have.”
Kremlin says no decisions taken on border closure amid mobilisation
September 26, 2022
MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that no decisions had been taken on closing Russia’s borders, amid an exodus of military-age men since President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization last Wednesday.
Asked about the possibility of border closures in a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I don’t know anything about this. At the moment, no decisions have been taken on this.”
Peskov also acknowledged that some call-ups had been issued in error, saying mistakes were being corrected by regional governors and the ministry of defence.
Peskov said: “There have been cases when the decree is violated … These cases of non-compliance with the required criteria are being eliminated.”
Russian media have reported a string of cases of elderly or medically exempt men being called up for service in Ukraine. Regional governors in Dagestan and Buryatia, two regions that have seen aggressive mobilisations, have said that mistakes were made in the initial rollout.
The comments come amid rising fears of a border closure, with Russia’s frontiers seeing an unprecedented outflow of military-aged men since the partial mobilisation was declared last week.
On Monday, a senior lawmaker said that Russian borders should be closed to draft-eligible men amid the exodus.
“Everyone who is of conscription age should be banned from travelling abroad in the current situation,” Sergei Tsekov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, told RIA news agency.
Russian media based abroad, including news sites Meduza and Novaya Gazeta Europe, have reported that the Kremlin is planning to close the country’s borders for draft-aged men. Such reports have not appeared on the main media within Russia, where all independent outlets have been shut and reporting that differs from official accounts is banned.
On Sunday, Novaya Gazeta reported that 261,000 men had left the country since partial mobilisation was declared, citing an unnamed source in Russia’s presidential administration.
Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said that border guards at Russia’s only operational crossing point with Georgia had since Sunday stopped some people from exiting, citing the law on mobilisation. The local interior ministry on Sunday said there was a queue of 2,300 cars at the Verkhny Lars crossing.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports of men being turned back at the border.
Russia’s economy will ‘die by winter’ because of military mobilization
Yvonne Lau – September 26, 2022
In the seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine, some have argued that the international sanctions levied against Russia weren’t strong enough as Russians continued to travel, shop, party—and generally lead a normal life.
Now, an action by Russian President Vladimir Putin could be the catalyst that brings the war home to Russians and plunges the economy into real catastrophe.
Last Wednesday, Putin announced a “partial” mobilization—Russia’s first mobilization decree since World War II—ordering 300,000 able-bodied men aged 18 to 30 in the military reserves to fight in Ukraine, sparking widespread protests across the country.
“I consider it necessary to make [this] decision, which is fully appropriate to the threats we face…to protect our motherland…to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories,” Putin said last week.
In the days that followed, Russian police arrested over 2,300 citizens for protesting, and tens of thousands of Russians have now fled the country to avoid the draft.
Now, Russian economist Vladislav Inozemtsev, the director of Moscow-based think tank the Center for Research on Post-Industrial Studies, is warning that Putin’s mobilization will have “truly catastrophic consequences,” including the death of the Russian economy and the downfall of Putin’s regime.
“The Russian economy is going to die by winter, I wrote in early March. Now I think I was right. The mobilization announced on Sept. 21 was a milestone that really divided Russian history into ‘before’ and ‘after’—an event that began the final countdown of Putin’s era,” the economist wrote on Sunday for Russian publication The Insider.
‘I don’t want to die for someone else’s ambitions’
Putin’s mobilization decree has already proved highly unpopular in Russia, prompting mass rallies and protest actions.
On Monday, a gunman opened fire at a military recruitment office in the Siberian region of Irkutsk, injuring one person. The gunman’s identity and motivation have not been disclosed. In Ryazan, a city 115 miles southeast of Moscow, a man set himself on fire, shouting that he didn’t want to fight in Ukraine. Over the weekend, at least 400 people—mostly women—protested in Yakutsk’s city centre, telling police to “let our children live.”
Several reports from independent media publications and researchers note that the Kremlin is likely aiming to draft over 1.2 million men to fight in Ukraine—four times more than the 300,000 the government says it’s recruiting. The Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov has denied this claim.
Police and recruitment officers have also rounded up students, after Putin specifically said that university students studying full-time would not be called up to serve in Ukraine. Meanwhile, antiwar activists have denounced the government for disproportionately sending ethnic minorities from its Siberian and Caucasus regions to fight in Ukraine. Almost half of the male population in Buryatia, an eastern Siberian region colonized by Russia in the 18th century, have been brought to military assembly points from rural villages, according to independent media reports.
“Mobilization is not partial…in Buryatia. Summons come to students, pensioners, fathers of many children, people with disabilities,” Alexandra Garmazhapova, president of the Free Buryatia Foundation, told CNN.
In a move that shows how far the Kremlin is willing to go to ensure its mobilization demands are met, Putin signed an additional law on Saturday that approves jail terms of up to 10 years for those evading military duty and up to 15 years for wartime desertion.
Prior to Putin’s mobilization decree, Inozemtsev agreed with predictions that Russia’s GDP would drop around 4–5% this year. But now he believes that Russia’s GDP will drop that much in October alone, and the “next months will only consolidate the trend. Now my spring forecast for a 10% fall seems almost too optimistic,” he said.
The Kremlin’s exclusive focus on mobilization and war efforts means that government funds will be directed to these initiatives at the expense of investment in business and the economy, the economist predicts.
Investments in business will begin to decline sharply, and the Moscow Stock Exchange could dip below 1,500 points before year’s end, Inozemtsev wrote.
“And all this doesn’t take into account…the inevitable new wave of [Western] sanctions that will be announced in the near future. We are talking about a much more radical-than-expected displacement of Russia from energy markets and a new wave of restrictions on the supply of critical [imports] for the country,” he said.
The “financial effects of mobilization—in the medium-term—will be significantly greater than the consequences of…the war in Ukraine,” Inozemtsev said.
In Russia’s poorer regions like Buryatia, the economic consequences will be disastrous, as “thousands of families will be left without income, and local medium and small businesses will simply die out,” Inozemtsev wrote.
Russia will also lose at minimum hundreds of thousands of men to the war’s frontline, and 3 to 4 million more will “disappear” from the labor market,” he wrote. In Russia’s wealthier cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, residents generally have more resources to leave the country. But Inozemtsev predicts that army officers in the next few days will start serving recruitment papers at people’s workplaces, leading many to quit, or simply not show up at their offices, to avoid getting a summons.
“This will be the strongest blow to the economy. Several million people will prefer to quit their jobs so as not to [serve] in the army. Meanwhile in large cities… the loss of even a few employees can cause disproportionate damage to the economy. Russia is the economy of large cities and companies,” he said.
Putin allies express concern over mobilzsation ‘excesses’
September 25, 2022
(Reuters) – Russia’s two most senior lawmakers on Sunday addressed a string of complaints about Russia’s mobilisation drive, ordering regional officials to get a handle on the situation and swiftly solve the “excesses” that have stoked public anger.
President Vladimir Putin’s move to order Russia’s first military mobilisation since World War Two triggered protests across the country and seen flocks of military-age men flee, causing tailbacks at borders and flights to sell out.
Multiple reports have also documented how people with no military service have been issued draft papers – contrary to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s guarantee that only those with special military skills or combat experience would be called up – prompting even ultra-loyal pro-Kremlin figures to publicly express concern.
Russia’s top two parliamentarians, both close Putin allies, explicitly addressed public anger at the way the mobilisation drive was unfolding.
Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, said she was aware of reports of men who should be ineligible for the draft being called up.
Related video: Muscovites protest against mobilization
Muscovites protest against mobilization
Police moved quickly to detain demonstrators who gathered in central Moscow on Saturday to protest the partial mobilization of reservists Russian President Vladimir Putin declared earlier this week. (Sept. 24)
“Such excesses are absolutely unacceptable. And, I consider it absolutely right that they are triggering a sharp reaction in society,” she said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
In a direct message to Russia’s regional governors – who she said had “full responsibility” for implementing the call-up – she wrote: “Ensure the implementation of partial mobilisation is carried out in full and absolute compliance with the outlined criteria. Without a single mistake.”
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower chamber, also expressed concern in a separate post.
“Complaints are being received,” he said.
“If a mistake is made, it is necessary to correct it … Authorities at every level should understand their responsibilities.”
Officials say 300,000 more Russians will called up to serve in the mobilisation campaign. The Kremlin has twice denied it actually plans to draft more than one million, following two separate reports in independent Russian media outlets.
Rights groups saying more than 2,000 have been detained at rallies against mobilization in dozens of cities so far this week, with more protests already having been recorded on Sunday in Russia’s Far East and Siberia.
Insider reported that recruits being drafted this week were totally unsuitable and included a 63-year-old man with diabetes.
Horrible leadership by “drill sergeants”
Hertling, who for a time also commanded all basic and advanced soldier training for the US Army, said that during two visits to Russia he found the army’s training to be “awful.”
He compared Russia’s army training with the US’, which typically involves new soldiers getting 10 weeks of basic training across several sites from “very professional drill sergeants,” and many going on to get more specialized training.
The former general cited a Moscow Times article from July, six months into the invasion of Ukraine, which said that soldiers were being sent to the front line with minimal basic training.
Sergei Krivenko, the director of the human rights group Citizen. Army. Law. told the outlet: “I’ve been regularly approached by parents whose children signed a [military] contract and ended up in Ukraine just a week later.”
The article also quoted one Russian soldier who said he received just five days of training before being sent to combat in Ukraine.
Hertling said when he visited Russia, he noted that Russian army training faced many issues, including “horrible leadership by drill sergeants,” and cited an article about hazing.
He said that officers told him theirs was a “one year” force, with some, often the poorest, volunteering or being elected for leadership roles.
By comparison, Hertling said that Ukraine’s army more closely follows the US model after having received training from US personnel in both individual and unit training techniques since 2014.
The issue of Russian army training, according to Hertling, starts “in basic training, and doesn’t get better during the [Russian] soldier’s time in uniform.”