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Putin is trying to raise the stakes in Ukraine. Here’s what it means - Africaflavour

Putin is trying to raise the stakes in Ukraine. Here’s what it means - Africaflavour 

Putin is trying to raise the stakes in Ukraine. Here’s what it means - Africaflavour

Putin is trying to raise the stakes in Ukraine. Here’s what it means - Africaflavour 

In a speech as menacing as his declaration of a “special military operation” against Ukraine in February, President Vladimir Putin has declared a partial mobilization of Russian citizens to help wage a stuttering military campaign.

Seven months on, Putin’s language was if anything even darker than in the early hours of February 24. Then, he warned the West that Russia would respond immediately to those who stood in its way, with consequences that “will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.”

In his latest address, he put flesh on the bones of that threat. “The territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured, I will emphasize this again, with all the means at our disposal. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction,” he said Wednesday.

The Russian leader has dramatically raised the stakes just as Russia embarks on a rushed process to expand what constitutes that “homeland,” through hastily organized referenda in occupied territories that are intended to absorb parts of Ukraine into Russia itself: Donetsk, Luhansk, much of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. 

The announcement of those referenda on Tuesday was both sudden and synchronized. The idea that they could be organized within days in areas where hostilities continue is on the face of it absurd, especially as some officials in these areas had proposed delaying votes on joining Russia until security conditions improve. Equally absurd is the notion that joining Russia came spontaneously from the territories themselves.

But that’s not the point. Matthew Schmidt, associate professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven, says Putin is using the referenda call to justify mobilization.

Putin has two audiences in mind. Anatol Lieven, director of the Eurasia Program at the Quincy Institute, says he wants “to persuade the US and/or Europeans to get serious about negotiating a compromise settlement to end the war by showing that otherwise, Russia will take radically escalatory steps which will not only force the West to escalate in turn, but will also rule out any possible peace for a long time to come.”

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