Apparently Putin has no such concerns.
His speech on Wednesday was full of apocalyptic rhetoric, portraying Russia as a nation under attack from the entire West. But he didn’t announce the kind of sweeping mobilization that rhetoric seems to imply. Instead, he announced half-hearted measures that defense experts suspect would do little to change Russia’s military downward trend. I have no reason to question his decision.
What struck me, however, was that the new policy actually amounted to a betrayal of Russians who believed in Putin’s past promises. In particular, contract soldiers—that is, those who have voluntarily served for a limited time—have suddenly found themselves stuck in service for an uncertain future. This could boost Russian numbers for the next few months; But who will be stupid enough to volunteer for Putin’s army in the future?
To a certain extent, Putin’s clumsy attempts at economic warfare create similar credibility problems. Russia has largely cut off natural gas flows to Europe in hopes of threatening western democracies to halt military and economic aid to Ukraine. It succeeds in causing great economic pain; Energy prices have skyrocketed and the prospect of a terrible recession in Europe remains high.
Still, the West will not abandon Ukraine, especially given Ukraine’s success on the battlefield. So Putin’s economic intimidation, like his partial mobilization, will not change the course of the war. Instead, it shows how dangerous it is to do business with a precarious, authoritarian regime. That means even if and when the Ukraine war ends, Russia’s trade relations will not normalize: as long as Putin or someone like him stays in power, Europe will never become that dependent on Russian energy. .
In short, Putin is involved in what we might call a bonfire of credibility – his desperate short-term attempts to salvage his war of aggression are undermining Russia’s future by making it clear that he cannot be trusted. could. Looking ahead, Russian civilians would not volunteer for military service lest they be trapped in a kill zone; European companies will not enter into contracts with Russian suppliers lest their companies be trapped by economic blackmail.
Credibility can appear weak and be misused to justify objectively bad policies. And being too rigid about following rules that events have overtaken can do a lot of harm.