What Military Strategy Behind “Referendums” in Russian-occupied Territories?

Almost eight months later “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine Led by Russia, is the conflict at a turning point? The Vladimir Putin’s official speech 300,000 announces partial mobilization this Wednesday The reserved ones And the West’s accusations of wanting to “destroy” Russia signal a rise in tensions. The organization of referendums on the annexation of Ukrainian territories occupied by the Russian army, i.e Lugansk, Donetsk, Gerson And Imprisonmentannounced on Tuesday, is part of this new phase of the war.

From September 23 to 27, residents of these territories lost by Kyiv are invited to a referendum on whether or not they should join Russia. It is known in advance that the results of these votes “are not urgently organized, fair or equitable, in which Ukrainian media and political parties cannot participate and the international audience comes from complacent far-right European parties,” the opinion said. Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean, Director of the Russia/NIS Center at IFRI (French Institute of International Relations), Correspondent 20 minutes. The referendum has indeed been described as a “parody”, “fantasy” or “simulacra” by various heads of state. Emmanuel Macron. Yet these elections are not trivial, and their urgency reflects Moscow’s military strategy.

Justify the call for conscription

Once “Yes” is successful [car il l’emportera même si la population est contre], Russia can consider these territories as its own, which somewhat changes the face of the conflict. mentioned so far” Special Military Operations If Ukraine tried to seize territories by force, it would indeed be considered an official war by Moscow. A war where she has to defend her territory. It changes the rules. It will initially allow the Russian military to “mobilize forces” in these regions, to reinforce ranks, he explains 20 minutes Michael Goya is a former Marine colonel, historian and strategist. Therefore, the conscripts could be called, as was already the case in Moscow, as reported to the Russian territory on Wednesday. Crimea was annexed.

Will Western countries continue to provide military aid to Ukraine if it invades territory Russia considers its own? This is what Vladimir Putin believes. »

“This is not nonsense, the Kremlin leader threatened in his speech on Wednesday. We will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. I mean all means.” Has Vladimir Putin once again shown a nuclear threat? If Ukraine attacks one of these territories it deems to belong to Russia, Moscow can use the ultimate weapon under the pretext of a threat against its vital core interests. “Before nuclear weapons there were many weapons, such as very large bombs”, reminds 20 minutes Cédric Mas, military historian, observer of the conflict and president of Action Resilience. Nevertheless, the new legal status of the annexed territories from Friday Justification for the use of nuclear weapons. “Although the probability is very low, we are getting close to it,” admits Michael Goya.

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Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean points out two “currents” on the issue among experts: those who believe that Russia is not interested in doing so, and that it is only a folly to push the West back, which will drive it out of countries and out of countries. We need to take away the support of neutral countries like China or India. On the other hand, others believe that “from the moment Vladimir Putin immerses himself in this war, he cannot lose it because he is risking everything, including his power And his own survival and he can take the leap. The move could lead to a tactical nuclear strike, “a strike on Snake Island or some other unpopulated area as a precaution.” “Nothing is automatic, but I see that all the ingredients for this type of climbing are on the table – will they mix explosively? The risk is not zero,” says Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean.

An increase to bend west

This threat is the Kremlin’s talk anyway. Vladimir Putin “plays on fears, this verbal escalation is not new”, underlines Cedric Maas. He promised a violent response to an attack on Crimea, but nothing happened An ammunition depot was targeted On the Peninsula this summer. “This is to scare and bend the Western supporters of the public perception that this is Ukraine’s weak point. Because despite the Ukrainian people’s determination not to give up a single square meter of their territory to the Russians, they cannot achieve this without the military assistance provided by the West” and “when one panics about nuclear weapons One weakens.”, military historian Abundance.

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“The strategy is to present the enemy with a legitimate cause and deter him by allowing him to make a strong threat. I doubt that will deter any Ukrainians, but the big question is the attitude of the West. Will they continue military aid to Ukraine if Russia attacks what it considers its own territories? This is what Vladimir Putin believes,” Tatiana said. Gustova-Jean insists.

Acknowledging difficulties on the ground

Moved forward to September 23, which had been scheduled in November, the merger vote also acknowledges a certain difficulty on the ground. For weeks, the Ukrainian army has been advancing Celebrating successes When the Russian army fails. This precipitation translates to “a panic, a headlong rush,” Cedric Mass. “We need a strong reaction to the collapse of the site and a way to justify these actions,” says Michael Coya.

It is a way for the Russian president to continue his internal propaganda and justify past or future wars. These annexations would be presented as small victories, the liberation of territories. “Vladimir Putin is in a hurry to organize referendums to prove a decisive decision, to seize territories. Russian public opinion who questioned the success of the Ukrainian offensive”, confirms Tatiana Gastoua-Jean.

A scene in Crimea “worse”

as in Crimea in 2014, Cedric Moss estimates that “yes” would be a majority and that it would be “a bogus declaration of organized independence under Russian occupation.” The historian thus recalls that the Crimean polling stations were manned by parachute troops. But despite the results being announced, the annexation of these regions will not be recognized by the international community. So Vladimir Putin will not completely free his hands. “Whether the territory is recognized or not, we cannot act in the same way even for a dictator who has no faith or law, explains Cedric Maas. The Russian head of state cannot hope to win by doing anything, but he can project victory by mirroring someone who is ready to do anything. »

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Also, in Crimea in 2014, “there was regional cohesion, there was a pro-Russian population, and it was done without firing a shot”. However, in the regions of Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson or Zaporozhye, part of the population has left these areas that Russia does not fully control. “So it’s worse than Crimea,” says Tatiana Gastova-Jean.

So the Russian president tries to make the progress of the conflict irreversible by connecting these four territories, thus, “everything becomes more dangerous, the stakes are high, the expert warns again. The risks are even higher than a few days ago, including the West. »

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