Yesterday, SOFREP covered the latest updates on the Ukraine-Russia war as Russia tries to defend Crimea and how Luhansk is implying they are open to joining Russian forces. However, with Ukraine’s 24/7 warfare, targeting weak Russian positions and strategic outposts, it is undeniable at this point that Zelensky’s troops have made a massive dent in the war.

One of the most significant tipping points was the Battle of Kharkiv, which felt impossible initially. However, Russian forces who pushed too far on the Donetsk region left Kharkiv with weak defenses. As Ukrainian forces continued to shell (with the help of NATO-grade artillery and HIMARS) Russian logistical centers, the “invaders” had no other option but to fall back.

Still, even as the world celebrated Kharkiv’s liberation, the war will not end here, just as the battle of Saratoga did not end the American Revolution, as noted by Gian Gentile, the deputy director of the Rand Corporation’s Army Research Division.

Gentile and Raphael S. Cohen (director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program at the Rand Corporation’s Project Air Force) wrote that there are similarities with the Battle of Saratoga. Aside from lost ammunition, the Russian forces were already experiencing stark morale dips.

“Like Saratoga, the Ukrainian victory in eastern Kharkiv oblast marks a significant military achievement…Like the British after Saratoga, Russian forces suffered a major shock to their confidence with their defeat in Kharkiv. Judging by the scathing commentary in Russian Telegram channels and the shift of tone in the Kremlin-controlled media, Russians are in the process of losing the last remaining glimmers of their perceived military might.”

What the Kharkiv success has shown the world is that Ukrainian victory is possible. This allowed the US to push and expedite the transfer of weapons and other donations to the region to maintain a consistent stream of weapons supply to the troops in Ukraine.

Russian military vehicles
Russian military vehicles marked with the V symbol were bombed by Ukrainian troops (Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine/Wikimedia)

“The Russian military has performed worse than I would have ever imagined,” said Ben Hodges, a former commanding general of the US Army in Europe. “It’s too early to plan a victory parade here, but I think the Ukrainians are at a point of achieving irreversible momentum so long as we, the West, stick with them.”

Moreover, Ukraine’s ability to launch a two-front offensive has put a lot of trust in its military’s abilities to scale short-term and long-term strategies. (See our story on how Ukrainians are developing repair centers that enable them to move faster and become more agile than their Russian counterparts).

Senior Research Fellow for Land Warfare at the Royal United Services Institute Jack Watling also cited low morale as one of the biggest factors why the Russians are losing.

“Because the Russian forces there did not have the artillery support, because they were not expecting the attack, and because their more motivated troops had been positioned on a different axis, they broke. The way I’d frame this is that they have low morale, are highly susceptible to shock. Shock leads soldiers to start behaving as individuals rather than groups, and when that happens, forces collapse, or formations collapse.”

The consistent, “steady push,” as we have previously reported, of Ukrainian forces have also startled Russian proxies in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, spreading the fear and confusion Russian troops are experiencing on the frontlines. However, according to the Institute of the Study of War, Ukrainian forces have continued consolidating their gains on the Eastern Bank of the Oskil River, but the Russians are fighting back. A Russian mill blogger said that Russian troops were able to destroy a Ukrainian grouping in Dvorichne, approximately 40km south of the Russian border. Another Russian source claimed that they were able to destroy another Ukrainian pontoon crossing near Dvorichne, and the Russians successfully sabotaged the reconnaissance groups working in the area.

So What’s Putin’s Next Move?

There are many ways Russian President Vladimir Putin could react in the next couple of weeks, but he’s starting with the least expected move: MOBILIZATION.

Earlier today, Kremlin officially announced mobilization of the reserve forces. In a pre-recorded announcement, Putin noted the propaganda of Russia vs. The West. He called out to citizens saying the West is out to “destroy our country,” and they have proof because of how they have allegedly tried to “turn Ukraine’s people into cannon fodder.”

The call for national mobilization means that citizens would be forced to invest more into the war effort in terms of financial and personnel contribution. More men civilians would be enlisted and called-up into active service.

“I reiterate, we are talking about partial mobilization, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military specialty and relevant experience. Conscripts will obligatorily go through additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation before departing to the units,” he said according to an AP translation.

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Vladimir Putin
During a meeting with Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller (via videoconference) (Source: The Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia)

Mobilization is exactly what analysts have predicted as Putin’s next phase. We have covered the call to immigration, advertising Russia as an abundant country. But, those who are interested in moving should abide by this critical caveat: you have to be “loyal” to Russia.

For months, Kremlin has been patient in announcing mobilization, but today’s press showed that Putin is definitely pushed to a corner.

“It’s one thing to send the poor people from Buryatia or Tuva or the Caucasus who desperately need the money to fight there,” Stent said. “But to try and mobilize the sons of the urban elite, the educated people—you’re going to get much more opposition to the war.”

Though the announcement is meant to instill “fear” in Ukraine (as they would probably announce millions of new conscripts), it would take weeks to months for Russians to train the recruits. Unless, of course, it is just a matter of feeding them to the lions and just bloating their numbers up.