Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the threat of a nuclear response in the conflict and ordered reservists to mobilize, escalating the war in Ukraine following stinging losses on the battlefield and drawing harsh criticism from President Biden.
“Russia will use all the instruments at its disposal to counter a threat against its territorial integrity—this is not a bluff,” Mr. Putin said in a national address that blamed the West for the conflict in Ukraine, where he said his troops were facing the best of Western troops and weapons.
The speech is the clearest sign yet that seven months into the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II, Russia is unable to counter Ukraine and the West, which has largely united in the face of the Russian invasion. It also raises the stakes for Ukraine’s backers, which have sent billions of dollars of military aid since the beginning of the conflict.
Mr. Biden, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, called on world leaders to unite against Mr. Putin, whom he said had violated the core tenets of the U.N. charter. He also said the U.S. supported enlargement of the body’s Security Council, a move that would dilute the power of Moscow at the U.N., where it is a permanent member of the top decision-making council.
“If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for, everything,” said Mr. Biden. [Continue reading…]
If an American president announced a major speech, booked the networks for 8 p.m., and then disappeared until the following morning, the analysis would be immediate and damning: chaos, disarray, indecision. The White House must be in crisis.
In the past 24 hours, this is exactly what happened in Moscow. The Russian president really did announce a major speech, alert state television, warn journalists, and then disappear without explanation. Although Vladimir Putin finally gave his speech to the nation this morning, the same conclusions have to apply: chaos, disarray, indecision. The Kremlin must be in crisis.
In fact, no elements of the delayed speech were completely new or unexpected. Russian authorities have long intended to hold sham referenda in the Ukrainian territories they occupy. Putin and his television propagandists have been making subtle and unsubtle nuclear threats since February. Quietly, a creeping mobilization has been going on for many weeks too, as the Russian army has sought to recruit more men to replace the soldiers whom it still does not admit have been killed, wounded, or exhausted by the war. But now that Ukraine has successfully recaptured thousands of square miles of Russian-held territory, the sham referenda are being rushed, the nuclear language is being repeated, and the mobilization expanded. These are not the actions of a secure leader assured of his legitimacy and of the outcome of this war. [Continue reading…]