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The Russian Clocks Are All Ticking

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Putin is running out of time.
Vladimir Putin’s massive conscription of Russian men is yet another calamity of his own making.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
Russia continues to lose in Ukraine. A dramatic Ukrainian counteroffensive, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky, has recaptured about 2,000 square miles of territory and sent Russian forces reeling. Putin, like many authoritarians, relies on an image of personal invulnerability, and so he rightly fears the political risks of military defeat. At home, even his most loyal sycophants are demanding that he do something to stem the losses in Ukraine.
Putin has answered this call by making two foolish moves. First, he is now getting personally involved in some of the operational decisions in Ukraine; second, he has begun a conscription drive that is supposed to mobilize an additional 300,000 men into the Russian military. Both of these decisions will speed up the clocks on the many growing threats to his regime, including sanctions, social unrest, and military collapse, among others.
Putin, apparently, is now directing some of the military activity on the ground in Ukraine long-distance from Moscow—he is reported, for example, to have denied requests from some units for permission to retreat from Kherson. Such interventions are always a risky choice for civilian leaders far removed from the battlefield. The Kremlin boss assuming command is, of course, easy fodder for Hitler-in-the-bunker memes, but even Russian imperial history should be a warning to Putin: When Tsar Nicholas II decided to assume command of the Russian empire’s forces in World War I, his own advisers warned him that personal association with failure could destroy his reign. “Consider, Sire,” one wrote to him, “what You are laying hands on—on Your own self, Sire!” (Another warned him bluntly: “The army under Your command must be victorious.”)
Putin is running the same risk. One of the many looming deadlines he faces is the onset of winter, when fighting will slow, Russian morale will sink even lower, and supply issues will worsen. The Russian high command and its officers almost certainly want to win this war as a way to recover from the shame and dishonor of their staggering incompetence over the past seven months. But if they lose more men and territory because of some harebrained order from Putin, will they again stand silently and take the blame?
The mobilization order is so pointless that I am left wondering who in Moscow thought it might be a good idea. It was a decision guaranteed to generate massive protests for no apparent military benefit. There is no way for the poorly supplied and corrupt Russian military to train, house, clothe, and arm 300,000 men anytime soon, and certainly not before winter arrives.

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