This has been a long week and next is going to be just as long, so after tonight I’m going to try to keep the updates shorter for the next ten days or so. I appreciate your understanding.
Before we dig in, I want to just take a moment and highlight what is going on in Iran. I’ve got the time and energy to do one post a day, which, until the Ukrainians defeat the Russians, is going to be it. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other things that need our attention. Ordinarily I’d be doing complete posts on them.
The Iranian government has once again turned off the Internet within Iran. The last time they did this they used the information blackout as cover to kill at least 300 Iranians. Before they pulled the plug earlier today, I saw videos of at least two people murdered by Iran’s security services/law enforcement. One was a young man. The other a 10 year old girl. Both shot in the head.
⚠️ #Iran is now subject to the most severe internet restrictions since the November 2019 massacre.
▶️ Mobile networks largely shut down (MCI, Rightel, Irancell – partial)
▶️ Regional disruptions observed during protests
▶️ Instagram, WhatsApp restrictedhttps://t.co/8cCHIJA2Oi
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) September 21, 2022
Despite this, some video is still filtering out:
#Iranian protesters gather tonight in ValiAsr #Tehran chanting “Death to the Dictator,” surrounding both sides of the street and walking between cars#MahsaAmini #Mahsa_Amini #مهسا_امینی #IranProtests #iran pic.twitter.com/zMBMosXVvv
— Lisa Daftari (@LisaDaftari) September 22, 2022
I honestly am not sure what is going to happen here. My experience and expertise in working on these issues tells me that the Iranian government’s response is going to be swift, violent, and overwhelming just like every time Iranians begin to rise up. But something feels different this time. This uprising isn’t centered around a “reformist” candidate who still had to be chosen by the Supreme Religious Authority to appear on the presidential election ballot. It is a spontaneous uprising caused by the horrific extra-judicial execution of a 22 year old woman visiting the city with her family. Hope is not a strategy, but sometimes hope is all one has. If you can, spare a thought for the people of Iran.
Here’s Presizent Zelenskyy’s address from earlier this evening. Video below, English transcript after the jump:
All our defenders!
Today I want to say special words of gratitude. Gratitude to all our people who defend our state, defend independence.
Ukraine held out after a full-scale attack by Russia. Ukraine managed to unite the world around the struggle for freedom. Ukraine managed to liberate a significant part of the territory the Russian troops invaded. Ukraine liberates people from Russian captivity.
And Ukraine managed to change the course of the war so that every occupier, even the most inadequate one, felt that we can win and are moving towards victory.
I am thankful to everyone who fights and works for this! For the sake of our victory.
It is precisely to the fact of Ukrainian strength that the leadership of Russia reacts, changing tactics and trying to draw even more Russian citizens and resources into the war.
Russia’s decision on mobilization is a frank admission that their regular army, which has been prepared for decades to take over a foreign country, did not withstand and crumbled. And now, due to mobilization, Russia’s war against Ukraine for the majority of Russian citizens is not something on TV or on the Internet, but something that has entered every Russian home.
I’ve held a meeting of the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief today. The questions are clear. Frontline. Provision of our military. And new threats created by Russia.
I will note right away: any decisions of the Russian leadership do not change anything for Ukraine. We should care only about our tasks. This is the liberation of our country, the protection of our people and the mobilization of global support for the implementation of our tasks.
Diplomatic mobilization of the entire international community is now taking place.
The circle of those who support us now is not limited to our traditional partners and those who openly supported our state after February 24. Now almost everyone supports us – this is the reaction to new Russian escalation steps.
In particular, the farce with the preparation of sham referenda in the occupied territory demonstrates what happened in 2014 in Crimea and Donbas.
And I am grateful to everyone in the world who supported us. Who clearly condemned another Russian lie.
Grateful to President Biden and all American friends. To President Macron, Chancellor Scholz, the President of Finland and all our Polish brothers, the Baltic states, Mr. Borrell, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, the OSCE and all Europeans from Iceland to Romania, who will never be deceived by Russia again.
I am thankful to Britain for the support! Türkiye! Thank you Canada! Thanks also to all those who now privately express their support for Ukraine.
When Russia declares that it supposedly wants negotiations, but announces mobilization… When Russia knows Ukraine’s clear position about the impossibility of a diplomatic process after Russia holds any sham referenda…
Everything is clear to everyone. Russia itself buries the prospect of negotiations with its own hands.
I will explain to the Russians what is happening in Russian.
Protests against mobilization took place in the cities of Russia – albeit not massive, but they took place. And they take place. And this is an indicator. Not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We know the real mood in the regions of Russia.
We see that people in Dagestan, in Buryatia, in other national republics and regions of Russia understand that they were simply thrown. Thrown to death.
Why, for example, Dagestanis or anyone else should die in the Kharkiv region or near Donetsk? Because one person in Russia decided so – for all the citizens of Russia. There is no other reason. That’s what he wants.
You are already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians.
Because you were silent. Because you are silent.
And now it’s time for you to choose. For men in Russia, this is a choice to die or live, to become a cripple or to preserve health. For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, grandchildren forever, or still try to protect them from death, from war, from one person.
Just think about the number of people they want to take away!
We know for sure that the conscription letters for 300,000 people were printed and signed in advance, even before this decision on mobilization appeared. Our intelligence has proven it. But the Russian leadership is preparing to take up to a million men into the army – this is the key thing they are now silent about.
We know that they will take everyone indiscriminately. Not only the military in the reserve, but any men. Anyone who will be so intimidated that he will be more afraid of avoiding war than of dying in war.
55 thousand Russian soldiers died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive.
Russian mothers! Have no doubt that the children of the top officials of your state will not be sent to the war against Ukraine. Those who make decisions in your country take care of their children. And they do not even bury your children.
And we return ours.
A very important briefing was held today. Head of the Office Yermak, Head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Budanov, Head of the Security Service Maliuk, Minister of Internal Affairs Monastyrskyi. They told the details of our operation to release 215 warriors, the details of the exchange. We do everything so that society and the world can see how Ukraine protects people and basic human values.
Once again, I congratulate 215 families and our entire country on the return of the heroes.
I am thankful to everyone who helps Ukraine!
Eternal glory to all who fight for Ukraine!
Glory to our indomitable and brave people!
Glory to Ukraine!
Here’s the British MOD’s assessment for today:
And here’s their updated map for today:
BrigGen Ryder, the DOD Spokesperson, held a for attribution briefing earlier today. His intro was all about a SecDef initiative to support and strengthen military families, so we’ll go right to the Q&A.
Q (Lita Baldor): Hi, Pat. Thank you. Two things: One, there’s been increasing rhetoric coming out of Russia on the threats to use nuclear weapons if Russian territory comes under attack. What is the Pentagon’s comment on that? Has there been any changes to any posture at all, or any requests for — by any of the allies for increased protection in regard to those latest statements?
And then I have one — one sort of little data question. I think you said the other day that there’s $2.2 billion or so remaining in PDA until September 30th. Does all of that expires — I’m just sort of double-check. Does all of that expire if not used by the 30th, or is that — is there any move that that is extended? Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks very much, Lita. In terms of the statements or the announcements coming out of Russia, it does — it does not affect the department’s commitment to continue working closely with our international partners and our allies on providing Ukraine with the support that it needs in their fight to defend their country.
In terms of the — the money, for example, the USAI money is two-year money, so that is available through September of 2023. In terms of the — the funding for the PDAs, I will get back to you on that question.
OK, let me go ahead and go to the room here. Tony?
Q (Tony): Can you talk a little bit about the Pentagon’s analysis of the 300,000 reservists — recruits that have been called up by Putin in terms of, where does the pool come from? Largely, where will it come from? And roughly how long will it take to give them any minimal training to be minimally-combat-effective and deployed? Any feel for that yet?
GEN. RYDER: Sure. Well, I — I think you’re seeing a lot of this in open press and in terms of what — what the Russians themselves have said in terms of where these forces would come from, and my understanding is these would primarily be reservists or members of the — the Russian military that had retired and were in a individual ready-reserve type of status. All of that to say, it’s our assessment that it would take time for Russia to train and prepare and equip these forces. And I think it’s important also to point out here that while in many ways this may address a manpower issue for Russia, what’s not clear is whether or not it could significantly address the command and control, the logistics, the sustainment, and importantly, the morale issues that we’ve seen Russian forces in Ukraine experience.
Q (Tony): And if I can get a separate question, on the follow up on Lita’s question about the nuclear threat, to what extent has the nuclear — you know, that threat, veiled or whatever, inhibited the United States from sending over longer range weapons, like ATACMS, tanks of some kind, other weapons? I mean, have the Russians basically got a strategic victory in that respect, in terms of red lines that the U.S. now is afraid to cross, in terms of weapons shipments?
GEN. RYDER: So I think we’ve been very clear all along that our focus is on continuing to have a very open and — and rigorous dialogue with our Ukrainian counterparts and the international community, in terms of our allies and our partners, on what are Ukraine’s needs. And we will continue to have those conversations and we’ll continue to think through not only what they need in the medium to long term but also what they need now.
So — so I don’t see those conversations being impacted by this situation. You know, it — it — I think it’s important here too to — to provide a little bit of context, in the sense that if we go back in time a little bit, it — Ukraine — Russia invaded Ukraine and attempted to annex all of Ukraine, you know, by virtue of invading them, failed in that strategic objective, and so they scaled down the scope of their operational objectives, and even those aren’t going well, due to Ukraine’s counter-offensive and the issues that I’ve highlighted, in terms of logistics and sustainment.
So by making these types of announcements about sham referenda or threats about attacking territory, it doesn’t change the facts — operational facts on the ground, which are that the Ukrainians will continue to fight for their country, the Russian military is dealing with some significant challenges on the ground, and the international community will stand behind Ukraine as they fight to defend their country from an invasion.
Q (Tony): Can I ask you one …
… one quick weapons question? To what extent are — is the provision — providing of U.S. tanks, M1A1s or A2s — I guess it’d be A2s though — is that in the interagency debate right now at — at any level, in terms of whether you’ll provide or not?
GEN. RYDER: So I’m not going to get into any specific systems that may be under discussion. Again, we’ve provided a variety of capabilities that the Ukrainians are using to great effect and we’re going to continue to have those discussions and — and look at a variety of capabilities in the days ahead. So thank you.
Let me go ahead and go to Jim and then I’ll go back out to the phone.
Q (Jim): General, just to — just to be clear, in your answer to Tony, you’re saying that the Russian military still has these command and control, the logistics problems, the — you know, just supply sustainment, getting weapons to the places, and by adding 300,000 people they’re just compounding those problems?
GEN. RYDER: I — I mean, that — that’s speculation but certainly if you are already having significant challenges and haven’t addressed some of those systemic, strategic issues that make any large military force capable, there is nothing to indicate that it’s going to get any easier by adding more variables to the equation.
Q (Jim): And — and just to be clear, if — if President Biden called up 300,000 Reservists, he’d get — he’d get a group of well trained folks who — many of — most of them in — in — in units, able to move out in, like, days, weeks or months. That’s not what the Russians are going to get, right?
GEN. RYDER: Again, I’m — I’m not in the Russian military, I’ve never been in the Russian military, I don’t plan to ever be in the Russian military, so I’m not going to speak for them, but I — I think we’ve seen some of the systemic challenges that they have in their force and I — I think they will have their work cut out for them. Thank you.
Let me go ahead and — back out to the phone here. Let’s go to Sangmin Lee from Radio Free Asia.
Q (Sangmin): Yes, I have a question on the indication that Russia actually purchased weapons from North Korea. You mentioned before that you do have indications that Russia has approached North Korea to request munitions. So do you have indications that the purchase has actually occurred now?
GEN. RYDER: Thanks for the question, Sangmin. So I — all I’ll say is we stand by the information that we provided earlier, and beyond that, I don’t have any additional updates to provide. Thank you.
Q (Fadi): … so I’m going to go back to your — to your answer about the — the reports that there were (inaudible) service in — in Russia. So is — is your understanding that these 300,000 are the troops that will be introduced into theater in Ukraine or some of them might be replacing other forces that are ready to fight inside of Russia? And by — and by that, I mean are you detecting any movement of new forces to enter Ukraine from the Russian side or any indications there are — certain units are preparing to enter Ukraine?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so — so that’s really a question for the — the Russian military to address, in terms of how exactly they plan to use those forces. Again, I think in the context of the challenges that Russia finds itself in right now, as it pertains to Ukraine and as evidenced by the — the rationale that was provided by President Putin and others, in terms of why they’re calling up these forces, it’s clear that it’s intended to help supplement and augment the broader militaries as they conduct this — their — their operations in Ukraine. But in terms of the specifics, Fadi, that — that’s just not something I have insight into.
And then the second part of your question? I’m sorry.
Q (Fadi): Has the Pentagon detected any move — new movement or — or indications that new units are being prepared to — to enter in Ukraine?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so what — what I would say, again, without getting into a — a high level of operational detail, is that we’ve seen indications of some small numbers of replacement forces being moved into Ukraine to essentially help the Russian military shore up some of their defensive lines, but — but nothing on a — on a large scale at this stage.
Again, the battle fleet — battlefield remains very fluid, very dynamic. And so, again, this is something that we’ll continue to monitor, and I know obviously the Ukrainians are monitoring very closely as well.
Q (Idrees): Hey, Pat. You mentioned, in terms of the — I think you said it might — it would take some time for them to train and — and equip the — the folks that they’re mobilizing. Is there a sense of how long that would be? Are we talking weeks, months, next year?
And — and in the other sense of how many folks have already been sort of handed the paper to start mobilizing since the announcement was made?
GEN. RYDER: Thanks, Idrees. So — so really, you know, what I would say is time will tell. It’s just something we’ll have to keep an eye on and — and I’m not going to speculate.
And in terms of the current status of that call-up, that — that’s something that I would refer — have to refer you to that the Russian Ministry of Defense. I don’t have any information to provide on that.
Q (Luis): And when you talked about the assessment about the Ukraine — about the Russian mobilization, you said that it would address some of their manpower …
GEN. RYDER: I said that — that my — our assessment is that it would potentially address some of their manpower issues.
Q (Luis): … Mr. Kahl had said a couple of weeks ago, you know, between 70 and 80,000, like, Russian casualties. Is there a — a more accurate assessment of the Russian casualty count since then?
GEN. RYDER: I — I don’t have any updates to provide on that.
Q (Luis): Now, what is the latest operational update on the situation in Ukraine?
GEN. RYDER: So broadly speaking, Luis — Luis, what I would tell you is that we continue to see Ukrainian forces conduct their counter-offensive operations in the Kharkiv, in the Kherson regions. The Russians continue to conduct operations in the Bakhmut area, with the Ukrainians holding a line, but — but largely speaking, no significant updates for me to provide today on that.
OK, let me go back onto the phone line and then I’ll come over here to Carla. Do we have Ellen from Synopsis?
Q (Heather) : Great, thank you so much. Two questions unrelated to each other. But the first is that there is a — been reporting on social media and in some outlets about a USV that appeared on a beach in Crimea. I was wondering if you can confirm that this USV did appear? And also, if that was one of the USVs that the United States provided back in April?
And then on the vaccine mandate, I was wondering if you’re able to — and you might have to take this for the record — I was wondering if you know if the military and the Pentagon actually have the ability to provide the FDA licensed Pfizer and Moderna shots or if they’re still using EUA licensed of those shots?
GEN. RYDER: … on — on your second question, we’ll — we’ll take that one and — and come back to you.
In terms of the — the — the reports out there about a — I think you call it — call it a sea vehicle — yeah, we — I don’t have anything on that. Thank you.
Q (Sylvie): Hello. Thank you. I would like to go back to Putin’s nuclear threat. Is it the assessment of the Pentagon that it has — Putin has shifted the — Russia’s nuclear weapon use policy and that it will apply to the — to the Ukrainian territories that Moscow wants to annex?
GEN. RYDER: Yes, thanks, Sylvie. Yes, I’m not going to comment on Russian nuclear policy. What I would tell you is that — that, you know, from where we sit right now we have not seen anything that would cause us to change our own posture. Certainly we’ll continue to — to watch this closely and take any kind of rhetoric seriously. But again at this stage we’ve seen nothing that would indicate that we need to change any approach from our perspective. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
GEN. RYDER: OK.
Q (Mike): Ukraine asked for four MQ1C Gray Eagles and yesterday Secretary Austin got a letter asking the secretary to review — from Congress asking to speed the review or to go with that review. In the last 24 hours has there been any progress on — on looking at that particular case for Ukraine?
GEN. RYDER: Thank you. First of all, what I would say in terms of congressional correspondence, you know, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about that from the podium and will certainly respond to Congress accordingly. What I would say in terms of providing any kind of specific equipment to Ukraine, it’s something that we’re always discussing. We are aware that Ukrainians have asked for Gray Eagles or have an interest in Gray Eagles. No decisions have been made in that regard. Deputy Under Secretary for Policy Baker recently, as you may recall, indicated that we are — things that we’re considering as we look into this include technology, protection, survivability in the Ukrainian battlespace. And so — and then of course the other thing we have to think through like on any system are readiness impacts on our own force, in this case particularly the Army. So, again, no decisions have been made in that regard.
I would highlight the fact that throughout the course of this conflict, going as far back to the first tranche of USAI, Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, we been providing Ukraine with a variety of ISR capabilities: 22 Pumas, we provided ScanEagles, we provided Switchblades, Phoenix Ghost. And so again we continue to maintain a robust dialogue with Ukraine and the international community about what we, the international community, can do to support Ukraine. But that’s where we’re at at this point.
Q (Mike): So on those couple of points from Ms. Baker the other day, survivability and readiness impacts, going just off the top of my head, I think that there are about 286 of those systems in the United States Army’s arsenal right now. And they’re going through pretty costly tech refresh. So should the taxpayer be concerned about the survivability of those 280-some odd systems or the four that the Ukraine — it’s the Ukrainian battle space, particularly costly for — for those systems …
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so let’s — so let’s not mix apples and oranges here. You know, what we’re talking about is security assistance to Ukraine. When it comes to the employment of U.S. military capabilities, again, I’d refer you to the Army to talk about their own systems.
Certainly, we’re going to consider a variety of options, in terms of how we employ those kinds of capabilities, the operating environments that we employ them in. No — and just broadly speaking as an airman, when we do employ aerial systems, it’s more than just the aircraft, it’s a variety of capabilities that are supporting those aircraft. So there’s a lot that goes into employing any type of aircraft.
So I just highlight those as factors that, like any system, we would have to take into account before we introduce it to the battlefield. Thanks.
OK, let — let me go ahead here and then I’ll go back out to the phone. Yes, sir?
Q : Thank you, General. Regarding to other area, like Syria, do you have any communications or contact with the Russia counterpart to avoid any conflicts between the two armies, especially, you know, we have a — a — U.S. bases in Syria, and additional for — that we have even Russian troops there.
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, so we do maintain regular military-to-military contact with Russia, the Russian military, as it pertains to Syria. You know, I talked about — the other day about the fact that particularly the airspace there is — is contested. And so going as far back as the counter-ISIS campaign — the early days of the counter-ISIS campaign, when Russia introduced forces, that has been a longstanding policy and approach.
And I would encourage you to contact Central Command or Air Forces Central and they can provide you with much more detail.
Let me go out to the phone here. Lara Seligman, Politico?
Q (Lara): Hey, Pat. Thanks for doing this. Two questions.
One, I just wanted to follow up on the questions about the mobilization, and I’m wondering if you could — if I could ask specifically what does the Pentagon assess is the — more — the quality of the people that Putin is calling up? I know these are supposed to be former troops but what kind of training have they had and what kind of difference will they make on the battlefield?
And then a related question, what is the Pentagon’s assessment of what Ukrainian forces are going to need for the winter? And how are we helping them with that?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah. Thanks, Lara. In terms of the specific individuals that may be affected by a Russian partial mobilization, again, I’m seeing a lot of the same press reporting that you are that’s — that’s coming out of Russia. And so I — I certainly would not want to speculate or generalize about specific individuals. I — I just don’t have that information to provide.
In terms of Ukraine and the winter, as, you know, evidenced by the PDA announcement that we put out recently, we are — we are — we do continue to communicate with the Ukrainians and — and our international partners and allies in terms of what their needs may be for the wintertime — and again, we’re providing some winter gear — but we’ll continue to have those conversations and support them as we — as we head into the winter months here. Thank you.
Q (Kasim): Yeah, thank you very much, General, for taking my question. I was going to ask about the — this prisoner swap. Based on the — the information you have, could you just tell us if — how many other U.S. veterans are currently fighting in Ukraine? Are — are — are there any other veterans at the hands of Russians?
GEN. RYDER: Yeah, thanks, Kasim. So I — I would refer you to the State Department, in terms of the status of U.S. citizens overseas. That — that’s not information that we track necessarily here in the Department of Defense. Obviously, our focus is on our — our actively serving military members. Thank you.
This is the unmanned aquatic vehicle that BrigGen Ryder was asked about:
Russian sources reported that this afternoon, an object resembling an unmanned surface vehicle of some kind washed up on the shore of Sevastopol.
Seen in the distance on the third photo is a Russian Ropucha-class landing ship (Project 775) of the Black Sea Fleet. pic.twitter.com/XLMK56zYSa
— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) September 21, 2022
Here is former NAVDEVGRU Squadron Leader Chuck Pfarrer’s most recently updated assessments:
KHERSON/ 1250 UTC 22 SEP/ On 22 SEP, Ukrainian Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) missions continued, with the destruction of 15 additional Russian air defense complexes. These SEAD missions have allowed UKR to double the number of close air sorties to 41 missions. pic.twitter.com/5fnX8saskh
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) September 22, 2022
IZIUM/ 1214 UTC 22 SEP/ RU sources indicate that their counter-attacks have been rebuffed by UKR forces west of the P-66 HWY. Within the last 24 Hrs, UKR has consolidated holdings North of Yarova. Lyman isolated by UKR crossings of the Donets. pic.twitter.com/z9xsESqhYm
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) September 22, 2022
For our resident train and railway enthusiast!
A train full of t-62 tanks rolled up to the train station in Yasinovataya, next to Donetsk city, and then moments later the station exploded. pic.twitter.com/fLGngd1Rok
— Andrew Perpetua (@AndrewPerpetua) September 22, 2022
Green marker is the camera, bottom right blue marker is the fire. 5.4km to the line. pic.twitter.com/EAD4AMe503
— Andrew Perpetua (@AndrewPerpetua) September 22, 2022
Speaking of things that go boom, it’s HIMARS O’Clock!
#Ukraine: Previously unseen and very rare footage of the moment of impact of two M31A1 GMRLS missiles fired from the HIMARS/M270 system hitting a Russian ammunition staging point in #Kharkiv Oblast. At least one vehicle is seen to be destroyed as the munitions detonate. pic.twitter.com/mDelWDkc5e
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) September 22, 2022
As you can imagine from the past couple of days, panic has set in among Russians who are eligible for the newly instated draft.
— Aric Toler (@AricToler) September 22, 2022
Just spoke with a woman from a small village of 450 people in Buryatia. She said that local authorities tried to hand out 20 draft notices, including to several in their 50s. Even if many turned away, would still produce far more than 300k conscripts if repeated across Russia. https://t.co/s8wWbQoPk7
— Andrew Roth (@Andrew__Roth) September 22, 2022
Part of the issue here is that there is a classified section of the mobilization order that seems to authorize a draft of a million men.
A source tells Novaya Gazeta that the secret seventh clause in Putin's mobilisation decree allows the Russian MoD to call up 1m people. As @KofmanMichael has noted: "Shoigu's number of 300,000 is just a notional figure that probably has no relationship to what's really happening" https://t.co/g5JsaR6OQ0 pic.twitter.com/kiltcuvOal
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) September 22, 2022
I’ve seen multiple reports of Russians with no military experience being drafted. And of conscripted Russians being sent directly to Ukraine after processing, rather than being sent for any form of training.
Also, whether its 300,000 Russians mobilized or a million of them, it isn’t going to make a difference. More poorly trained, or not trained at all, poorly equipped, and poorly led Russian soldiers with low to no morale is just going to give the Ukrainians more targets. They are not going to somehow be the magic bullet that turns things around for Putin.
The Washington Post reports that the US has sent private warnings to Russia telling them not to use nuclear weapons:
The attempt by the White House to cultivate what’s known in the nuclear deterrence world as “strategic ambiguity” comes as Russia continues to escalate its rhetoric about possible nuclear weapons use amid a domestic mobilization aimed at stanching Russian military losses in eastern Ukraine.
The State Department has been involved in the private communications with Moscow, but officials would not say who delivered the messages or the scope of their content. It was not clear whether the United States had sent any new private messages in the hours since Russian President Vladimir Putin issued his latest veiled nuclear threat during a speech announcing a partial mobilization early Wednesday, but a senior U.S. official said the communication has been happening consistently over recent months.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote Thursday in a post on Telegram that territory in eastern Ukraine would be “accepted into Russia” after the completion of staged “referendums” and vowed to strengthen the security of those areas.
To defend that annexed land, Medvedev said, Russia is able to use not only its newly mobilized forces, but also “any Russian weapon, including strategic nuclear ones and those using new principles,” a reference to hypersonic weapons.
“Russia has chosen its path,” Medvedev added. “There is no way back.”
The comment came a day after Putin suggested Russia would annex occupied lands in Ukraine’s south and east, and incorporate the regions formally into what Moscow considers its territory. He said he was not bluffing when he vowed to use all means at Russia’s disposal to defend the country’s territorial integrity — a veiled reference to the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Biden administration officials have emphasized that this isn’t the first time the Russian leadership has threatened to use nuclear weapons since the start of the war on Feb. 24, and have said there is no indication Russia is moving its nuclear weapons in preparation for an imminent strike.
Still, the recent statements from the Russian leadership are more specific than previous comments and come at a time when Russia is reeling on the battlefield from a U.S.-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Whereas previous Kremlin statements appeared to be aimed at warning the United States and its allies against going too far in helping Ukraine, Putin’s most recent comments suggested Russia is considering using a nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine to freeze gains and force Kyiv and its backers into submission, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonproliferation advocacy group in Washington.
“What everyone needs to recognize is that this is one of, if not the most, severe episodes in which nuclear weapons might be used in decades,” Kimball said. “The consequences of even a so-called ‘limited nuclear war’ would be absolutely catastrophic.”
For years, U.S. nuclear experts have worried that Russia might use smaller tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes referred to as “battlefield nukes,” to end a conventional war favorably on its terms — a strategy sometimes described as “escalate to de-escalate.”
On Thursday, Vadym Skibitskyi, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence, told the U.K.’s ITV News that it is possible Russia will use nuclear weapons against Ukraine “to stop our offensive activity and to destroy our state.”
“This is a threat for other countries,” Skibitskyi said. “The blast of a tactical nuclear weapon will have an impact not only in Ukraine but the Black Sea region.”
The Ukrainians have tried to signal that even a Russian nuclear strike wouldn’t force them into capitulation — and in fact could have the opposite effect.
“Threatening with nuclear weapons … to Ukrainians?” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted on Wednesday. “Putin have not yet understood who he is dealing with.”
In an interview with CBS News’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Biden was asked what he would tell Putin if the Russian leader is considering using nuclear weapons in the conflict against Ukraine.
“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” Biden said. “You will change the face of war unlike anything since World War II.”
Biden declined to detail how the United States would respond, saying only that the reaction would be “consequential” and would depend “on the extent of what they do.”
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Despite its own suffering in the face of Russia’s brutal invasion, Ukraine has donated 30,000 metric tons of grain through the @WFP to alleviate Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and funded another 50,000 metric tons of grain for Ethiopia and Somalia.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 22, 2022
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