ICDS chief: New wave of Russian mobilization inevitable

Indrek Kannik on Wednesday's edition of 'Otse uudistemajast'.
Indrek Kannik on Wednesday's edition of 'Otse uudistemajast'. Source: ERR

When taking a look at military losses incurred by the Russian Federation in its invasion of Ukraine, sooner or later that country will have to declare further mobilization, Indrek Kannik, director of think tank the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) says.

Appearing on ERR webcast "Otse Uudistemajast" Wednesday, Kannik added that Russian leader Vladimir Putin does not want to resort to a further mobilization, given the extent to which the first wave carried out last autumn unsettled the Russian public.

At the same time, Europe is uncomfortable with a concept put forward by the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, namely that even after the end of the war in Ukraine, peace in the region will not be restored to its former extent.

"The threat assessment in Finland is the same as Estonia's: Tension in relation Russia will remain, even after the end of the war. It will be more difficult for western Europe to accept this, however. It is our diplomatic task to make it clear to Europe that the end of this war will not bring back a comfortable period of peace," Kannik said.

Should Russia lose its war on Ukraine, the current regime will not be able to continue leading the country, however, Kannik said, though even this did not mean and end to the current attitude in Moscow, towards Ukraine, and other countries.

"New people [in the Kremlin] do not have to have a different mentality. Russia could take a tactical break after the war in Ukraine, but it could also then rethink its strategy. Ukraine is a very big country, and it would be easier to try with smaller states. However, what alters Estonia's situation is that we are a NATO member state. Another consideration is the fact that Ukraine and Belarus are more important to the Slavic empire, the Baltic states are not necessarily there."

"In two years' time, Russia could attain restoration of its military capabilities, but this would require the West to end its sanctions immediately after the end of the war in Ukraine. In my opinion, this would take more than two years, but we, as a small country, must use this window of time to its maximum effect and we must remember that a strong defensive preparation on our part also works as a deterrent towards Russia," the expert said.

Both in western Europe and in the U.S., there exists a palpable fear that Russia would resort to using a nuclear warhead, in the event of a defeat in Ukraine. "That being said, several of Russia's red lines have already been crossed," Kannik continued.

"For example, if it annexed parts of the territory of Ukraine, then, according to its own doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons, Russia should have already used them, when 'liberating' those regions. Russian intimidation with nuclear weapons cannot be gone along with because, in that case, it is not possible to do anything more against Russia and they could then essentially go all the way to Paris," he added.

Conversely, Germany, has a particularly deep-seated pacifist mentality which resulted from allied demands in the aftermath of World War Two, Kannik said. "Economic interests also bind Germany to Russia, though the dependence on Russian gas was one-sided. There is also a very strong school of thought inside Germany which sees returning to good post-war relations with Russia as necessary. The only political party that does not support doing so is the Greens," Kannik went on.

Germany's real military capabilities remain low, Kannik added. "On the past, German officers had already admitted this publicly. Other western countries also face considerable limitations in their support for Ukraine. This demonstrates the importance of the U.S. in protecting Europe," Kannik said.

As for the new German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius (SPD), appointed Tuesday to replace the departed Christine Lambrecht, Kannik said that his name had come as a surprise as he has no defense background, though he apparently has sound administrative abilities. "In 2018, he was still among those politicians who wanted to reduce Russian sanctions," Kannik said.

"[Pistorius] is is among the ranks of German SPD politicians who have supported good relations with Russia, though we still have to see what he thinks about Russia now, as many politicians in Finland who previously were in favor of good relations with Russia, too, have changed their minds."

According to Kannik, Turkey has been an important supporter of Ukraine and among the three or four biggest donors. "Turkey has also benefited in relation to [its own] humanitarian issues. I have no major complaints against Turkey in the context of the war, because we cannot expect them to say the same things as the Baltic states or the U.S. The people of Turkey and the Nordic countries are, however, of one mind that Turkey will not forever block Finland and Sweden from access to NATO. This will happen," he added, referring to Turkey as one of two countries (the other is Hungary) still not to have ratified Finnish and Swedish NATO membership, months and months after the two countries announced their intentions to join.

Kannik acknowledged that, looking at Russia's military losses in the field now, sooner or later, it will have to announce a new round mobilization. "Putin would not want to do this, as if anything has disturbed the public, it was the first wave of mobilization. Ideally, he would not want carry it out, but if he has an adequate picture of those losses, he will be forced to do it."

Russian public support for the war has not changed in any meaningful way, however. "There are anti-war people in Russian society even now, but their proportion doesn't even come close to 50 percent," he noted.

Indrek Kannik was talking to Aleksander Krjukov on the "Otse uudistemajast" webcast.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Andrew Whyte

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