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Putin’s latest address failed to articulate specific goals for war in Ukraine, says ISW

Vladimir Putin addressed the Federal Assembly on February 21

Vladimir Putin addressed the Federal Assembly on February 21

Instead, Putin’s 1-hour-and-45-minute speech reinforced several long-standing rhetorical lines in an effort to buy Putin more space and time for a protracted war, ISW said.

The assembled audience of Russian officials, politicians and military officers looked bored during Putin’s sometimes rambling address, with former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appearing to doze off at one point.

ISW said the dictator’s often-used themes in the speech included the following:

  • Russia began the “special military operation” in Ukraine a year ago in order to protect people in Russia’s “historical lands,” ensure Russian domestic security, remedy the threat posed by the Ukrainian “neo-Nazi” regime that he claims has been in place since 2014, and protect the people of Donbas;

  • the collective West is involved in arming Ukraine and deploying bases and biolabs close to Russian borders, thereby unleashing the war on Russia;

  • false analogies of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with various Nazi divisions.

Read also: Russia is preparing for mass mobilization of students, warns Ukrainian intelligence

According to ISW analysts, Putin could have used this event to articulate new objectives and means for achieving them, such as announcing another formal wave of partial mobilization, redefining the “special military operation” as an official war, or taking additional steps to mobilize the Russian defense industrial base in a more concrete way.

“Instead, Putin said very little of actual substance, likely in order to set continued information conditions for a protracted war in Ukraine by not articulating specific temporal goals and framing the war as existential to the Russian domestic population,” ISW analysts said.

The ISW also noted that Putin’s announcement of Russia’s suspension of its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) captured more attention than the relatively boilerplate content of the rest of the speech.

Read also: US ready to discuss nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia

In particular, Putin may have made this announcement in order to re-introduce nuclear rhetoric into the information space, thereby distracting from the overall lack of substance in the rest of his speech, analysts speculated.

ISW has previously reported on the Russian use of nuclear rhetoric as an information operation to discourage Ukraine and the West and compensate for Russian battlefield failures. ISW continues to assess that Russia will not employ a nuclear weapon in Ukraine or against NATO, however.

ISW also assessed the reaction to Putin’s address in Russia: many Russian bloggers condemned Putin’s failure to use his speech to forward new war aims, outline new measures to support the war, or hold Russian authorities accountable for their many military failures.

Read also: Russia may resume nuclear weapons tests, Putin says

Several bloggers, including MH17 convicted mass-murderer Igor Girkin, criticized Putin’s address as boilerplate and without meaningful action. Others claimed that the suspension of Russia’s participation in START was politically symbolic, but complained that the suspension would not improve Russia’s situation on the battlefield.

Another milblogger compared Putin to a corpse and echoed many of Girkin’s complaints about accountability and action.

Meanwhile, Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that he did not watch Putin’s speech live because he was too busy working to supply Wagner forces with the ammunition necessary to continue effective combat operations in Ukraine.

Other key takeaways by ISW analysts:

  • US President Joe Biden gave a speech in Warsaw, Poland on Feb. 21 to reaffirm US and NATO support for Ukraine after his trip to Kyiv;

  • Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office Director Wang Yi met in Moscow on Feb. 21 on deepening Sino-Russian cooperation;

  • The Financial Times reported that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s international companies continue to garner hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, despite long-standing Western sanctions;

  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks northwest of Svatove and near Kreminna in Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast. Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a limited counterattack near Kreminna;

  • Russian forces continued making incremental tactical gains in and around Bakhmut and continued ground attacks near Avdiyivka in Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast;

  • Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces continue to reinforce and build fortifications in rear areas in southern Ukraine;

  • Putin further expanded unrealistic promises of benefits for Russian soldiers in his address to the Russian Federal Assembly.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine

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