Anticipating Putin speech on February 21
The world seemingly is waiting to hear what the master of the Kremlin will say, while there are conflicting reports about the situation around Bakhmut, as Russian forces keep pressuring in order to take control of city.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin can present in his annual speech to the legislature and the government, Tuesday, coinciding with the anniversary of Russia’s recognition of independence of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, 3 days before the first anniversary of the invasion.
With no information about the most important points that Putin will raise in his speech, speculation has increased about the possibility of presenting points that need the approval of Russian legislators, especially after the State Duma announced that an extraordinary meeting would be held next Wednesday morning, that is, the day after Putin’s speech, followed by a session in the same day for the Federation Council is likely to complete the ratification of any pending decisions.
Experts and analysts close to the Kremlin said that Putin’s speech would trigger surprises, as was the case on February 22, 2022, when Russian lawmakers ratified the president’s decision to recognize the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, including security and defense cooperation with Donetsk and Lugansk, and approval of the decision to send troops to protect the two republics from a possible attack by Ukrainian forces.
Despite the faltering Russian forces and the lack of significant achievements, some optimists didn’t rule out Putin’s declaration of annexation of new separatist republics, such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia, or even the separatist Republic of Transnistria from Moldova.
With increasing speculation and analysis about why two extraordinary sessions of the State Duma and the Federation Council were held just a week earlier than previously scheduled, the Chairman of the regime Committee in the Russian Federation Council Vyacheslav Tymoshenko said, last Thursday, that the meeting will consider laws on the incorporation of new regions into the legal field of the Russian Federation, which It must be approved by March 1 next.
Russian Duma Speaker Valentina Matviyenko stated that the government had asked the senators to adopt several laws related to the tax law and the budget, so that they can come into effect as of early March.
Putin’s speech comes about a year after the launch of the special military operation in Donbas, which didn’t achieve the desired results, and its objectives changed more than once.
It’s clear that the lack of vision and the absence of accurate answers about the prospects for the end of the war and its effects, or even approximate ones about its outcome and repercussions on the lives of Russians and Russia’s future global role, prevented Putin from directing the annual speech last year.
Apart from leaks whose authenticity is not known, given that the current February 21 speech is being prepared by a small team in the Kremlin office, which includes experts and advisors on all internal and external political issues, security and defense, the main part of the speech is expected to include answers to the most important issues, such as the military situation on the front, the future of the military operation, and whether it could develop into a declaration of a comprehensive or limited war.
It’s certain that the Russian president doesn’t have clear and precise answers about the date of the end of the war, which is easy to launch under any name, but it’s difficult to predict when it will end, and who will have the last shot in the field and the supreme word in the negotiations that are not expected to resume quickly, given the great inconsistency.
In the objectives of the two parties, after Russia annexed four regions of Ukraine last fall, and its negotiators put forward conditions akin to surrender, and Ukraine insisted that it wouldn’t accept any concession on its internationally recognized borders in 1991, meaning that it would continue to work to liberate the regions of Donbas that were under the control of the separatists to Moscow before February 2022, and most importantly the return of Crimea, which Russia annexed in the spring of 2014.
It seems that Putin will have to use his long experience to circumvent this issue, by repeating what he previously said regarding the moral, political and strategic motives of this war.
Vladimir Putin will also have to confirm that there were no other options in order to stop what the Kremlin describes as the systematic targeting of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, by what he calls neo-Nazis in Kiev since 2014, and that the moral duty requires making sacrifices in order to save Russians in Novorossiya and help them decide their chosen destiny, which is to join the motherland.
According to the repeated statements of Putin and senior Russian officials, the speech won’t miss the opportunity to attack the collective West, which’s working with all its energy to prevent Russia from taking the place it deserves in the world, and continues to seek to dismantle and weaken it, economically and politically, in various ways.
Despite the length of the special military operation than expected, it’s unlikely that Putin would declare war, and that for several reasons.
The most important of which is Moscow’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and its launch as an extension of the coup against its supporters, former President Viktor Yanukovych, after the Kiev Maidan events in 2014.
In recent years, Putin, his intellectual theorists, and many pillars of government have clearly focused on denying the existence of a sovereign Ukrainian state, and pointing out that Ukraine is a country occupied by the West.
Therefore, declaring war means that Russia will enter into a confrontation of uncertain results and unknown scope with the occupied countries, primarily the United States and Britain, or the Anglo-Saxon axis, as the Kremlin propaganda likes to describe the two countries.
On a very important issue related to the declaration of war, Putin will have to answer clearly about the possibility of declaring a new wave of mobilization.
Not declaring a state of war didn’t prevent the first mobilization at the end of last summer, for the first time since World War II.
In response to the rumors, Putin will most likely confirm that there is no intention of a new wave of mobilization in the near future.
What increases this possibility is that the soldiers who were called up in the last wave weren’t sent to the fronts, due to the delay in their training due to the lack of sufficient trainers, and the lack of sufficient clothing and weapons.
It’s certain that there is a possibility to send about 150,000, in case of need, to the fronts, which is a good number if the Wagner group fighters and other fighters’ mercenaries are added to it.
Perhaps the most important thing is the popular protests that accompanied the last wave, the flight of hundreds of thousands of Russian youth abroad, the objections of a number of large companies that began to suffer from a lack of qualified personnel, and fears of significant economic impacts on the domestic product.
On the other hand, Putin didn’t issue a decree ending mobilization, with reports by few Russian opposition websites that the call-up of reservists and the increase in the number of forces continue in convincing ways.
Although Putin should present some of the mistakes that accompanied the special military operation, inviting some military personnel to attend the speech, in a first of its kind, reduces the possibility that he will focus on this aspect.
It’s more likely that he will confirm that the process is proceeding according to plan, even if it’s delayed due to the unlimited Western support, and the West’s employment of the 5th column inside the country to weaken the morale of the Russian citizens, and that it will demand that its citizens continue to support the army in order to alleviate the suffering of their Russian brothers in eastern Ukraine, and miss the opportunity for the West lurking in Russia.
Putin is expected to confirm the strength of the Russian economy and its ability to face unprecedented Western sanctions.
In this context, and despite the disclosure of the high budget deficit last January, it’s not excluded that Putin will announce an aid package for people with limited incomes and retirees, and of course, the families of the military and the dead and wounded.
It’s more likely that he will shed light on measures to improve the demographic situation in the country, a crisis that was present in all of Putin’s speeches, but it’s of particular importance now, given information about the killing of tens of thousands according to Western reports, and more hundreds of thousands of young Russian escaped abroad.
Finally, It’s also likely that Putin will continue to praise the types of advanced Russian weapons that are unparalleled in the world, benefit from the lessons of the current war to make it stronger, and praise the work of the defense industries sector to secure ammunition and war supplies.