From Jamie Peipon: As Ukraine continues to make incremental progress in the south and the east, major changes and rumors are swirling. There are several major stories that are breaking now and that will likely break before the US wakes up tomorrow morning on the 21st. What we do know for sure:
I wrote yesterday that “officials” that were put in place by russia in occupied Luhansk were calling for a referendum. This morning, the dominoes started falling. There are four main regions (or “oblasts” in Ukrainian) that russia is occupying: Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. All four of these oblasts announced today that they are planning referenda to vote on joining the russian federation. Each oblast “independently” decided to hold a referendum from September 23-27. You don’t have to be an expert in international law to consider a referendum that is to take place in an active war zone, in an area you only partially control, in only three days from today is a little on the sketchy side.
No one in Ukraine is surprised by this. This is exactly what happened in Crimea in 2014. According to russia, +95% of voters in Crimea voted to become part of russia and with a voter turnout of 83%. Anyone who tracks election results anywhere in the world knows that both of those numbers are absolutely absurd. To put that in perspective, the 2020 presidential election in the US was very polarizing and drove the highest voter turnout in over 100 years. That still amounted to only 66.8% voter turnout. In fact, the US has never had an 83% turnout since popular presidential votes began in 1824. The russian-installed occupying government in the Zaporizhzhia oblast announced today that they were planning on declaring independence from Ukraine on the basis of the referendum… which is a strange thing to announce before the referendum is even under way unless you already happen to have the “results” in hand. This type of “democracy” has been the status quo in russia for decades.
We also know that Putin planned to address the nation this evening together with his minister of defense. What we don’t know, is why it was canceled. There are about as many opinions on this as there are people on the internet. Some say there was a major change in plans after talking with world leaders. Others again say that Putin has had a health-related issue. Of course, there are even more rumors about a coup with some saying that a bunch of helicopters were seen flying towards the Kremlin. Or… Putin might just have wanted to go to bed early. No one knows. Reportedly, Putin will broadcast the speech tomorrow morning (Moscow time).
We also don’t know what the speech will actually be about. It seems clear to most that this speech will be related to the “special military operation.” They will likely talk about the referenda, but many suspect that there will also be a general mobilization of the entire country for war. This has caused something of a panic in russia as reports circled that men between 18-60 years-old would not be allowed to leave the country. It is one thing to watch a war on the internet and make obnoxious comments online… it is another thing to have your dad, brother, son sent off to that war. Who knows what kind of reaction this might spark within the country. I honestly don’t believe that a general mobilization will make a big difference in the war itself. russia’s armed forces have suffered great losses and, obviously, did not have great command and control from the outset. This is not a problem that can be fixed by drafting a bunch of guys into the army and putting them on a bus to Ukraine. There is a certain sense in which sheer numbers make a big difference… but there is also a sense in which a poorly trained and poorly motivated soldier can cause more problems than if he weren’t there at all. Officers in russia’s army are an even bigger problem. Great armies take years to develop great commanding officers. Declaring a mobilization won’t create the infrastructure they need.
President Biden is also scheduled to make an important speech tomorrow in front of the UN. His speech will likely be about how russia’s actions are completely opposed to the 1945 UN charter. Some are hopeful (probably more “wishful”) that he will also propose removing russia from the UN security council.
The bottom line is that, as always, we don’t know what to expect from tomorrow (which happens to be International Peace Day… HA!). But these days feel like they have the potential to be major turning points in the war.
“Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
but a fool flaunts his folly.
A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Disaster pursues sinners,
but the righteous are rewarded with good.”