Reports of Putin’s problems are mounting

As world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York and condemned him, Russian President Vladimir Putin was back at home, scrambling to refill his depleted war machine.

His Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was notably absent, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a blistering soliloquy to the UN Security Council, documenting what he called Russia’s war crimes since February.

“When Russia stops fighting, the war ends. When Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends,” Blinken said, promising that the US would maintain its growing support for Ukraine.

The army of Russia divided when Putin gets directly involved

CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis reported Thursday that Putin is giving direct instructions to generals in the field, suggesting a level of micromanagement rare in modern warfare and evidence of the dysfunction in the Russian military that the Ukraine war has revealed.

“There are significant differences of opinion on strategy with military leaders struggling to agree on where to focus their efforts to support defense lines, multiple sources familiar with US intelligence said,” according to Lillis. Read more of Lillis’ report.

Which Russians will this mobilization affect?

The cost to Russia is well documented, but these new reports of the reach into its civilian population and its prisons suggest a new chapter of militarization.

In a speech, Putin advertised the “partial mobilization” as being aimed at reservists with previous military experience. But the fine print of his written decree raises questions about whether any powerful person could be forced into uniform.

CNN’s international team noted: “The ultimate meaning of the apparent discrepancy is not yet clear. And it remains to be seen whether the Kremlin has the appetite for a broader mobilization across the general civilian population.”

There is evidence that some Russians are not interested in waiting to find out how far the mobilization will go.

CNN Travel reported on an increase in interest in flights from Russia. Photos of long lines of traffic at Russia’s land borders suggest people are fleeing the country in Kazakhstan, Georgia and Mongolia.

Dragging more Russians into the war

“(Putin) has declared de facto war on the domestic front — not only on the opposition and civil society, but on the male population of Russia,” wrote Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of several books on the political and social history of Russia, in an essay for CNN Opinion. Read more of Kolesnikov’s take.

Russia cannot support new troops

Simply forcing people into the military won’t solve Putin’s problems, according to a sharp analysis by CNN’s Brad Lendon. The exhausted Russian army does not have the training capacity or supplies for so many people.

“If they end up facing Ukrainian guns on the front lines,” Lendon wrote of the calls, “they are likely to become the latest casualties in the invasion that Putin began more than seven months ago and that has seen the Russian military fail at almost every aspect of modern warfare.”

Lendon cited the open-source intelligence website Oryx, which uses only losses confirmed by photographic or video evidence to document Russia’s loss of more than 6,300 vehicles, including 1,168 tanks, since the fighting began.

Dissidents see progress

Nadya Tolokonnikova is the Russian dissident and founder of the group of activists and artists known as Pussy Riot. She spent two years in a Russian prison and said on CNN on Thursday that it will only become more difficult for the Russians to oppose Putin.

“I know very well the price of protesting in Putin’s Russia. And this price is growing every day, with Putin becoming more and more uncomfortable about his position in the geopolitical arena.”

But she said the movement against him is growing.

“People who oppose Putin, they have real power, and that is the reason for Putin’s repression on us,” she said. “We’re building (a) alternative Russia with values ​​that differ from Putin’s values. We want to be part of Western civilization.”

Crisis of democracies

While the news from Russia looks very bad for Putin and the news from Ukraine suggests that the Ukrainian military continues to exceed all expectations, it is still difficult to understand a change of leadership there.

He is hidden, as we have written here before, until the government turns on him.

The same is not true in democracies, where leaders come and go. So it is worth monitoring another geopolitical story from the UN meeting in New York that may ultimately be one of the fragility of Western democracies.

In an exclusive American interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of this crisis.

“I think we have [a] great crisis of democracies, of what I would call liberal democracies. Let’s be clear about that. Why? First, because being open communities and open and highly cooperative democracies put pressure on your people. It could destabilize them,” Macron said.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc pointed out that “Macron’s comments echo President Joe Biden’s broad effort to frame the global competition of the 21st century as one defined by democracies versus autocracies.” Read more about the Macron interview.