Read Part 1 here.
Українською читайте тут.
Throughout August, the narrative propagated by Russian media was unified in its intent: to underscore the fortune of Russians in having Putin at the helm. The messaging was clear: under Putin’s wise guidance, the West quivers at the mere thought of nuclear exercises and potential war. And there he stands, standing together with China and India, crafting a “multipolar world” as a counter to Western influence. Finally, out of his benevolence, Russians wouldn’t be compelled en masse to engage in the “SMO,” a campaign that’s been “going according to plan” for 20 months.
Taking on Bad Roads and Desperation with Mobilization
So, let’s start with the propaganda campaign around the issue of mobilization. As last year’s experience showed, Russians reacted to the “partial mobilization” with such enthusiasm that traffic jams lasted for days on the borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Finland, and the cost of airline tickets to anywhere outside Russia skyrocketed. Ultimately, the number of escapees exceeded the number of mobilized by almost 2.5 times (800 thousand vs. 300 thousand).
Consequently, the Kremlin sought a new approach, aiming to befuddle, frighten, and mislead its citizens as it pondered over the mobilization decision.
Throughout August, the Kremlin floated mixed signals concerning the potential new mobilization wave.
While they couldn’t ignore Yevgeny Prigozhin’s audacious demands for total mobilization, launching such a campaign when the top of the Defense Ministry had recently faced public disgrace due to the Wagner’s attack would mean validating Prigozhin’s claim that the regime perceives its citizens merely as cannon fodder.
In an effort to pacify potential “meat assaults” participants, the Kremlin emphasized the tangible rewards of joining the “SMO.” Yet, this campaign faced an unforeseen challenge: the ruble’s decline against the US dollar, which tainted the portrayal of Putin’s protective concern for his recruits.
Therefore, the monetary value assigned to a volunteer – a Russian prepared to risk their life in Ukraine for Putin’s ambitions and delusions – stood at a mere 31,000 dollars. Depending on the severity, disabilities fetched amounts ranging from 8,000 to 23,000 dollars. Severe injuries warranted 3,000 dollars, while minor ones amounted to 700 dollars.
But, as characteristic of Putin, there were caveats. If commanders attributed a death or injury to prevalent issues in the Russian military, like substance abuse, families would be left empty-handed. Curiously, in specific scenarios, compensation was applicable for suicides. One could speculate this provision allows for corruption, where commanders could label deceased substance abusers as suicides for a substantial payoff from relatives. Once more, “father tsar” has shown that he knows the nature of his subjects well.
August 3, 2023, Kazan.Bezformata:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on compulsory state insurance of life and health of citizens participating in the special operation as part of volunteer units...
Thus, in the event of a volunteer’s death, compensation will amount to 3.1 million rubles, and in case of disability: RUB 2.3 million for Group I, more than RUB 1.5 million for Group II, and about RUB 783 thousand for Group III. In case of a serious injury, the compensation amount is more than 313 thousand rubles, and for a light injury, it is about 78 thousand rubles, the decree says.
The document specifies that compensation will not be paid if the insured event occurred due to alcohol or drug intoxication, including intentional harm to one’s health. At the same time, in the case of death resulting from suicide, “payment cannot be denied.”
Following Putin’s lead, Russian governors have also been more active in demonstrating their concern for the mobilized and volunteers. There was even a kind of parade of self-importance, with some regional governors boasting about the size of their payments and the number of recruits they had sent to the war.
August 9, 2023, TASS: “The Tver Region has completed all payments introduced earlier for residents called up for partial mobilization and their families. The total amount of payments amounted to more than 615 million rubles, the region’s governor, Igor Rudenya, said on Wednesday at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”
August 11, 2023, Izvestiya newspaper: “Students participating in the special military operation (SMO) will be able to transfer to a free form of education despite the lack of vacancies in their field of study, the Russian government’s press service said on August 11. The rules provide for the possibility of transferring vacant places from one specialty, field of study, or enlarged group of professions to another. Thus, an economics student will be able to switch to free education at the expense of a budgetary place available at the history or any other department, the agency said. The report notes that the redistribution of places will take place within the educational organization regardless of the form of education. ‘The decision on the redistribution of vacant places will be made by a special collegial body established at the college or university. The basis for the transfer will be the student’s application,’ RIA Novosti reported. On June 30, the Ministry of Education and Science recommended adding up to 10 points to the score of participants in the special operation to protect the Donbas when applying to universities as individual achievements. These include military service by conscription, contract, and mobilization in the Russian Armed Forces.”
August 16, 2023, TASS: “Nearly 45,000 Moscow residents are fighting in the special military operation zone, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said at the Territory of Meaning forum.”
August 18, 2023, Novosibirsk, om1.ru: “The head of the Vega battalion, Andrei Panfyorov, assessed the possibility of introducing general mobilization in a conversation with the Novosibirsk-based newspaper MK V Novosibirske. He believes that the introduction of general mobilization has no grounds, as the enemy has already been stopped. Panfyorov also noted that contract soldiers are most often sent to the combat zone.”
August 21, 2023, TASS: “Lipetsk region will allocate 5,000 rubles each to children from families of participants in the special military operation to prepare for school. This was reported in the Telegram channel of the Lipetsk region government.”
August 24, 2023, “Yevropeisko-Aziatskiye Novosti”: “Conscripts from the Chelyabinsk region will receive a payment of 50,000 rubles if they signed a contract with the Russian Defense Ministry during their military service.”
August 28, 2023, SuperOmsk.ru: “Russian President Vladimir Putin held a working meeting with the acting governor of the Omsk region, Vitaliy Khotsenko. They discussed the socio-economic situation in the region... Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], Omsk residents are very patriotic people. Today, more than 10,000 of our people are taking part in the special military operation as volunteers, conscripts, and contract soldiers.”
However, some reports indirectly indicate a crisis with both covert and open mobilization. For example, the governor of the Tula region decided to bribe the parents of young men of legal age, yesterday’s recruits under the age of 23, by promising them payments for having “large families” if they persuaded their children to go to war.
August 29, 2023, TASS: “Tula Region Governor Aleksey Dyumin has proposed to expand the concept of a large family in the region to include adult children under the age of 23 who are participating in a special military operation, the press service of the regional government reported... According to the regional government, the recognition of such a support measure will allow large families to receive certain benefits, including a monthly cash payment for the support and upbringing of a minor child, priority admission of children to state kindergartens in the Tula region, free visits to state (regional) museums once a month, providing meals for schoolchildren in sixth through ninth grades.”
Similarly, attempts to implement the idea of exempting not only convicts but also suspects from criminal liability look like a necessary step to save the covert mobilization.
August 31, 2023, “Yevropeisko-Aziatskiye Novosti”: “In particular, the former head of the Sverdlovsk region’s Ministry of Property Aleksey Pyankov allegedly fell under partial mobilization to the army. The former official was detained in April 2016.
The defendant in the criminal case, the head of the regional branch of the Russian Paratroopers Union, Yevgeny Teterin, went to participate in the Special Military Operation as a representative of the Ombudsman Tatyana Merzlyakova. Meanwhile, Teterin is charged with three counts under Part 4 of Article 291.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Mediation in bribery committed on a large scale.” The trial in his case has been postponed.
Convicted Sverdlovsk Deputy, Listed As Wanted, Went to Fight in the Wagner PMC
In June 2023, Ilya Chizh, a member of the Duma of the Alapaevskoye Municipal Entity, volunteered for the Wagner PMC and went to the war zone. This happened after the politician was found guilty under Article 11(2)(z) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, “Intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm with the use of weapons or objects used as weapons” and sentenced to two years in a general regime [corrective] colony. The MP did not appear in court for the sentencing and was put on the wanted list.
Orenburg Deputy Poptsov, Accused of Counterfeiting Milk, Goes to the SMO
Orenburg City Council deputy Sergey Poptsov, a defendant in criminal proceedings, also allegedly went to the SMO. According to the investigation, he and three accomplices are accused of systematically embezzling budget funds allocated for the provision of meals in kindergartens.
Former officials who received real prison sentences for bribery in Orenburg region also went to the SMO zone. The contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry were signed by Artem Lipatov, former first deputy head of Novotroitsk, and Andrei Slastenin, former head of the Committee for Construction and Transport.”
Another “brilliant” idea is to turn the raids on migrant workers from Central Asia into a forced recruitment drive for the Russian army. The hunt for migrants has spread throughout the European part of Russia. The State Duma even dreamed up the idea that such migrants must still “earn” the right to become Russian citizens after 10 years of service in the army, where “they will be made into real Russians.”
In general, this can be seen both as a way to temporarily postpone the mobilization of Russians per se, and as a means of shaping neutral public expectations for the next waves of mobilization.
August 25, 2023, “Novosti Ufy I Bashkirii”: “There have been reports of summonses to military enlistment offices to receive mobilization orders in Russia. Some residents of a number of regions, including Krasnoyarsk Krai, Yaroslavl and Saratov regions, have allegedly received summonses for mobilization orders, local media reported. ‘A mobilization order means that a person must undergo a medical examination and additional training before receiving it. This order is evidence that a person is in reserve and can be called up for military service if mobilization is necessary,’ UfacityNews quoted Petrov as saying. The lawyer explained that a man can be issued a mobilization order after passing military training. However, according to the expert, the order itself does not specify a specific date of arrival. When the order is given, the man will be obliged to present this order at the military enlistment office.”
August 18, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “More and more often there are calls in public circles and in the government for the need to send migrants who have received Russian citizenship to the Special Military Operation zone and to serve in our army. Large-scale raids have taken place across the country, which confirm the seriousness of such intentions. But do we really need such soldiers?
The day before, during a two-day raid in the south of St. Petersburg, where a large migrant market is located, law enforcement officers approached Asian traders and loaders, and demanded to see their documents. Some did not have any documents. Some spoke little or no Russian. And those who confidently pulled out their passports from their wide trouser legs, saying, ‘Look, comrade policeman, I am Russian,’ became visibly agitated when asked about military registration. If you are Russian, you have to pay your debt to your country.
All the ‘Russians’ were taken to the Frunze district military enlistment office, where they were carefully entered into a file and their rights and obligations as conscripts were explained. They will undergo a medical examination, and then go wherever their fatherland sends them.
In an interview with a Tsargrad correspondent, a well-known military commentator and political analyst, Aleksey Zhivov, noted that natives of Central Asia and the Caucasus, who do not always obtain passports from us legally, enjoy all the benefits of Russian citizenship, while ignoring their responsibilities.
– Yes, we need to hold [the raids] all over the country on a massive scale. And in general, we should raise the question of Russian citizenship for male foreigners being acquired exclusively through military service. And not just for a year, but for ten years. During this time, if someone really wants to become a citizen, he will undergo cultural integration into Russian society and become a respectable person. And they will learn the language.
– And if they don’t agree to serve?
– In that case, let the rest of them go back. Because they do not bring much benefit to our economy, only to their own. Where they are sending their money.
August 24, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “Law enforcement agencies in Russian regions have begun to report raids on illegal immigrants, after which former migrants who have already obtained Russian citizenship are taken to the military registration and enlistment offices for military registration. In just two days, 120 newly acquired Russian citizens were introduced to the military enlistment offices. That is, a company has already been assembled.”
August 28, 2023, Mediazona: “They certainly weren’t expecting these customers. The major markets in Chelyabinsk were raided by employees of the Migration Department and representatives of military enlistment offices. Summonses were handed to those who had recently received Russian citizenship right at their workplace,” the host of the ‘Vesti.Yuzhnyi Ural’ program said about the raids on migrants in Chelyabinsk, which resulted in 15 men who had recently received Russian passports being taken to the military registration and enlistment offices to be registered and another 25 being served with summonses.
In Nizhny Novgorod, more than 20 people were taken to the enlistment offices after a raid on a fruit and vegetable market. A similar joint inspection of police and military enlistment offices took place in Perm.
Two weeks ago, a major raid was carried out at the Sofia vegetable depot in St. Petersburg – about a hundred people who had recently received Russian passports were taken to military enlistment offices. The Interior Ministry called it a ‘new option’ for preventive raids to enforce migration laws. ‘Taking this opportunity, police officers do not miss the opportunity to educate Russians further: citizenship gives not only rights but also responsibilities,’ the department said.
In Chuvashia, migrants were raided by FSB officers. As a result, ten people were sent to the military registration and enlistment offices. The 7x7 media wrote that raids were also conducted in the Belgorod and Sverdlovsk regions.”
In fact, uncertainty about public sentiment after Prigozhin’s uprising forced the Kremlin to play cat and mouse with the Russian population, threatening a new huge wave of mobilization or strongly denying the need for such a step. As a result, it can be assumed that the level of anxiety among Russians was growing. And this, in turn, was supposed to provoke either hope for a “strong hand” (guess who should deliver it?) or unity around a “national leader” (also easy to guess).
With this in mind, it is only “Russia’s enemies” that can discuss the future mobilization. However, if the “devious West” continues to fight on the side of Ukraine, only “Russia’s enemies” will oppose the mobilization. Since both ideas are equally true in Putin’s Russia, ordinary Putin’s subjects can only keep silent and hope for the “good will of the tsar.”
August 1, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “Our opponents — and to be completely honest, our enemies — are very well aware of topics that are sensitive to society in Russia. Take, for example, the new wave of mobilization — even Shulman, who fled the country, is now talking about it.”
August 2, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “Another important topic was the second wave of mobilization in Russia, rumors of which have resumed in recent days. Political analyst Andrei Perla believes that the starting point was the law on extending the conscription age, which was being considered in the State Duma. During the discussion of the initiative, Viktor Sobolev, a member of the State Duma Defense Committee, said that draft dodgers should be banned from leaving the country. Then, the head of the Defense Committee, Andrei Kartapolov, unexpectedly stated that the law itself ‘was written for a big war, for general mobilization,’ adding that ‘now it already smells like a big war.’ All of this has given rise to rumors that partial mobilization will soon be announced in Russia again... However, so far there have been no official comments on the need for a second mobilization in Russia. On the contrary, government officials say that there are still enough troops. In March, the head of the Main Organizational and Mobilization Department of the General Staff, Vladimir Tsimlyansky, assured the public that there was no need to build up forces. Those who joined the ranks of the Russian army during last year’s mobilization and volunteers are enough to perform the tasks assigned. Whether the situation has changed since March is an open question.”
August 4, 2023, Gazeta.Ru: “There have been various reports about a new wave of mobilization, but Kartapolov has put the matter to rest. He explained that the draft law on criminal liability for draft dodging will be considered in the fall, but it is not related to the new wave of mobilization. It is absolutely unrelated,” Kartapolov said. ‘MPs were preparing this bill last fall when partial mobilization was underway. But it took a long time to get it approved, and only recently, a government commission approved it. That’s all. There is no sign of any new mobilization,’ the deputy summarized.
August 11, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “A few days ago, insiders have reemerged in the media landscape. According to them, on August 7, the Russian Security Council discussed preliminary drafts for the fall mobilization. The sources claim that all ministries and departments, as well as the presidential administration, have already been instructed to begin preparations for the upcoming events. It is specified that the mobilization activities are to begin on September 25-30. Starting September 11, companies and state corporations will start submitting lists for reservations from the draft. On September 18, the government and the Defense Ministry will hold a commission to issue reservations from the draft. By September 25, the reservation lists will be transferred to the Ministry of Digital Transformation, and then 1.2 million summonses will be issued on Gosuslugi,” insiders say. According to unconfirmed information, 750,000 summonses will be for clarification of data, 450,000 — for mobilization. But of the latter number, about 45-50 thousand conscripts may not pass the medical examination. Around the same time, according to rumors, laws will come into force that will make it illegal to ignore a summons and prohibit those who receive it from leaving the country. However, this information has not been confirmed by officials. As the State Duma has previously said, there is no need for new military personnel.”
August 12, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “Russia is ready to welcome back its sons who left the country and went to live abroad. But not all of them, only those who are really ready and could contribute to our society and people through their work. It is them that our state needs above all... With all due respect to our education system, we cannot instantly create 60,000 programmers, even beginners, out of thin air. Therefore, if a programmer, for some not even very good reason, without understanding the situation, let’s call it that, moved to work in the UAE, Turkey, or France, but did not formally tarnish himself with crimes, then we must grit our teeth and bring this person back. Because the country needs these professionals in wartime.”
August 18, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “The Telegram channel Eto Esche Ne Konets, which previously announced that mobilization would allegedly start in Russia on September 25, as part of which 1.2 million summonses would be distributed on the Gosuslugi, has made a new post. The post states that the mobilization will allegedly affect: ‘reservists who have newly received Russian citizenship,’ ‘reservists who received citizenship between 2000 and 2020,’ and allegedly ‘security forces personnel from the Interior Ministry, the Emergency Situations Ministry, the Federal Security Service and the Federal Penitentiary Service (as previously called for by the Defense Ministry).’ ‘All the Kremlin towers agree and are ready to act in solidarity and consolidation,’ the statement reads. In turn, the BRIEF Telegram channel responded to the posts containing dates and even alleged groups of ‘conscripts’ by writing that such posts aroused interest from Roskomnadzor. ‘According to the sources, ‘such messages from various insider anonymous channels’ are an example of ‘dissemination of unconfirmed information’. ‘When any allegations are made, some dates are mentioned as a possible time for the start of a new mobilization, it will be regarded as spreading fakes about the Russian Armed Forces,’ the insiders add,’ the report says, with a link to the third channel, Kremlevskiy Sheptun.
August 23, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “Rear Admiral Vladimir Tsimlyansky, head of the Main Organizational and Mobilization Department of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, assured the public that conscripts will not be sent to the zone of the Special Military OPeration in Ukraine — they will serve exclusively in Russia. Moreover, Tsimlyansky assured that the General Staff does not intend to conduct a second wave of mobilization — there are enough volunteers and mobilized people in the area of the military operations who successfully perform combat missions... ‘Jokes’ about mobilization are over — Russian citizens should not fall for ‘fakes’ — they should get information only from official sources. Earlier, an unusual message on the state website of Adygea, where citizens were informed of a temporary restriction on the issuance of passports and a ban on men leaving the region, was heatedly discussed on the Internet. Perhaps it was a technical error or professional photoshopping.”
However, even on this part of the propaganda front, Putin’s team did not succeed. A movement of wives of mobilized soldiers began to spread across the country, demanding the return and replacement of their husbands with new recruits. In part, this looked like a top-sanctioned “initiative” that was supposed to be another strong “argument” in favor of a new wave of mobilization.
August 26, 2023, Realnoye Vremya: “The analytical service of Realnoye Vremya has studied search queries from Tatarstan. Regarding queries about possible mobilization, in recent days, many video messages from wives of men conscripted to the SMO zone have appeared on the Internet. They are asking Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold a second wave of mobilization to bring home their husbands who left to participate in the special military operation last fall.”
On the other hand, plausible stories from the lives of volunteers — “real Soviet people” — who, despite their enthusiasm, could no longer stand being at war, leaked into the media. Such stories unwittingly revealed chronic problems with the staffing and materiel supply of the Russian army, showing that with an even greater influx of poorly trained and controlled mobilized soldiers, the combat capability of the Russian army would only decline.
August 11, 2023, Kavkaz.Realii: “September will mark one year since the start of the mobilization announced in Russia. The problems of those drafted to the war against Ukraine have almost disappeared from the headlines and are now being addressed by a handful of human rights organizations. One such project helps wives of mobilized men with many children and families of children with disabilities to bring the military home... This is how Anastasiya B. from the Stavropol Territory describes the mobilization of her husband, Oleg (the woman’s real name is not disclosed for security reasons). Oleg is a 51-year-old surgeon from Zheleznovodsk in the Stavropol Territory and a father of four children. His eldest daughter is 20 years old, the rest are under 10. Like other doctors, Oleg took a military course at a medical school, then worked as a doctor during the second Russian-Chechen war and received the status of a combat veteran. After his contracted service in Chechnya, he never worked in military medicine again: he worked in an ambulance and then in a health resort. Anastasiya claims that she did not expect her husband to be called up at the time of mobilization because of his age. But Oleg purposefully went to the military enlistment office. ‘He was taken away as a commander of a medical company on October 3. He said: ‘I have two sons, I want to set an example for them. I’d rather be there than have my children go to war later.’ He is a patriot, a Soviet citizen. He did not look for any loopholes,’ Anastasiya admits. According to her, at first she felt proud of her husband, but quickly realized how difficult it was to cope with work, raising children and building a house alone. ‘In January, I confronted my husband with a fact: ‘Whether you want to or not, I’m going to take you back.’ At the time, I thought that if he refused, I would take it as a betrayal. I was not myself without him. The children followed me and said, ‘Mom, for how long will you be crying?’ Before he left, he said goodbye to me and told me which universities his children should go to if he was gone. It shook me,’ says Anastasiya. She appealed to the head of the region, the ombudsman for children’s rights, and wrote to State Duma deputies and the chief commissioner of Stavropol to demand her husband’s return. Regional officials said they had no authority to deal with such issues. According to them, the General Staff’s directive to defer fathers of three minor children and children with disabilities is no longer in effect. The Duma deputies did not respond to the inquiries. The military enlistment office in the Stavropol Territory said that fathers with many children are only granted a deferment if they provide certificates of divorce and deprivation of parental rights, or the death of their wife (the answer is available to the editors). According to the woman, her husband, seeing her mood, did not interfere with her. ‘He said: ‘Do what you’re doing, keep going.’ I feel that it is hard for him there, both emotionally and physically. At his age, he has to run around, dig these dugouts, build baths. He has a huge workload: there are two doctors for the entire company and he is the only surgeon, the rest are paramedics, masseurs, nurses, drivers,’ says the wife of the mobilized soldier.”
Resuscitation of Nuclear Blackmail, or “Screw Them!”
“Not so long ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that NATO countries want to persuade Moscow to reduce nuclear weapons, but this will never happen. The information was voiced during the head of state’s speech at the SPIEF-2023.
‘They are trying to get us to start negotiations on the reduction. Screw them!’ Putin said.
This quote from Tsargrad TV best describes the Kremlin’s overall political strategy: when “successes” and “victories” on the frontline increasingly seem to bring about defeat and failure, it is time to resort to nuclear blackmail.
In order not to make this step look like a gesture of desperation and evidence of powerlessness, Kremlin propagandists paint a frightening picture of a “nuclear siege” being prepared for Russia by the insidious United States and its allies. They say that Russia simply has no choice but to “defend itself” by threatening to use nuclear weapons. To visualize the “threat from the West,” “Australia’s nuclear submarines” and “NATO’s aggressive plans” are also viable options.
August 2, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “A Russian diplomat has expressed the concern of the world’s states over the plans of the AUKUS military bloc to transfer nuclear submarines to Australia. Russia has warned of new risks for the non-proliferation regime after the US plans to transfer nuclear submarines to Australia as part of the AUKUS military bloc, which also includes the UK.”
August 10, 2023, TASS: “The North Atlantic Alliance is practicing a scenario of using nuclear weapons against Russia. This was stated by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin in an interview with TASS. ‘NATO has a practice of so-called joint nuclear missions. This means that non-nuclear weapon states are involved in military planning using nuclear weapons, and their experts are trained to handle American nuclear weapons. Moreover, the exercises rehearse scenarios of its use against our country,’ the deputy minister said.”
The next step is to explain to a wider audience what the Kremlin’s decision to abandon the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing means. Of course, 2023 is not 1962 or 1983, when the threat of nuclear war in Soviet society was deliberately cultivated by the authorities. And now Russians need to be reminded and continuously reassured that nuclear war is one of the most important “staples” of Putin’s statehood and a guarantee of “getting up from their knees” in defiance of “belligerent NATO.”
Here it is important to pay attention to a number of indicators of future nuclear escalation that the Kremlin is beginning to impose on the minds of Russians.
First, Putin promises that the threat to use nuclear weapons is only a “response” to NATO’s intention to send its troops to Ukraine to participate in a war against Russia. This is an interesting message since Russians have been told for 20 months that their army is “fighting” NATO on the territory of Ukraine. So, if you put these two messages into a simple propaganda equation, it turns out that this stage has already been passed, and Russia keeps the West in constant nuclear fear.
Secondly, Russians are told what the next step of the government will be and how it should be understood. If there is an open test of nuclear weapons, it is a direct intimidation of the West by demonstrating how Russian weapons will destroy the cities of NATO countries. If there is an underground test, it will be a demonstration of the “greatness” and “design genius” of Russian weapons makers, which should convince NATO and the United States that they simply do not have nuclear weapons of this power and therefore should not even dare.
In other words, an underground test is a demonstration of force, while an above-ground test is an open threat to use nuclear weapons and a signal to mobilize the population.
August 11, 2023, Moscow, TASS: “Russia is taking all necessary measures to guarantee national security, but it is firmly committed to the principle of the inadmissibility of nuclear war. This is stated in a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry on the relevance of the decisions taken by Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States on the de-targeting of strategic nuclear missiles. ‘The leadership of our country is firmly committed to the principle of the inadmissibility of nuclear war. We assume that there can be no winners in such a war and it should not be unleashed,’ the Russian Foreign Ministry said. ‘Russia is taking all necessary measures to ensure the national security, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. This will continue to be carried out.’ The Foreign Ministry emphasized that guaranteed deterrence of a potential enemy from aggression against Russia and its allies ‘is among the highest state priorities.’ The ministry noted that the situation in the field of international security and strategic stability is deteriorating, and under these conditions, ‘the discussion on the relevance of measures on de-targeting of the strategic nuclear forces, implemented since the early 1990s by Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, has noticeably revived.’ ‘There are calls to denounce the relevant agreements with Russia’s participation and to “put into effect a nuclear deterrent” by pointing Russian missiles at the United States and the United Kingdom,’ the statement said. In this regard, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded that on January 14, 1994, Russia and the United States signed the Moscow Declaration, the essence of which was to agree not to aim strategic nuclear missiles at each other. On February 15, 1994, a similar joint statement was adopted by Moscow and London. ‘These agreements are of a political nature and do not create any legal obligations for the parties. Since they are not international treaties within the meaning of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, the procedure for their termination or “denunciation” is not regulated by international law,’ Smolenskaya Square explained. ‘As for the “introduction of the nuclear deterrence mechanism,” in accordance with the provisions of the “Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence,” approved by the Decree of the President of Russia of June 2, 2020 No. 355, nuclear deterrence is continuously exercised against individual states and military coalitions (blocs, alliances) that consider the Russian Federation a potential adversary and possess nuclear weapons and/or other weapons of mass destruction or significant combat capabilities of conventional forces. At the same time, one of the principles of nuclear deterrence is to maintain the constant readiness of a dedicated part of the nuclear deterrent forces and means for combat use. All these provisions are common knowledge to our opponents,” the ministry said.
August 11, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “Russia and America are not just the main owners of nuclear weapons on the planet, they are the most important partners in the uranium business. That’s why our countries have a surprisingly complicated relationship, where the policy of intimidation is linked to trade and possible nuclear tests will have a ‘subtext’. Russia and the United States control 90 percent of the world’s nuclear capabilities. Moscow has 5,889 warheads, Washington has 5,244 warheads, while the total number of nuclear weapons created by mankind to date is 12,512. The remaining 1,379 are mostly in France and Britain. A recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) claims that Moscow and Washington have increased the readiness of their nuclear forces over the past six months. From January to June, the number of warheads deployed on carriers and ready for use increased by 86. This is a lot. Turning to the nuclear issue is a way to keep the enemy at bay and prevent him from taking unacceptable actions. Tsargrad wrote that it is in this capacity that Russian President Vladimir Putin has already ‘used’ nuclear weapons several times: the first time was just after the start of the SMO, on February 27; the second time was in April of the same year. In both cases, the demonstration of the nuclear ‘baton’ was aimed at preventing the Polish army from intervening in Ukraine. The last time the president stood up to the West was six months ago. Reading out a message to the Federal Assembly, he said: ‘Some individuals in Washington, we know this for a fact, are already thinking about the possibility of natural nuclear weapons tests. The Russian Ministry of Defense and Rosatom must ensure readiness to test Russian nuclear weapons. We will not be the first to do so, but if the United States conducts a test, we will do so as well,’ Putin said at the time. Konstantin Sivkov, a military expert and vice president of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, told Tsargrad that conducting nuclear tests would be an important step that would be seen by everyone: ‘Such a demonstration of determination is a way to reach the minds of the so-called “deep state” (a shadowy structure consisting of the top bureaucracy and the top business), which makes fundamental political decisions that are communicated to the masses by public politicians. According to the expert, in this regard, a nuclear test would be a message not only to the puppeteers of the Western world, but also to the deep state in Russia, which is part of the global elite and seeks to act in its interests. This is the party of fear. Test grounds on Novaya Zemlya could be the place to conduct such a test. If the goal is to show the horror of destruction, it should be an above-ground test; if the goal is to show the presence of powerful warheads that are not available in the West, it should be an underground explosion so that they can get data through seismic stations,” our interlocutor said.
To emphasize the importance of its messages about preparations for a nuclear war, the Russian leadership is resorting to the following communication strategies:
August 12 — Minister Sergey Shoigu arrives at an abandoned nuclear test site north of the Arctic Circle in Novaya Zemlya.
August 12, 2023, Moscow, TASS: “Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu inspected the remote Arctic garrisons of the Northern Fleet (NF) and also flew over the facilities of the Russian Central Test Site on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago together with Rosatom head Alexey Likhachev. This was reported by the military department. “Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu inspected the remote Arctic garrisons of the Northern Fleet. <...> The Russian Defense Minister, together with Rosatom Head Alexey Likhachev, flew over the facilities of the Russian Central Test Site,” the statement said. The minister checked the organization of service activities and the fulfillment of tasks by units and subunits stationed at Novaya Zemlya, including their readiness to protect and defend especially important facilities. The central training ground of the Russian Federation on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago between the Barents and Kara Seas was established in 1954. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, between 1954 and 1990, 132 atmospheric, underground, submarine, surface, and ground nuclear weapons explosions were conducted there. Their total power is 94% of the power of all nuclear explosions made in the USSR.
The procedure for denouncing the nuclear test ban treaty begins.
August 12, 2023, Moscow, TASS: “The main responsibility for the fate of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) lies with the United States, as one of the absolute leaders in nuclear weapons, which has not ratified this document. This opinion was expressed by Vice Speaker of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev. ‘Of the two absolute leaders in nuclear weapons, only one state, the United States, has not ratified the CTBT. Accordingly, they bear the main responsibility for the fate of the treaty, given that other countries are largely guided by their position,’ the senator wrote on his Telegram channel. He reminded that the treaty signed by the USSR, the US, and the UK in August 1963 in Moscow is celebrating its 60th anniversary these days. Kosachev pointed out that since 1996, when the document was approved by the UN General Assembly, it has been signed by 186 states and ratified by 178, including Russia, the UK, and France. However, it is still not in force, as the treaty itself requires the ratification of 44 countries that have nuclear weapons or the capability to create them in order for it to work. ‘To date, three countries have not signed the treaty: India, North Korea and Pakistan. Five have signed but not ratified it: The United States, China, Egypt, Israel, and Iran,’ the politician stated.”
Legalization of the topic of nuclear war in public and official discourse as the “only way” to win the confrontation with the West. This was first voiced on August 18 by Sergey Karaganov, a Soviet-era propagandist. The next day, the same statements were repeated by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
August 18, 2023, Tsargrad TV: “As part of the Army-2023 exhibition, a roundtable discussion on mental warfare was held under the leadership of Deputy Defense Minister Ruslan Tsalikov and Defense Minister’s Advisor Andrei Ilnytsky. In fact, the top experts who gathered discussed strategies for defeating the West. Not only in Ukraine, but on a global scale. The main battle, of course, is for minds. But it cannot be won without nuclear weapons...
The founder of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council, Sergey Karaganov, was uncompromising. He stated that “we are constantly making excuses.” In his opinion, even Ilnitsky’s concept of mental warfare suffers from defensiveness. There is no ideology of the Russian dream. Meanwhile, according to Karaganov, there are only two ideological trends left in the world. Conservatives, they are normal. This is us. The world’s majority. And transhumanist liberals. They are a minority, but with resources. They deny the very essence of man as a likeness of God. And we are still afraid to say that their ideology denies the human. We stand for the values of all civilizations and religions, except for the liberal one.
The threat of global war is growing. In these circumstances, we must tell the world that we are holding back a global war. We need to go on the offensive in the ideological field. We need to promote the Russian idea and dream. We need to tell everyone what we want the world to be like. The West is destroying God in man. We must raise the banner of a new humanism. The meaning of human life is in service. We are for unity,’ said Sergey Karaganov.
These are not ‘conservative’ values, emphasized Sergey Karaganov. These are truly human values. We are God’s chosen people. Our calling is to protect the freedom of all countries and peoples.
From all this, the founder of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council made a powerful and unexpected conclusion. In his opinion, it is time to revise the doctrine of the use of nuclear weapons. We need to restore fear in the enemy. We need a policy of deterrence and intimidation.
The same topic was discussed by political scientist and head of The National Interest, Dimitri Simes. Russia is able to withstand a coalition of 50 countries. This is an everyday miracle. And this is a reality that the West is gradually beginning to reckon with. And this is good news. But Russia is forced to fight on somebody else’s turf. The West’s strategy is aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons from the balance of power. In this way, they want to deprive Russia of its status as a great military power.
Sims quoted US publicist Julia Ioffe, who concluded that, from the point of view of US leaders, the risk of escalation should not be taken seriously. The escalation that will make them think includes a nuclear component. And strikes on NATO territory. We need to understand the possible consequences. But Russia has to make a difficult and inevitable choice.”
August 19, 2023, TASS: “Possession of nuclear weapons in the context of deterrence is currently the only possible response of Russia to some significant external threats to its security. This was stated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an interview with the International Life magazine.
Lavrov noted that the development of the situation around Ukraine has confirmed the validity of Russia’s concerns in this area. ‘Having grossly violated the principle of the indivisibility of security, NATO — an organization that, let me remind you, has declared itself a nuclear alliance — has relied on Russia’s “strategic defeat.” The collective West used our forced retaliatory actions to protect its external security contour as a pretext to launch a fierce confrontation using a hybrid arsenal of means,” he emphasized.
According to the Russian Foreign Minister, in the context of the Ukrainian conflict, the greatest danger is that by escalating the situation, the United States and NATO countries risk a direct armed clash between the nuclear powers. ‘We believe that such a development should and can be prevented. That is why we are forced to remind of the existence of high military and political risks and send sobering signals to our opponents,’ Lavrov emphasized.
The minister noted that this idea was reaffirmed by the leaders of the five nuclear powers in early 2022, but in the current environment, the document has gained additional relevance. ‘It follows from its logic that it is necessary to prevent any military confrontation between nuclear powers, as it is fraught with a transition to the nuclear level. In this regard, at this stage, the most important task is for each of the nuclear powers to maintain their commitment to these understandings and exercise maximum restraint,’ Lavrov concluded.
These statements by the Kremlin’s propaganda “masters” were supplemented by several other auxiliary messages from smaller actors:
- Nuclear weapons in Belarus are a response to the delivery of weapons to Ukraine and can be used against NATO
August 18, 2023, Minsk, TASS: “The North Atlantic Alliance has finally returned to the Cold War schemes with Russia. This was stated by the Deputy Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation — Chief of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces Viktor Goremykin during his speech at the Second International Anti-Fascist Congress in Minsk.
The deputy defense minister pointed out that the collective West continues to pump the Kyiv regime with weapons, forcing Kyiv to conduct suicidal counteroffensives, demonstrate tactical successes despite heavy losses in manpower and equipment, and does everything to prolong and escalate the conflict.
Goremykin said that in the face of an extremely sharp escalation of threats and NATO activity near the borders of the Union State [of Russia and Belarus], Moscow and Minsk are forced to take retaliatory measures. ‘The most important of these is the deployment of non-strategic nuclear weapons of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. The Belarusian side has received the Iskander-M operational and tactical complex capable of using nuclear-capable missiles. Some Belarusian aircraft have been converted for the possible use of nuclear weapons,’ he said, recalling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s words that Moscow would respond to attempts of aggression against Minsk with all available means.
August 25, 2023, Minsk, TASS: “A unit of the Belarusian Missile Forces, equipped with the Iskander-M operational and tactical missile system, is practicing missile strikes with special ammunition. This was reported by the press service of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic.”
August 28, 2023, Moscow, TASS: “The aggressive behavior of the West at the borders of the Union State has caused the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russian Deputy Secretary of the Security Council Aleksey Shevtsov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.”
- European countries that do not have their own nuclear weapons as an umbrella against external threats should keep this in mind before deepening and supporting the anti-Russian policy of sanctions and assistance to Ukraine.
August 19, 2023, Moscow, TASS: “The words of the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, about Russia’s economy are said out of envy and helplessness. This assessment was made by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a commentary to TASS.
She reminded Borrell that Russia still has its own fuel while the EU’s business has ‘gone overseas.’ ‘The EU looks like a bankrupt that has run out of money after having stopped refueling with quality fuel beyond its means,’ the diplomat continued. ‘As for nuclear weapons, only one EU country has them. The rest have not been able to produce them. They have nothing to be proud of, so they are venting their anger.’
- Japan and South Korea will be the next targets for the Kremlin’s hybrid and direct “defense” actions if they continue their course of rapprochement and security cooperation with the United States.
August 26, 2023, UN, TASS: “Tokyo and Seoul’s signals of readiness to cooperate with the United States in the nuclear sphere can be seen as an admission of the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons in the countries. This was stated by Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya, speaking at a meeting of the Security Council of the global organization.”
Archival photos courtesy of Getty Images (Russian RS-24 Yars mobile missile system)