The Brief — Putin’s new front

World leaders have condemned Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation announcement and the threat of nuclear weapons as reckless and indecent sabre-rattling. His tactics are clear: By annexing Ukrainian territories and dangling the prospect of a nuclear holocaust, he hopes the West will stop aiding Ukraine.

Although the West won’t recognise the sham referendums and the annexation, Russia will be able to claim that Ukraine is not fighting to regain its occupied territories but attacking Russian soil with Western weapons and intelligence. From there, it’s only a small step to World War Three.

But Putin’s escalation doesn’t really improve his position, mainly because by declaring partial mobilisation, he has opened a wide internal front. It is still early to say, but he might well be defeated precisely on this internal front.

We know little about Russian public opinion, but the first reactions to the mobilisation announcement were protests and a massive exodus abroad of Russian citizens.

Photos shared on social media suggest that countries like Georgia will need to host many Russian refugees.

Putin cannot win this war because even patriotic-minded Russians don’t understand why they should fight in Ukraine, even if he tells them that this is a war against the West that is out to destroy Russia.

This is why Putin asked his oligarchs to create private armies, allowing them to recruit among convicted criminals. But one cannot expect to win a war with such personnel; they are likely to become cannon fodder.

Conversely, the 300,000 Russians to be recruited do have military experience, having already served as conscripts. But we have already seen on the ground that the Russian army is not the “second-best army in the world”. Some say it is now the second-best army in Ukraine.

Why would Russians want to fight the West?

Most Russians like the West, be it for its high living standards or the many opportunities it offers. These opportunities are now much narrower and shrinking by the day because of sanctions.

Putin wants the Russians to blame the West for the sanctions, but many Russians blame him. How many – we shall see.

In the meantime, Putin has another card he would like to play: A winter without Russian gas and with skyrocketing energy bills. If he succeeds in destabilising the EU and humiliating its leaders, they might be ready to seek peace on his terms in exchange for gas, and he could win this war.

Therefore, it is early to forecast a showdown, as autumn has just begun. But in the meantime, the front Putin has opened may make the difference. Fighting Putin is not our job. It’s being done by the Ukrainians, whom he attacked, and the Russians, whose lives he is destroying.

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The Roundup

The European Data Protection Supervisor filed a legal action last week against the EU co-legislators that recently adopted a bolstered mandate for the law enforcement agency Europol.

The number of workers in the global renewable energy sector has grown from 12 million in 2020 to 12.7 million in 2021, per a report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Britain on Thursday formally lifted a moratorium on fracking for shale gas that has been in place since 2019, saying that strengthening the country’s energy supply was an “absolute priority”.

Ukrainian resilience in the face of the Russian onslaught also extends to its railways, proudly declares the head of the company that has kept trains running since the war began.

Long-stalled Serbia–Kosovo dialogue, sponsored by the EU, could be unblocked next year if claims that there is a new EU plan, published in some regional media, are officially confirmed.

Russia’s war in Ukraine could be a “game-changer” for the United Nations Security Council, the French envoy to the United Nations Security Council, Nicolas de Rivière, told EURACTIV.

Britain will investigate competition in cloud services, a market dominated by “hyperscalers” like Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet’s Google, which together account for around 81% of revenue.

The European Commission contends that its new cybersecurity law will set the security bar for Internet of Things products worldwide and put European manufacturers at a competitive advantage.

And don’t forget to check out the latest Economy Brief: How the EU’s economic sovereignty repoliticises the market.

Look out for…

  • Informal meeting of consumer protection ministers.
  • Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans meets with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
  • European Economic and Social Committee hosts public hearing regarding improving gender equity in investment within the EU.

Views are the author’s.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Alice Taylor]