Putin mobilises — for a second Tsushima

Time for diplomatic isolation and an end to Western limits on heavy weapons

Paul Mason
6 min readSep 21, 2022

Every imperialism has a “style” of failure: America’s retreat in helicopters from Saigon in 1975 echoed 46 years later by the scramble out of Kabul; German expansionism in the 20th century ending twice with the collapse of a dictatorship in Berlin.

Russia’s signature style of failure is to send a second doomed military force after the first one is lost. That’s what Tsar Nicholas II did in 1905, when he sailed the Baltic Fleet to replace a defeated Pacific Squadron, only to be sunk by Japan.

Vladimir Putin’s speech this morning, announcing mobilisation, partial conscription and the annexation of conquered territory in Ukraine shows that he intends a repeat Tsushima: sending 300,000 reservists, with scant experience or motivation, and weapons kept in storage since the days of Brezhnev, to do what his professional army could not.

The move is calculated and dangerous, but is a measure of the defeat he has already suffered.

Putin will stage phoney referendums in Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts, declare the territory Russian and classify any aggression against it as war on Russia. Thus, if US or British ammunition is used to continue the war tomorrow in these regions, as it is today, he will classify it as direct NATO aggression against Russia. He warned, tacitly, of the use of nuclear weapons and added “we’re not bluffing”.

This is not a total mobilisation, but the call up of those with the technical expertise that Russian battlefield comms reveal to be lacking — skilled artillerymen, sergeants, tank drivers, in other words the very fabric of any modern army that Putin has discovered he does not possess.

Where now?

The moment should provoke reflection in the West — and abject humility from those who’ve apologised for Putin before and in the first phase of the conflict. Those who told us he wouldn’t invade, or that it was all about NATO aggression, or that Ukraine should call a ceasefire leaving millions of its citizens subject to torture, deportation and execution.



Paul Mason

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Author of How To Stop Fascism.