Will propaganda try to justify the need to mobilize?
Yes, without a doubt. It was already started to hype up the topic of mobilization. The set of directives on which the propaganda will be based has yet to be detailed by the people who will roll out the propaganda campaign. I think that in a very short time the propaganda mass media will receive direct directives: should the intonation be positive – for example, with an emphasis on duty, on civic self-sacrifice, meaning a heroicaccent – or negative, more prosaic – about hatred of the enemy.You have said that propaganda plays a minor role in matters of life and death, as it only verbally formalizes attitudes across society. Will propaganda play a major role in the mobilization?
It depends on the extent to which it will be possible to show that it’s not a matter of life and death, but rather a technical issue: “now very big new territories are joining Russia, you need to serve there,” for example.That is, you just have to do your service somewhere different. Only people like Mr Prigozhin risk speaking openly about the need to go to the battlefield and how easily you can lose your life there (on September 14, the YouTube channel Popular Politics
published a video
in which a person who looks like businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin is recruiting prisoners to go to fight in Ukraine for PMC Wagner - The Bell
). Far from everyone says such things out loud, and mass propaganda is unlikely to take such a radical message.Another quote from your interview: “In this sense, this special operation is different from, say, the Afghan and Chechen wars, where ‘our guys, our boys’ were dying. Now nobody is saying that. Because of this, the authorities haven’t dared to launch a general mobilization.” Did the authorities decide to mobilize because they aren’t afraid of protests?
I think that the authorities, weighing on the same scale the danger of protests and the danger posed by the fact that the Ukrainian army could now win one victory after another, considered the second (from the standpoint of support for the government) more serious. But immediately after the mobilization was announced, they began to reassure the public, saying that it wouldn’t affect everyone but only 1% of potential reservists (Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said
that the "partial mobilization" would affect "300,000 reservists" out of a total “mobilization pool” of 25,000,000 people – The Bell
), that they weren’t mobilizing "everyone” but only certain categories. In particular, those who have served relatively recently.
People who already served most likely inwardly consider themselves liable for military service. Military service changes them: if you’re a man, if you served, if you took the oath, [then you must go with themobilization]. These things matter to a lot of people. The question of where they’ll be sent and why could be secondary to these inward feelings of obligation. These same people don’t ask questions about the legitimacy of orders before carrying them out. Meanwhile, people who are held down by something [in peacetime] – children, business, work – are a minority among them, and they will look for ways to pay off, hide or ultimately somehow start protesting.
In practice, a lot will depend on the actions of enlistment offices, the National Guard and whoever else that will be involved in the process: if there are any excesses, raids – that’ll be one thing. These institutions will work as they’re told to work, taking into account their (in)efficiency, the shortcomings of the bureaucracy and so on. But if things go by and large, more or less quietly, that'll be different.
The mobilization, in my view, has an important target, and it’s not located inside Russia. First of all, itshould frighten Ukraine. It’s also a message from Russia to the West: now, in a very short time, four regions of Ukraine will become part of the Russian Federation. An attack on them is an attack on the Russian Federation, and all the conditions and restraining factors that existed before cease to operate. Firstly, thatconcerns a nuclear strike, the use of weapons of mass destruction.Is there a clear message for the domestic audience? Is it realistic to expect that after the referendums in the so-called DNR and LNR, as well as in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, Russians will regard them as part of their country?
I think that these actions [to incorporate the regions] will be supported, though not because all Russians, for example, have always thought that Kherson Region should be part of Russia. (Of course, there are some who share the opinion that all of Ukraine was torn away from Russia in 1991 and is broadly part of Russia. Therefore, any part of Ukraine – be it Kherson or Odessa – is the land of either Russia or the Soviet Union. For them all actions to incorporate these lands are legal a priori.)