Will Vladimir Putin establish martial law, mobilize conscripts and reservists and requisition the Russian economy? US intelligence thinks so. US intelligence chief Avril Haines said on Tuesday that the Kremlin chief’s ambitions exceeded the capabilities of his army. And considered “probable” a “more unpredictable trajectory and potentially an escalation” in the coming months, as well as “more drastic measures, including the establishment of martial law”.
What is Martial Law?
Martial law, often implemented when a country is at war, establishes a legal state of exception in a country. It is invoked by the Head of State and the powers are partly entrusted to the military authorities.
In the case of Russia, martial law is defined by Article 87 of its Constitution. “It will be introduced by decree by President Putin, and this decision will have to be approved by the Council of the Federation”, notes Dimitri Minic, doctor in history of international relations and researcher at the Russia-NIS center of Ifri (French Institute of international relationships).
Martial law can be justified by several situations: a foreign invasion on Russian territory, attacks against Russian troops abroad, blockades or even bombardments in Russia. “He will have no problem justifying it,” thinks Dimitri Minic.
Is it believable?
The alert comes from US intelligence, whose predictions about the conflict have often proved correct in recent months – it had predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The head of American intelligence, Avril Haines, considers “probable” a “more unpredictable trajectory and potentially an escalation” in the coming months, with in particular an extension of the conflict to Transnistria, a pro-Russian separatist region located on the Ukrainian border in Moldova.
The Americans are probably relying on intelligence and analysis (for martial law), Dimitri Minic points out. “The Russian army needs men. She would have lost between 10,000 and 20,000 men. It is estimated that it suffered significant material losses, particularly in terms of armored vehicles, since nearly 2,000 units would be out of action. The declaration of a general or partial mobilization is therefore probable if the Kremlin makes a rational observation of the human and material losses. »
What would that change?
Many things. “Russia would end up with several hundred thousand more men, between 500,000 and a million,” predicts Dimitri Minic. The establishment of martial law would allow Vladimir Putin to mobilize conscripts from the age of 18 and send them to the front. “They can be used for menial tasks, logistics. The Russian reserve, made up of former conscripts and contractors, could also be mobilized, even if “a tiny part is ready for combat”.
Martial law would also allow the army to maintain order in place of the police in Russia, but also to further toughen the laws in force, with censorship, curfews or restrictions on merchandise. The state could also prohibit strikes and demonstrations and impose forced labor.
“There would also be the mobilization of Russian economic, administrative and industrial infrastructure in order to move to a wartime economy, advances Dimitri Minic. This will allow Russia to replace lost ammunition and equipment. »
According to the researcher, martial law would definitively place the Russian invasion in “a long war”. “Putin underestimated the amount of forces needed to beat the Ukrainian army, he analyzes. Martial law would be an admission of military and strategic weakness for Russia, which was unable to foresee the nature of this war, the reaction of Ukraine and especially of the West. »