It can’t be said that Putin is currently very vulnerable, but he’s more vulnerable now than he has been.
1. Putin's order is an acknowledgment that Russia is failing to accomplish its objectives in Ukraine.
2. Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February with an insufficient force that's since been exhausted in pursuit of limited gains, an error in campaign design from which Russia has yet to recover.
3. Efforts to replenish Russia's troop shortage short of mobilization have failed. A call for a partial mobilization is thus Putin’s attempt to reconcile the gap between his unchanged intent – which is to control all of Ukraine - and Russia's rapidly degrading capability to do so.
4. The mobilization is unlikely to close the gap between Putin’s intent and capability in the short-term - if at all. Russia will likely face several challenges with recruiting and integrating its force, both qualitative and quantitative. Many Russians support the war rhetorically but are not willing to fight in it. #Russia will also face limitations in throughput and deployment of these forces – both efforts require officer cadre – an increasingly diminishing resource and bottleneck in the Russian military. Equipping these forces will be another challenge, and the shortcomings of #Russia's defense industrial base will only compound this problem. It is essential for that reason that the West keeps and expands its export controls on electronics.
We should not be overly dismissive of the mobilization either.
5. We should watch how Russia will integrate this force, how it will train it, and the resulting effect it will produce on the battlefield, which we are unlikely to see until 2023.
6. Putin's value proposition to his base for many years has been a promise of a "great Russia." This value proposition is being challenged now, in part because of Russian setbacks in ##Ukraine. He is not imminently vulnerable, but he's more vulnerable than he has been in years.#Putin is trying to reconcile irreconcilable realities - keeping up this promise of the "great Russia," his eroding capability to deliver on it, as well as the unwillingness of the Russian people to fight in this war.
7. While we cannot rule out Putin's use of a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine, there are two critical points worth stating. First, Ukraine has been taking on that risk since the day it chose to push back on Russia’s full-scale invasion. It's Ukraine's and Ukraine's decision only whether to continue running that risk. So far Ukraine has chosen to run that risk – in part because the alternative, for many, is worse. It's Bucha. It's Izyum. Additionally, such a strike is unlikely to break Ukraine's will to fight, which is one of the two key centers of gravity of this war – along with Western support.