John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of an immediate partial mobilization was “expected” and a “sign that he is struggling.”
“I think there’s a lot that’s common — we’ve heard a lot of that before,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” referring to Putin’s baseless claims of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and that Russian. territorial integrity is threatened.
Kirby said Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of reservists was “substantial” and “almost twice as large as his war commitment in February of this year.”
He tried to cast Putin’s speech, which came hours before US President Joe Biden’s address to the United Nations, as a sign of weakness.
“It’s really a sign that he’s struggling, and we know he’s been through a lot. He has terrible unit morale unity on the battlefield command and control is still not resolved. He has problems with desertion and he forces the wounded to return to the fight. So clearly, manpower is a problem for him. He feels like he’s on the back foot, particularly in the northeastern Donbas area,” Kirby said.
More than 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine, Biden administration officials told US lawmakers in a classified briefing in July, but it is difficult to independently measure the number of war casualties.
Kirby also said the US takes Putin’s nuclear threats “seriously” but that this rhetoric is “not atypical.”
“It’s irresponsible rhetoric for a nuclear power to speak like that, but it’s not atypical for how he’s been speaking for the past seven months, and we’re taking it seriously. We’re monitoring as best we can, their strategic posture, so that if we have to, we can change ours. We have not seen any indication that that is necessary at this time,” he said.
There would be “serious consequences” for using nuclear weapons, Kirby warned.
Kirby echoed national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s preview Tuesday of Biden’s remarks at the UN, saying Biden will be “very clear about where we stand with respect to Russia and Ukraine,” and he also reiterated the US commitment to the UN charter.