VLADIMIR Putin's deranged threats to nuke the West back to the stone age are "one last throw of the dice" by the Russian president in the face of Ukraine's military advance, experts have claimed.
But an expert has claimed that Vlad has painted himself into a corner, and is running out of options to save his own skin.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Dmitri Alperovitch, chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, a US bipartisan non-profit policy institute, explained why Putin has only a handful of choices left to him in Ukraine - and none of them are good.
"The mobilisation announcement is a direct result of the very successful Kharkiv offensive that has shocked Russia, freeing some 3,000 square miles of territory in a very short space of time," he said.
"It was a humiliating defeat for the Russian military."
He said the Ukrainian advance has left Putin with three options - do nothing, de-escalate the conflict, or double down. He has chosen the third option.
Alperovitch described the figure of 300,000 Russian reservists quoted by Vlad's defence minister Sergey Shoigu as "unlikely", as Russia's army will find it very hard to process them all through the system.
Instead, untrained reservists could be sent to Ukraine almost immediately in smaller groups of 20 to 30,000 at a time, as the need on the frontline is so desperate, he said.
"This won't have a massive effect on the war," he added. "Putin should have done this back in April. Now it is too late."
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However, he warned that the effect of sending smaller groups of men to the frontline will drag the war out into next year at least, allowing the Russian army to keep up its assaults and slow down the Ukrainian advance.
Wednesday's announcement of partial mobilisation has sparked major protests in Russia with more than 1,300 arrests made so far.
Alperovitch said that he believes Putin could use his nukes as a final option if Ukraine makes progress in retaking Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
It comes after Putin claimed in his address that any threat to Russian "territorial integrity" could be met with all the resources at Russia's disposal, including nuclear weapons.
However, he added that he sees Vlad's threats as a bluff - for now.
"Putin doesn't have many options left," he said. "He won't be able to send decisive numbers to the front. They will stall the loss of territory and slow the Ukrainian offensive, but it's highly unlikely he'll even be able to take the Donbas.
Putin's position is increasingly precarious, he isn't leaving himself with a way outDmitri Alperovitch
"The challenge is he has painted himself into a corner by saying that his military objective is to take the Donbas.
"If he fails to do so, he will look like a weak leader, and Russia doesn't have a good history of its leaders looking weak.
"Gorbachev, Krushchev, and Tsar Nicolas II were all forced out after losing wars or military standoffs.
"Putin's position is increasingly precarious, he isn't leaving himself with a way out."
Speaking to The Sun Online, Dr Colin Alexander, an expert in political communications at Nottingham Trent University, said that Putin is likely re-strategising his war efforts, and the recent days' announcements are a bluff or a distraction to move attention away from the Ukrainian advance.
"This is domestic propaganda," he said. "It helps convince Russians that the war is justified, as we are helping our brethren.
"It is the same with his announcement of reservists. Does Putin really need them, or is he trying to get Russians more invested in the war?"
Alperovitch added that Putin still has a couple of options left to him before he turns to his nuclear weapons.
He warned that Vlad can step up his targeting of Ukraine's critical infrastructure such as the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station with precision-guided missiles.
Putin could also increase the indiscriminate carpet-bombing of cities such as Kyiv in order to demoralise the Ukrainian people.
Also, Vlad's airforce, which has seen relatively little action in the war so far due to the strength of Ukraine's air defences, could be fully deployed for further bombing raids.
"None of these options are good or likely to achieve his desired outcome of taking over Ukraine," Alperovitch said.
"But in terms of escalation, he still has some moves left that he can make."
Wednesday's announcement of partial mobilisation came a day after pro-Russian authorities in Luhansk and Donetsk announced that referendums over whether these territories should become part of Russia will be held in the next few days.
Dr Alexander said that Wednesday's announcement is - like the referendums, an example of propaganda to try and shore up Putin's precarious position.
"These are an indication of weakness, rather than cementing Russian authority," he said.
While 2014's referendum in Crimea came after a decisive victory by Russian paramilitary groups in a predominantly Russian-speaking region of Ukraine, Dr Alexander said that the situation in Luhansk and Donetsk is far more fluid.
"The referendums are a moment of propaganda," he said. "They provide pro-Russians with conversational ammo to use to legitimise the war."
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