John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on immediate partial mobilization was “expected” and a “sign that he’s struggling.”
“I think there was a lot in there that was a typical – a lot that we’ve heard before,” Kirby said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” citing Putin’s baseless claims of neo-Nazis in Ukraine and that Russian territorial integrity is being threatened.
Kirby said that Putin’s announcement of a partial mobilization of reservists is “a lot” and “almost twice as much as he committed to the war back in February of this year.”
He sought to cast Putin’s speech, which comes hours ahead of US President Joe Biden’s address to the United Nations, as a signal of weakness.
“It’s definitely a sign that he’s struggling, and we know that he has suffered tens of thousands of casualties. He has terrible morale unit cohesion on the battlefield command and control has still not been solved. He’s got desertion problems and he’s forcing the wounded back into the fight. So clearly, manpower is a problem for him. He feels like he’s on his back foot, particularly in that northeast area of the Donbas,” Kirby said.
More than 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine, Biden administration officials told US lawmakers during a classified briefing in July, but it’s difficult to independently gauge casualty figures in the war.
Kirby also said the US is taking Putin’s nuclear threats “seriously” but that this rhetoric was “not atypical.”
“It’s irresponsible rhetoric for a nuclear power to talk that way, but it’s not atypical for how he’s been talking the last seven months, and we take it very seriously. We’re monitoring as best we can, their strategic posture, so that if we have to, we can alter ours. We’ve seen no indication that that’s required right now,” he said.
There will be “severe consequences” for the use of nuclear weapons, Kirby warned.
Kirby reiterated national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s Tuesday preview of Biden’s remarks to the UN, saying that 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.