June 23, 2024

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The war in Ukraine is a catalyst for the invisible revolution in Russia

The war in Ukraine is a catalyst for the invisible revolution in Russia

Although the propaganda exaggerations promoted by major Western media and Western officials about Russian losses in soldiers and military equipment are not true, they are significant. However, this is one side of the coin, and anyone who focuses only on this is statically discounted, and misses the possibility of reading the political dynamics that this war is producing.

If Russia were on the verge of military defeat in Ukraine, or even economic collapse, this kind of casualty calculus would clearly add to the negative political dynamic and make matters worse. But today everyone in the West has been forced to admit that the Russian economy has not only been able to withstand the barrage of sanctions, but that it is also growing at an impressive pace.

Regarding the military aspect, Western experts who do not work in a propaganda manner agree that the scale of the war is tilted in favor of Russia. This matter is not expected to change qualitatively with the approval of US aid to Kiev. The main reason Ukraine continues to lose ground is that, unlike Russia, it is running out of soldiers and ammunition. The only way to turn the tide of war is for NATO to intervene directly. However, if this happened, it would likely lead to a nuclear pathway.

Political dynamism

Let us now turn to the Western claim that the war weakens Russia. As I mentioned above, Russian losses are one side of the coin and not the most important side. The other is political dynamics. This is not only related to Russia's image in the international system, but also to the way the Russian leadership and the Russian people view the role played by their country. It is clear that if Russia emerges victorious, as everything indicates, we will have the following consequences:

  • First, it would expand regionally into Ukrainian regions where the Russian element was strong.
  • Second, it will impose its terms in the peace treaty, permanently preventing Ukraine from joining NATO and removing its “pressure,” as Washington tried.
  • Third, the “Global South” will view a Russian victory in Ukraine as a defeat for the “global West,” which is justified. This fact will not only undermine Russia's prestige at the international level, but on the contrary, it will cause serious harm to the standing of the United States and NATO, with what this means for geopolitical balances at the international level.
  • Fourth, geopolitical realities will force the Europeans, as well as the Americans – sooner or later – to carry out a geostrategic coup and change their position towards Moscow, unless we enter into a generalized conflict.
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As a result of all of the above, Russia gained a new national pride and self-confidence, the value of which greatly outweighed the cost of any human losses in the war. But most importantly, Russia was able to overcome once and for all the fixation syndrome, which essentially pushed it to search for a place for itself in the Western framework, complaining at times and putting pressure at other times.

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Since the Tsarist era, Russia has witnessed its internal contradiction between its European and Asian self. But historically, Russian elites have been oriented toward the West. They felt a complex towards Europe, which they saw as almost their model. Strange as it may seem, this complex came back to life in a very special way during the last two decades of the Soviet Union and contributed invisibly – and perhaps decisively – to its collapse. The typical product of this climate of Western lust is Gorbachev's election to the leadership and the way he conducted politics.

On the same road

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia bowed to Yeltsin's rule and effectively surrendered to the West. Putin rose to the top as a follower of Yeltsin. But when he took control of the state apparatus, he focused on alienating Russia and returning it to great power status. To this end, he worked to reduce the scope of Western interference in Russian affairs, which made him hateful, if not outright hostile, to Washington and many European capitals.

So Putin may have drawn red lines for the West, reducing the scope of his interference in Russian affairs, but he remained on the same path: seeking a certain status for his country in the Western context. He went so far as to demand that Russia join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), yet he did everything in his power to find a temporary settlement with the West, both at the level of the security structure, and at the level of economic and political relations as well. In other words – in different circumstances and under different conditions – he remained confined to the same traditional orientation of the Russian elites. In other words, Putin did not have another strategic vision for the role played by his country.

However, since he expelled the Westerners from Russia, they have gradually turned him into a “black sheep.” At the same time, despite the promise they made to Gorbachev, NATO expanded with successive expansions towards the east. Moscow protested but was powerless to respond. The turning point was Putin's speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, in which he issued a warning call for the West to respect Russia's sensitivities and rights as a great power.

His warning about the appeal fell on deaf ears. The West was obsessed with the arrogance of the victor and continued to “pressure” Russia, the main means of which was the expansion of NATO to the East. The complex reached its peak when at the beginning of 2014 – as proven by an independent Canadian investigation – a bloody coup was organized under the supervision of the American services in Kiev with the perpetrators of right-wing Ukrainian armed organizations and mercenaries. The overthrow of the corrupt, legitimately elected President Yanukovych has paved the way for Ukraine to become an anti-Russian stronghold in the West.

Annexation of Crimea

Faced with the risk that its access to the Black Sea would be reduced to a small strip of coast, Russia responded in two ways: first, it annexed Crimea, also relying on the fact that the vast majority of the population was Russian. Second, it gave the green light for Russian separatists in Donbas to secede from Ukraine. This second move sparked a long-running unofficial war between Kiev forces and the separatists, which cost the separatists several thousand casualties. Russia supported the separatists throughout those years, but avoided intervening directly.

Putin hoped that he could avoid a break with the West. the ukraine zelensky, However, although it has not yet joined NATO, it has largely served as its forward position. To avoid what his opponents saw as a direct threat to Russian national security, Putin ordered the invasion in February 2022, seeking to overthrow Zelensky's government and impose a pro-Russian regime in Kiev, or at least force it to reject NATO expansion.

In fact, even then Putin had not abandoned the traditional Russian strategic concept. He sought a compromise with the United States that would allow Russia to continue looking to the West, but without threatening its national security. In fact, he believed that by invading the West would be forced to negotiate with him over Ukraine's neutrality. This was also reflected in the draft agreement reached in Istanbul two or three months after the Russian invasion.

When Washington and London torpedoed the Istanbul Agreement – as they did with Minsk I and Minsk II in 2014-2015 – but also when Putin found the painful way in which his forces faced an organized Ukrainian defense, which he had not expected, he reached a strategic crisis. Realizing the firm stance of the “All-West” group, the Russian president calmly descended. It took some time to adjust to the political level, but he did. The same thing happened at the military level, when General Surovikin assumed general command.

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Strategic review

The establishment of power in Moscow forced an invisible, but of great strategic importance, process: reviewing the way it views Russia's place and role in the international system. It became clear that the expectations invested in by the West were mere illusions. What was developing was not the product of misunderstanding or even mere geopolitical competition. It was like a proxy war.

This realization brought about a radical intellectual change in Moscow, partly reflected in a related document signed by Putin in 2023. Russian culture is no longer defined as an element of broader Western culture, but rather as a distinct culture. The focus of foreign policy is no longer on the West, but on Eurasia and the “Global South.”

It is true that this shift was announced rhetorically in the 2000s, but it remained mostly just talk. The war in Ukraine, due to sanctions, also radically restructured Russian foreign trade. Trade with Europe shrank by less than half, while trade with Asia nearly tripled. Equally important, Russia has completely abandoned efforts to adapt to the American-branded international order.

Focus on the BRICS+ group

It is now leading efforts to build an alternative, de facto competitive pole in the West's international system. The BRICS+ group and the Shanghai Organization are initiatives in this direction. On the contrary, Russia is moving away from Western-dominated institutions (Council of Europe, OSCE, etc.), which gives it an anti-Russian signal. In fact, Russia has almost stopped caring what Westerners say about it.

As I mentioned above, all of the above constitutes a change of historical importance, not limited to foreign policy and foreign trade, but rather going much deeper than that. Thus, Russia no longer seems like the eastern tip of Europe, but rather a pillar of Eurasia. This ideological change had existed before, but the war in Ukraine gave it a more intense dimension and dynamism.

This strategic shift also poses a dilemma for the Russian wealth tycoons, who had a two-way street: with both the Putin regime and the West. It is inevitable that those who choose to remain in Russia will become more Russian and less cosmopolitan. I repeat, this historic change would not have happened, and certainly would not have gained such momentum, if the Russians (as a leadership, but also as a people) had not been convinced that the West was engaged in an informal, but not substantive, war against Russia. Their country. This is regardless of what any of us think is actually happening.

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