The key event in 2022 will be Russia’s full-scale war with Ukraine. The primary outcome will be Russia’s complete defeat on the world stage. Moscow has transformed from a G20 member to a pariah state, and many leaders want to see it tried for war crimes at the Hague tribunal.
Regardless of how the battles on the Ukrainian front turn out, Russia has already lost the war. Additionally, Moscow’s geopolitical failure will show how the world order is changing, but not in the way that Kremlin propagandists had predicted. A militaristic and aggressive Russia under this new system will no longer influence geopolitics.
Russia has earned a reputation as a pariah state in geopolitics since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine started on February 24. The whole civilized world has denounced Moscow’s military aggression, but even longtime friends like China have expressed muted disapproval.
Only a small group of other pariah nations, including Syria, North Korea, and Nicaragua, still support Russia in the UN. Only Belarus has joined Russia in voting at the UN among the former members of the Soviet Union.
The core fragility of Russia’s geopolitical position has been brought to light by its isolation from the rest of the world and the lack of any substantive message behind Moscow’s anti-Western stance.
Russia lost its geopolitical position due to Putin’s self-defeating foolishness in starting the deadliest war in Europe since World War II. In his insane plan, Putin envisioned a swift and successful conflict that would stop Ukrainian independence and pull Kyiv firmly back into the Kremlin’s circle.
Putin proposed turning the unipolar international order, in which the US is the dominant power, into a bipolar one. We will have a bipolarity, but the influence will be held by two states – the US and China – while Moscow is not considered a trustworthy and influential partner. Instead, because of its status as a terrorist state that committed war crimes against its neighbor, Russia became an international pariah.
Putin’s disastrous war invalidates Russian superpower status
Russia has long seen itself as one of the world’s superpowers. The humiliations of the Soviet Union’s disintegration in 1991 considerably degraded this superpower title. However, Putin rebuilt post-Soviet Russia so it could retake its place as one of the major powers on the international stage.
For many years, Putin sought to impose a dictatorship in Russia and reestablish its power in the military and the economy. These efforts were credited on the global stage. However, Putin’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine has significantly reverted this advancement by exposing Kremlin propaganda lies and the flaws of the collapsing regime.
No matter what happens in Ukraine, Russia will continue to lose the geopolitical battle as long as the war lasts. A war can be lost long before the final battle, as history teaches. Both in terms of Germany during World War II and Russia today. Hitler lost when the world came together to oppose the Nazi dictator, and Putin also lost in this scenario.
The Russian army is not the 2nd army in the world
Over the previous ten months, the Russian invasion army had performed abjectly and lost all decisive battles. The Battles of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson were all victories for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The Ukrainian military is estimated to have seized or destroyed thousands of Russian tanks and armored vehicles while killing more than 100,000 Russian troops. Putin’s decision to mobilize Russia for the first time since 1945 due to the war in Ukraine has destabilized the country and made it more personal for the local audiences that have supported the regime.
The discovery of extensive war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine has also seriously damaged Russia’s reputation abroad. Russian troops are accused of mass executions and engaging in sexual violence, kids abductions, and torture throughout occupied Ukraine.
Children are among the millions of Ukrainians who have been forcibly deported. Numerous Ukrainian towns and cities have been reduced to ruins due to the Russian military’s indiscriminate bombardment techniques, which have killed tens of thousands of people. Russia started systematically destroying Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in recent weeks with the explicit intent of depriving Ukrainians of access to heating, electricity, and water during the winter months.
From the second army of the world that the Russian military pretended to be, it turned into an army of war criminals, looters, and rapists. It is now filled with convicts via the private Wagner company.
Given that they have been accompanied by a constant stream of overtly genocidal narratives from regime propagandists and Kremlin officials, many international observers view Russian war tactics as a deliberate genocide of the Ukrainian people.
Zelensky defeated Putin on the international stage
For the first time in ten years, Vladimir Putin skipped his annual end-of-year press conference in 2023. The unexpected cancellation is the newest sign that something is wrong in the Kremlin. Putin’s yearly press tour has been a carefully crafted propaganda spectacle for the past ten years, allowing the Russian dictator to show off his control of international affairs.
But after his disastrous invasion of Ukraine, which resulted in military setbacks, massive manpower losses, unpopular mobilization, and international condemnation, Putin decided to call off the event rather than risk being ridiculed and humiliated.
Many media sources, including TIME magazine and the Financial Times newspaper, have already chosen Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as Person of the Year while Putin runs from the cameras. Zelensky is frequently referred to as one of the most powerful politicians in the world.
Zelensky’s rising popularity reflects both the appreciation for his leadership during the conflict and the heroic resistance of Ukraine against the Russian invasion. Volodymyr Zelensky was welcomed in the White House in December and had productive conversations with US President Joe Biden.
Russian economic weakness exposed
Western analysts were aware of the effects of corruption in the Russian Federation at all levels, even before the war. Some have referred to the Putin rule in recent years as a “mafia state,” where the lines separating law enforcement and organized crime are murky.
In contrast to Ukraine, post-Soviet Russia has never accepted the necessity to reject the Soviet past or undertake decommunization. Instead, Putin has given the Soviet era new life and made the legacy of Stalin and communism central to his idea of a contemporary Russian nationalist identity.
These flaws have brought attention to the purely cosmetic nature of Russia’s much-heralded military changes during the previous two decades. In actuality, Putin’s Russian army is still a remnant from the Soviet era, with a slow-moving rigid chain of command and a political culture that is distinctly Soviet.
Massive investments in the Russian armed forces failed to produce meaningful outcomes because of high levels of corruption. Russia lacks weapons. The mobilized Russians have been sent to the front in Ukraine with minimal training and a lack of equipment.
The Russian economy continues to be primarily dependent on oil exports. It lacks a technological equivalent for imported goods, as evidenced by the invasion of Ukraine and the Western sanctions. It appears that Russia’s heavy reliance on the export of oil and weapons for its economic survival was a strategic error.
In 2023, the EU will be primarily independent of the Kremlin’s energy blackmail because it pulled itself off Russian gas earlier than anticipated. The decline in demand for Russian energy in Europe will make it difficult for Moscow to locate enough substitute clients.
Propaganda and nuclear blackmail remain
The invasion of Ukraine has exposed the limitations of Kremlin propaganda despite significant investments in media operations. Due to ongoing disinformation and fake news, the two main Russian propaganda networks, RT worldwide multilingual TV and Sputnik, were banned in the West. Due to Russia’s reputation as a war-mongering aggressor, the Kremlin’s media and social media accounts have primarily been targeting a tiny, dedicated audience that is shrinking. Russian propaganda has been unable to expand beyond a niche audience primarily motivated by anti-Americanism, extreme right- or left-wing ideology, and conspiracy theories.
Nuclear blackmail remains Russia’s sole strategy on the world stage. The Kremlin is attempting to stop the West from backing Ukraine in this way. But this behavior has triggered an intense backlash, with US officials promising “catastrophic consequences.”
Will 2023 define Russia’s future?
With Russia’s inevitable collapse, the population will be forced to confront the decades-long fabrication of nationalistic myths by their corrupt rulers.
It is difficult to foresee what sort of Russia will emerge from the ruins of Putin’s destroyed state, whether the Russian Federation is facing a coup and a change of government or a complete collapse and disintegration. But it already appears improbable that anyone will still consider the nation a superpower. In 2023, we will see what scenario is waiting for the falling Russian Federation.