“The image that Russia acquired over the past two decades during the Putin-Medvedev alternating rule of a ‘recovering, rising global power’ has been seriously damaged,” Abdülmelik Ş. Bekir writes for Gazete Karınca.
It is now over a month since the invasion of Ukraine. It has left behind great human loss and economic damage to date. How much more it will cost is unknown. There are significant consequences resulting from the scene after this month. First let us take a brief look at what has been happening during the progress of the invasion.
First, Russia made a great error in calculation. It overestimated the Western bloc’s lack of politics and NATO’s internal problems of recent years. Drawing strength from the lack of strategy of the Transatlantic axis in the Middle East, particularly in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, it assumed that the same situation would be valid for Ukraine and the Balkans. Based on this assumption, it made move after move to fill the global power vacuum created by the Western bloc’s lack of strategy. Of course, it started this process by bringing its power into play in Syria and Crimea, and then Libya, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and achieved its desire in much of what it did. It wanted to continue what it had started in Crimea with the two “Republics” it had declared and recognised in the Dombas region.
Second, Putin’s initial plan was to annex the Donbas region in a manner similar to the Crimea. Military, economic, political and diplomatic preparations were made accordingly. During the intense diplomatic contact before the invasion, drawing strength from the non-committal statements and attitudes of the Western bloc, both behind the scenes and in public, he decided to extend the invasion all across Ukraine. Thus, he made a significant error, based on incomplete reading of the facts. If the occupation had been limited only to the Donbas region, it would have been highly likely that the Western bloc and Ukraine would have agreed to it over time, and the matter would have been glossed over with partial economic sanctions.
Third, planning and preparation for a limited region was suddenly applied to a far wider land area as a result of the misreading of the facts. He made the worst mistake of his life, assuming that he would quickly win the war without any serious resistance. He changed horses while crossing in midstream, so to speak, and the results were evident from the first day. The second largest army in the world suffered losses which could not have been guessed at. Logistics problems arose in the first week of the occupation. Terrestrial combat vehicles became the clear target of the Ukrainian army, which he had frequently belittled. The planned invasion suddenly turned into an unplanned war that spiralled out of control.
Fourth, He started his rhetoric of the legitimacy of the invasion on the basis of his opposition to the Western bloc and NATO, but was lost for words after the Western bloc’s declaration that it would not enter the war, and did not do so militarily. The superiority of discourse and, accordingly, the psychological superiority, passed to Ukraine. Of course, the media monopoly of the Western bloc provided this to a large degree, but it became clear that Russia was not even as well-prepared as Ukraine in this regard. It lost the propaganda war to Ukraine in a very short time with the systematic publication of images of captured Russian soldiers and destroyed Russian air and ground combat vehicles.
Fifth, another significant consequence of Russia’s misreading of the Western bloc was in the economic field. He relied heavily on the gas dependency of European countries. However, the economic sanctions that followed one after another were reflected in the internal balances. Its economy, already weak despite its rich hydrocarbon resources, experienced a virtual earthquake. An economic embargo, sanctions and isolation it did not expect were brought to bear by the Western bloc. With the uneasiness caused by its unpredictability in the world and Europe, it was exposed to practices that would lead to its cultural isolation.
Sixth, many other factors can also be listed. However, the reality that has emerged at the end of this month is that Russia’s move to become a global power and fill the central power vacuum created by the Western bloc is already tripping it up. As the pressure builds, Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons, while at the same time he seeks ways to get out of the swamp he has entered. He has wavered in many of his claims from the first week of the war. He has backpedalled in his determination to conduct negotiations in a third country. He has stated that a change of administration in Ukraine is no longer one of his goals. Similarly, he has had to return to his original goal, which is to focus on the Donbas region. But a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in this time. All of this has been marked down against Russia. Of course, this is not what Putin wanted. He made a miscalculation and it cost him, his country and the peoples of Russia dearly. For Russia, consequences have emerged that are either irreparable or the repair of which will take many long ryears. Let us take a look at these.
First, The image that Russia acquired over the past two decades during the Putin-Medvedev alternating rule of a “recovering, rising global power” has been seriously damaged. The perception that it was far from having the power attributed to it became very strong. The Russia’s words carry far less force than before the invasion. So that for example, while Japan was voicing its claims towards the Kuril Islands, even Azerbaijan, which is fully tied to Russia, dared to take a step in Karabakh without its realising.
Second, While Ukraine and its leader Zelensky, whom he had belittled, gained sympathy all over the world, Putin and his Russia became a country creating anxiety and fear. Its image as an invading country surpassed even that of the United States.
Third, Putin had wanted to turn the weakening of the Western bloc and its common army NATO into an opportunity, but instead he threw them a lifeline. As a result of the equation he built on not allowing NATO closer to his borders, contrary to his policy he became too settled on the NATO border. It has made the union, which had ceased to be a necessity, an indispensable need for the West and for many other countries of the world too.
Fourth, EU public opinion on the military investments and expenditure of astronomical budgets and being invested in war has changed dramatically. In fact, many countries, especially Germany, which has turned this into an opportunity, have made decisions to invest in the army and in defence. If, as he said, his worry and concern is that NATO is putting pressure on his border, today this fear is much stronger and closer than it was yesterday.
Fifth, although Russia has occupied the Donbas region and other regions too, it has lost this war. Embargoes will exist against it and the European market will be closed to Russia to a significant extent for many years. Even if the war ends tomorrow, European countries will look for other energy sources.
Sixth, the USA will use this opportunity to the fullest. On the one hand, it will sign new energy agreements with European countries, on the other hand, it will establish a more integrated military, political and economic union with the Western bloc.
Seventh, on coming to power Biden stated that the world will be the scene of a struggle between democratic and autocratic systems.The current scene is a unique opportunity for this policy of his. Considering his words, from now on, he will base his entire rhetoric on the “democratic Western bloc” as against “authoritarian Russia”.
Eighth, it will be more active globally based on the position that it will drag Russia to by economic power alone without using military force. Nation-states around the world will look at this situation and incline towards policies turning on the Western bloc.
Ninth, significant concern will begin to arise from the autocratic, despotic power network established by Putin. In recent years, despotic leaders have made it a virtual tradition to organise military invasion operations against other countries. These despots will now be more concerned when taking these steps and will have to watch the reaction of the Western bloc.
Tenth, another important aspect revealed by Putin’s autocratic leadership is the fact that the one-man regimes lacking in democracy, although they soon flaash into war and aggression, ultimately prove to be a disastrous for their countries and their peoples.
The war in Ukraine continues in all its intensity. From now on, its course and the results it will create may change, but it is not possible to reverse the above-mentioned consequences. Putin and his Russia are looking for ways out of this jam. There are two roads before him. Russia will either escalate the business by getting military and economic support from its ally countries, or it will settle for a solution that is not a “defeat”. There is only one country that can alter the equation in this sense. If China is to give military and economic support to Russia. It has transpired that before the invasion began, an “no limits” agreement was signed between the two countries. It is possible that Putin placed a lot of trust in this and that some miscalculations were made based on this trust. In fact, it was reported in the press that he asked China for military, logistical and economic support. China received the request, but has still not responded. Putin will wait for the outcome of this demand, and the response he receives will determine the course of the Ukraine war and, more generally, the 3rd World War.
When we look at the attitude of China so far, although it seems close to Russia, there is a sign that it keeps an eye on the balances. That is that when signing the agreement, it did not anticipate that Putin would make such a crazy move, nor that the Western bloc could achieve this degree of unity. Of course, China, which is under intense pressure from the USA, does not want Russia to lose, but it cannot be said that it really wants it to win. It is unlikely that it will join this game that will turn into a world war just to save Putin. It is more likely to try to find a middle ground than to give Putin the support he wants. In fact, it has been reported in the press that it has had diplomatic talks with the USA in this direction.
If it cannot get what it hopes for from China, Russia has other cards to play. It is possible for its allies like Iran to make some moves to pressurise the Western bloc. Steps like the attacks on the Federal Kurdistan region, and those that the Houthis in Yemen took last week against Saudi Arabia’s energy resources affecting the energy market may be taken. But outside of China, it is unlikely that these cards will seriously affect the equation. The last option is to use the “nuclear weapons” that Putin is threatening. It would be a disaster for humanity if he took the risk. So there is only one logical option left. A compromise under Sino-US arbitration. Russia’s statement that it has no intention of regime change in Ukraine and that it focused only on the Donbas region pointed to a way out.
As a result, the main lesson to be drawn from all this is that the system of capitalist modernity has given humanity nothing but war, hunger and death. In parallel with the deepening of the crisis and chaos of the system, the whole world is turning into fields of chronic, unresolvable and never-ending war.