The main mistakes of the Special Military Operation
A year has passed since the start of Special Military Operation. If at first it was a special military operation, it is now clear that Russia has found itself in a real and difficult war. Not only with Ukraine - as a regime and not as a people (hence the initial call for political denazification), but also with the collective West, i.e. essentially with the NATO bloc (with the exception of the special position of Turkey and Hungary who seek to remain neutral in the conflict - the rest of the Alliance countries are participating in the war alongside Ukraine in one way or another).
This year of war has shattered many illusions that all sides in the conflict had.
Where did the West go wrong?
The West, which hoped for the effectiveness of the avalanche of sanctions imposed on Russia and its almost total exclusion from the part of the world economy, politics and diplomacy controlled by the US and its allies, has failed. The Russian economy resisted, there were no internal protests and Putin's position was not only not weakened, but strengthened. It was not possible to force Russia to stop military action, to attack Ukraine's military and technical infrastructure, or to withdraw its decision to annex new entities; nor was there an uprising of the oligarchs whose assets were seized in the West. Russia survived, even though the West seriously believed it would fall.
From the very beginning of the conflict, Russia, realising that relations with the West were crumbling, made a sharp turn towards non-Western countries - mainly China, Iran, the Islamic states, but also India, Latin America and Africa - clearly and contrastingly affirming its determination to build a multipolar world. In part, Russia, while reinforcing its sovereignty, has already done so in the past, but hesitantly, inconsistently, constantly reverting to trying to integrate itself into the global West. Now this illusion has finally dissolved and Moscow has no choice but to throw itself headlong into the construction of a multipolar world order. This has already yielded some results, but we are only at the beginning of the journey.
Russia's plans have changed considerably
However, not everything has gone as it should. Apparently the plan was to strike a swift and deadly blow against Ukraine, to rush in to besiege Kiev and force the Zelensky regime to capitulate, without waiting for Ukraine to attack the Donbass and then Crimea, which was being prepared by the West under the pretext of a formal agreement to the Minsk accords and with the active support of the globalist elites - Soros, Nuland, Biden himself and his cabinet. The plan was then to bring a moderate politician (such as Medvedchuk) to power and start restoring relations with the West (as after reunification with Crimea). No significant economic, political or social reforms were planned. Everything was to remain as before.
However, this was not the case at all. After the first real successes, some miscalculations emerged in the strategic planning of the entire operation. The military, the elite and society were not ready for a serious confrontation, neither with the Ukrainian regime nor with the collective West. The offensive stalled in the face of desperate and fierce resistance from an adversary with unprecedented support from the NATO military machine. The Kremlin probably took into account neither the psychological readiness of the Ukrainian Nazis to fight to the last Ukrainian, nor the extent of Western military aid.
Moreover, it did not take into account the effects of 8 years of intensive propaganda, which forcibly inculcated Russophobia and extreme hysterical nationalism into the entire Ukrainian society day after day. Whereas in 2014, the vast majority of eastern Ukraine (Novorossia) and half of the population of central Ukraine were positively disposed towards Russia, although not as radically 'pro' as the residents of Crimea and Donbass, by 2022 this balance had changed - the level of hatred towards Russians increased significantly and pro-Russian sympathies were violently suppressed - often through direct repression, violence, torture and beatings. In each case, Moscow's active supporters in Ukraine became passive and intimidated, while the hesitant sided with Ukrainian neo-Nazism, encouraged by the West (for purely pragmatic and geopolitical purposes).
It was only a year later that Moscow finally realised that this was not an SMO, but a real war.
Ukraine was ready
Ukraine was more ready than anyone else for Russia's actions, which began to be talked about in 2014, when Moscow had not even the remotest intention of expanding the conflict and reunification with Crimea seemed enough. If the Kiev regime was surprised by anything, it was Russia's military failures that followed the initial successes. This greatly boosted the morale of Ukrainian society, already permeated by rampant Russophobia and exalted nationalism. At some point, Ukraine decided to seriously fight Russia to the end. Kiev - given the West's grandiose military assistance - believed in the possibility of victory and this became a very significant factor in Ukrainian psychology.
The only thing that took the Kiev regime by surprise was a pre-emptive strike by Moscow, whose readiness was considered by many to be a bluff. Ukraine had planned to launch military action in the Donbass as it had prepared, confident that Moscow would not attack first, but the Kiev regime had also prepared thoroughly to repel a probable attack, which would follow in any case (no one had any illusions about this). For eight years, it worked steadily to reinforce several defence lines in the Donbass, where the main battles were expected.
NATO instructors prepared coherent and combat-ready units, saturating them with the latest technical developments. The West did not hesitate to welcome the formation of punitive neo-Nazi formations engaged in mass terror directed against civilians in the Donbass, and that is where the Russian advance was most difficult. Ukraine was ready for war precisely because it wanted to start it overnight.
Moscow, however, kept it secret until the very end, which made society not quite ready for what followed on 24 February 2022.
Russia's liberal elite was held hostage by the SMO
But the biggest surprise of all was the start of SMO for Russia's pro-Western liberal elite. After all, on an individual and quasi-institutional level, they were deeply integrated into the Western world. Most of them had kept their (sometimes gigantic) savings in the West and were actively involved in securities transactions and stock trading. The SMO effectively put this elite at risk of total ruin.
And in Russia itself, this habitual practice was perceived by many as a betrayal of national interests. Russian liberals, therefore, did not believe to the last that the SMO would begin and, when it did, they began counting the days until it would end. Having turned into a long and protracted war with an uncertain outcome, the SMO has been a disaster for the entire liberal segment of the ruling class.
So far, some members of the elite have made desperate attempts to stop the war (on any terms), but neither Putin, nor the masses, nor Kiev, nor even the West, which has noticed Russia's weakness, somehow mired in the conflict, and will go all the way in its perceived destabilisation.
Fluctuating allies and Russian loneliness
I believe that Russia's friends have also been somewhat disappointed by the first year of the SMO. Many probably thought that its military capabilities were so substantial and well-calibrated that the conflict with Ukraine should have been resolved with relative ease. For many, the transition to a multipolar world already seemed irreversible and natural, and the problems Russia encountered along the way brought everyone back to a more problematic and bloody scenario.
It seemed that Western liberal elites were ready to fight seriously and desperately to preserve their unipolar hegemony, up to the possibility of a full-scale war with the direct involvement of NATO and even a full-scale nuclear conflict. China, India, Turkey and other Islamic countries, as well as African and Latin American states, were certainly not prepared for such a turn of events. It is one thing to approach Russia peacefully, implicitly strengthening its sovereignty and building non-Western (but not anti-Western either!) regional and inter-regional structures. It is quite another to enter into a head-on conflict with the West. Therefore, with the tacit support of the advocates of multipolarism (and especially with the friendly policies of China, the solidarity of Iran and the neutrality of India and Turkey), Russia was essentially left alone in this war with the West.
All this became apparent one year after the start of the SMO.
Translation by Lorenzo Maria Pacini