Russia's strategic victory in 2023

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By JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI*

From a military, economic and diplomatic point of view, Russia achieved an extraordinary strategic victory, which was very difficult to reverse.

As the year 2023 closes and 22 months have passed since the start of the war in Ukraine, two things are absolutely clear: the first is that the Russians have already won the war, from the point of view of their political and military objectives; and the second is that the United States and England will never admit their defeat, and must maintain their support for the Ukrainian army and its “war of attrition” with the Russian forces, even though they know there is no longer any real possibility of victory. Even if Ukraine increases its attacks on Russian territory using the long-range weapons supplied to it by NATO.

After the failure of the great “Ukrainian counteroffensive” of mid-2023, long announced, planned and trained by the United States and England, and carried out with NATO weapons and logistical support, Russian forces conquered the cities of Soledar, Artemolsk and Maryinka, expanding their control over the 20% of Ukrainian territory they already occupied.

Around this territory, Russian forces built a practically insurmountable defensive barrier, and began to occupy a privileged position, from where they can attack or conquer – if they wish – the two main cities of Ukraine – Kiev and Odessa. And faced with this true “Russian fortress”, Ukrainian forces have shown themselves incapable of advancing, or even maintaining their own trenches, despite having massive support from the US and NATO.

The meaning of this military victory for Russia, however, goes far beyond the immediate battlefield, because it overturned the belief in the invincibility of NATO's weapons and war plans. And, above all, because it demonstrated Russia's ability to defend its national interests with its own resources, and with its own weapons, even against the designs and will of the Euro-American powers of the North Atlantic, also known by the generic name of “Western powers”. ”. From this point of view, Russia's simple victorious resistance has already become, in itself, a defeat of the global military power of the United States, and a true cornerstone of the new multipolar world that is being born and which we still don't know how it will work. .

In this sense, it is not a mere coincidence that the succession of revolts around the world have questioned the arbitrariness and legitimacy of Euro-American interventions in Black Africa and the Middle East. And it is not wrong to think that China's own global expansion is advancing at this moment, and to a large extent, in the space that was opened by Russia's victorious questioning of the “geopolitical bossiness” of the “Western powers”.

In March 2022, the United States and England intervened and directly vetoed the peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, which were ongoing in the city of Istanbul, mediated by the Turkish government. And they bet on their economic and financial capacity to beat Russia, isolating the Russian people and destroying their national economy through an economic “package of sanctions” unprecedented in its degree of violence, extent and detail.

A true economic attack that went far beyond anything that had ever been done against Iran, North Korea, or even China. The initial forecast of the two Anglo-Saxon powers and their European allies was that Russian GDP would fall by around 30% in 2022, that inflation would reach 50%, and that the Russian currency would depreciate by something around 100%. , causing an internal revolt by the Russian population against their own government, especially after the exclusion of the Russian economy from the international payments system, made in dollars, and through the SWIFT system controlled by the United States and its G-7 partners.

The immediate objective of these sanctions was to paralyze the Russian military offensive within the territory of Ukraine, but in the long term it was to cripple the Russian economy permanently, and for many decades. Furthermore, there was the expectation that the economic chaos caused by Western sanctions could provoke a separatist revolt among the dozens of peoples and ethnicities that make up the Russian national fabric, repeating what had happened with Ukraine and the Baltic countries in the 1990s.

However, Russia resisted the immediate impact of economic sanctions in 2022. In 2023, Russia's GDP grew by 3,5% (one of the highest rates in the world), its unemployment rate fell to 2,9%, its wage bill increased by 8%, its per capita income by 5% and its manufacturing production increased by 9,4%, between March and August of the same year. Furthermore, the war in Ukraine itself became a major external challenge and provoked a profound redefinition of Russia's economic development and international insertion strategy, with the strengthening of the role of the State, national industry and the internal market.

In two years, the use of the dollar in Russia's external transactions fell from 87% in 2021 to 24% in 2023, and the country managed to reposition itself within the international economy, increasing its integration with China, India and the countless countries that did not adhere to the sanctions imposed on Russians by the United States and the European Union. And today, two years after the start of the war in Ukraine, in terms of “purchasing power parity”, the Russian economy is already the first economy in Europe and the fifth economy in the world.

In this sense, there is no longer any doubt that Europeans and North Americans mistakenly assessed Russia's resilience as a military, energy, mineral, agricultural and atomic power, nor were they able to foresee the long-term importance of the integration of the Russian economy. with the Chinese and Indian economies. A “miscalculation” by Western powers that has already caused enormous damage, especially within the European Union, which has entered a prolonged process of recession, with increased inflation and social revolt, along with a true ultra-right typhoon that could end up burying the last vestiges of the European unification project.

Finally, Western powers tried to isolate Russia, including cultural, sporting and even tourist “cancellation” within the international community. But only 21% of UN member countries supported the economic sanctions of the United States and its European allies, and in the two years since hostilities began in Ukraine, Russia has maintained and expanded its political, diplomatic and cultural relations with China, India and with most countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. In fact, it is very likely that it was precisely in this diplomatic area of ​​foreign policy that Russia achieved its greatest victory over the “Western powers”.

Despite the attempted siege and isolation by the United States and its European allies, including the criminalization of Russian President Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court, supervised by Europeans, the Russian President visited China in mid-2023. XNUMX, and more recently, he also visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

He received in Moscow the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of India, Subrahmanyau Jaishankar, who reaffirmed the Indian government's decision to deepen its economic and strategic ties with Russia, contrary to the project conceived by the American government of formation of a military bloc with Japan, Korea and India, the QUAD, aiming to surround and contain China and Russia itself. On the same occasion, the governments of Russia and India reaffirmed their decision to move forward with the “International North-South Transport Corridor”, which will link Saint Petersburg to Mumbai, through the territories of Azerbaijan and Iran.

Furthermore, in September 2023, Russia organized and led the Seventh Eastern Economic Forum in the city of Vladivostok, bringing together guests from more than 60 countries; organized and led the 26th Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, in July, bringing together politicians and businesspeople from around the world; in the same month, the Second Russia-Africa Summit was held in the city of Saint Petersburg, with the presence of 49 official delegations and 17 African heads of state.

Furthermore, Russia had a prominent participation in the G-20 Meeting, held in India in November, and participated, at the end of December, in the Sixth Session of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, in the city of Marrakech, receiving the signal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil in favor of President Vladimir Putin's participation in the next meeting of G-20 leaders, which will take place in the city of Rio de Janeiro, in November 2024.

Finally, in the first hour of 2024, Russia assumed the rotating presidency of the BRICS group, now expanded with the entry of five new members, along with the request to join the group of 30 more countries. A request that should be analyzed at the next annual meeting of its top leaders, which will take place in Russia in October 2024. And upon assuming the presidency of the new BRICS, the Russian president expressed his desire and decision to occupy and have an active and combative role within the international system that has been going through a deep crisis and fragmentation.

Furthermore, Vladimir Putin announced his decision to de-dollarize trade relations between BRICS members, and has already demonstrated his sympathy for the incorporation of Venezuela into the group – which, if it were to occur, would transform the BRICS group into the largest holder of energy reserves. of the world.

In short: from a military, economic and diplomatic point of view, in the year 2023, Russia achieved an extraordinary strategic victory – very difficult to reverse – in relation to the United States and its European allies, who seem increasingly isolated within the scenario internationally, especially after its initial and unconditional support for the Israeli massacre in the Gaza Strip.

* Jose Luis Fiori He is professor emeritus at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Global power and the new geopolitics of nations (Boitempo). [https://amzn.to/3RgUPN3]

Originally published on International Observatory of the XNUMXst Century, no. 3.


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