On November 3, 2022, the flag of the Russian Federation was lowered by the City Hall of the city of Kherson. A week later Russian troops would begin retreating across the Dnipro and the Ukrainians would arrive and recapture the city.
That flag lowered in advance will perhaps one day be remembered as the sign of a historic turning point, which marks a change of era for the Russia. Moscow – it is already possible to say – has lost this war. She will be able to unleash tremendous repercussions. You will be able to barricade yourself in certain Ukrainian spaces. But the goal of the “special military operation”, launched by Putin on February 24, 2022, it went bankrupt. The long line of trucks taken menacingly towards Kyiv she dissolved. The Ukrainian capital was not taken. President Zelensky he was not caught. Ukraine has not collapsed. Kharkiv and Odessa were not taken. On the contrary, Ukrainian troops went on the offensive and managed to liberate territories that the Russians had very painstakingly conquered.
A first devastating fact for the status of Putin’s Russia is that (with exceptions represented by individual Russian units, by Chechen militias, by mercenaries of the Wagner group) the Ukrainian soldiers on the ground prove superior to the Russians as a fighting force. It can be said that the Ukrainian military without the continuous flow of Western weapons, funding and aid of all kinds, without the training provided by Western instructors, without the systematic support of Western intelligence and without a series of highly sophisticated equipment made available by the West (not to mention the sanctions affecting the Russian economic fabric) nothing could. Very true. But in this case the conclusions are even more clear-cut: it means that Russia is in a position of inferiority.
If you look at the ongoing war, not just the news, this seems to be the geopolitical budget of long breath. History knows these caesuras. For two centuries, between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Russian Empire was firmly part of the European “concert of powers”, expanding continuously. Then, in the early 20th century, the Russian Empire collided with Japan in the Far East. Moscow is convinced of winning and instead faces a defeat. Lost in 1904 the battle of Port Arthur. Lost in 1905 naval battle of Tsushima. A heartbreaking song, “On the hills of Manchuria”, still bears witness to the bewilderment of an unexpected debacle. It is the beginning of the end of what Russia in terms of power had been since the advent of Peter the Great. Fifteen years of upheaval will follow. There revolution of 1905World War I with the disappointing performance of the tsarist armies, the revolution bolshevik of October 1917, the civil war between “reds” and “whites”.
From there, slowly begins the path of reconstruction towards the status of great power culminating with the capture of Berlin in 1945 and with the manufacture of theweapon atomic: Moscow becomes a nuclear superpower. (And, as for the H-bomb, it still is). This aura of great power overall survived the collapse of the USSR and marked thewas post-Soviet despite the eclipse of the Yeltsin season. Indeed, the social pact of the Putin era consisted precisely in this: in exchange for autocratic centralization, the leader guaranteed society a recovery of Russian status and influence in the world.
However, it is precisely this “prestige” that is seriously shaken by the ongoing war. More, the conflict has brought to light some sort of unraveling of the fabric of Russian post-Soviet society. A phenomenon of crumbling which involves strong powers but also parts of civil society. The secret services that are wrong in every forecast on the social mood in Ukraine and on the defenses of the Kiev government and that in the occupied territories are unable to save pro-Russian officials from deadly attacks.
Defying the heirs of the dreaded Kgb, the Ukrainian hand even manages to strike the daughter of the Russian ultranationalist ideologue Dughin near Moscow. Moscow suffers the devastating audacity of Kyiv. Jumped bridges. Sabotaged pipelines. Ukrainian drones advancing for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers into Russian territory, reaching as far as Engels, the base of nuclear bombers.
The list is not finished. The tactical poverty of military commanders. And the barbarity of those soldiers who indulge in crimes and violence. And the human misery of those departments that in the first phase threw themselves into looting, hoarding household appliances and televisions to send home. These are phenomena that go beyond the perimeter of military events on the ground and touch the deep substance of the Russian state today.
Part of this sort of Caporetto is the evident disaffection that the younger generations, especially urban ones, feel towards the war in Ukraine and towards the prospect of a call to arms. The mass flight to Georgia, AzerbaijanKazakhstan, Finland and Turkey of hundreds of thousands of people, partial mobilization was just announced in the autumn, testifies to it detachment of a significant part of the middle class vis-à-vis the state.
Pope francesco it showed prophetic when the day after the invasion of Ukraine he ran to the Russian embassy to the Holy See to urge Putin not to take the path of catastrophe.
With this war it sets the post-Soviet phase of Russia. The future is yet to be written. The only thing that is not needed is the thirst for revenge that dwells in certain Baltic and Polish circles – and understandably in a large part of the Ukrainian population – because authentic peace cannot be built on these foundations. And in perspective, as Kissinger and Merkel recall, post-war Russia should be anchored to Europe.
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