What is burning in the flames of this war
2022 has been a turning point for the current political and geopolitical reality, the collapse of old hopes and ideas, and the formation of new ones. Future historians will analyze this year these transformations day by day, if not hour by hour, because it was in this year that we entered a new reality.
This is a reality that mercilessly destroyed the idea of the European order as we knew it.
Russian aggression has reminded the world that any attempt to build one’s own paradise behind "big walls" is a completely failed strategy. This path has destroyed more than one empire: I think the feelings of many eurocrats on the morning of February 24 were about the same as the patricians of the Roman Empire one and a half thousand years ago, when they learned about the invasion of the Vandals. History repeats itself, and the strategy of trying to preserve one's own oasis when the whole world around is in chaos cannot be justified. The world has been overtaken by the ghosts of yesterday, which some have tried hard to sweep under the carpet and pretend do not exist.
In 2022, the world had to take off its rose-colored glasses and look at the real state of affairs, in which democracy was clearly losing, revanchist regimes were gaining strength, where the well-being of the European landscape depended on energy carriers from non-democratic countries, and security on the situation of maintaining political stability in the USA. Accordingly, Europe delegated all the key sources of its well-being and security to the outside, instead of trying to create them within itself.
We are entering the year 2023, which will be the year of the search for the stability of the European space and for sources of self-sufficiency. Ukraine started doing this in 2022: for us, the current year is also a period of broken "rose-colored glasses." It shattered illusions that it was possible to come to an agreement with the Russian "bear," and that transformations were possible in Ukraine through compromises with the old system – illusions about the strength of the international order and the right to its protections. We are paying dearly for forgetting who exactly our neighbor is, and being the largest European state, for allowing ourselves to behave childishly out of proportion.
2022 made both Ukraine and the world more mature, and forced us to look at things as they are. Ukraine has already been taught to call a spade a spade. The world has only begun work in this direction, but the process has started and is irreversible. The modest "conflict" is increasingly being called a war, crimes are being called crimes, even the words tribunal and genocide are now again heard in European languages.
2022 was the year of the perfect storm. And no matter how tragic it was for Ukraine, our society turned out to be the most prepared for these realities. Centuries of living in a permanent storm have hardened Ukrainians. Let us not yet learn to live, and unlike our Western friends, let us not yet lose our survival skills. The difficult path to gaining independence in 1991, our several revolutions, and the beginning of the war in 2014 only added experience in preparing for larger-scale events of the new geopolitical "storm" of 2022. Psychologically, resource-wise, and institutionally, Ukrainians proved to be more ready for it than residents of most countries of the world. While the Western world is just recovering from what is happening, Ukraine has already taken the first steps in shaping its own course, has raised its sails, and is trying to move and even lead certain processes and trends that the world is currently facing, offering formulas and solutions. And don't be fooled by our lack of resources, as those follow behind ideas. Support for Ukraine now with weapons and economic assistance is mere extra confirmation of that.
We won moral primacy by becoming David in a battle with Goliath.
It is for this reason that we garner such admiration among democratic societies. We are a democracy with fists, an example of which the world lacked. We have demonstrated intelligence and distinctiveness, proving that this is not merely a battle between small and large post-Soviet countries and armies. Ukraine began to form its own identity: no, we have not yet fully answered the question "who are we" even within our society, but the year 2022 became for us a mirror in which we managed to look into and see that our brand is courage. We are determined and daring enough to accept the current challenges, even though these qualities are not always effective in confronting the enemy at long "distances". And the test of post-war development still awaits us.
Another important result of 2022 for Ukraine is the year of the return of the capital to Kyiv. This is an evolutionary breakthrough that will set the trend for many years to come. There was a strengthening of the sense of our own geopolitical agency: for many years, our elites were looking for their capital in Moscow, then in Washington and Brussels, but with the beginning of Russia’s full-scale aggression and the beginning of the war against Ukraine, we had enough courage and stability to return our capital to Kyiv. And it is here, on the Pechersky Hills, that decisions are made: often complex, sometimes ineffective, sometimes unprofessional, sometimes fateful and unanimous. But these decisions correspond to the innermost state of modern Ukrainian society. This is our own experience and our own path.
2022 was the year of the death of the Soviet Union. Many were fooled into thinking that it happened in 1991. In fact, the USSR survived in a half-dismantled state until this year: it suffered a devastating blow, but it remained laying low. It started with Belarus, which never left the Soviet Union, and waited there until the Russian Federation decided to return to it. Many resources and Soviet institutional practices still remained relevant in most states of our region. Now all these resources are being actively burned, with Russia being an especially noticeable example. Its geopolitical subjectivity, inherited from the Soviet Union, is melting. Ukraine even questioned the legitimacy of the Russian Federation's membership in the UN.
How will the final death of the USSR be reflected in Ukraine? We will no longer have that post-Soviet dependence on Russia for energy, there will be no oligarchs who grew up on the "dispensation" of Soviet resources, Soviet military equipment is running out, and the old Soviet aesthetics of public spaces are being destroyed. New, modern, Ukrainian things will take their place. This is far from a complete list of what is burning in the flames of this war. Yes, perhaps we would have liked a gradual rather than a shock transition, but Russia made this choice for us, and is completing what we had not been able to fully accomplish in three decades. In perhaps the only instance where Putin didn't lie, he promised to show us real decommunization — and he is.
2022 is the year of initiation of a new political generation. This is a transit generation, which is not to everyone's liking: with its weaknesses and defects which developed in the 1990s and came of age in the early 2000s. And although this generation, like all previous ones, will still have time to make a lot of mistakes, it is the generation of an already-independent Ukraine. It has a different sort of value – although it is still corrupt, it is tempered by a different experience and appeals to other things. This is a generation that is teaching itself, Ukrainian society, and political elites to be Ukrainians and build Ukraine. They came in the last election, but right now they are proving that this was not by chance.
In 2022, the borders between Ukraine and the European Union finally collapsed, and we returned to Europe. Ukraine and Europe discovered each other, and our country has become perceived as part of the European space. Today's European teenager may not know the flags of the countries, but he will definitely be able to identify three - his country, the EU, and Ukraine. For him, Ukrainians are an integral part of a single space. He sees it this way now, and it will seem to him to have always been so. The borders of Europe moved east, up to the border with Russia.
We are gradually delineating the image of our future victory, and next year we will need to create the image of Russia's defeat. To show the world our script and pave the way to it: we must finally convince the world that Russian defeat is inevitable. After all, they now fear the collapse of the Russian Federation no less than ours. And this is the last fear that Putin profitably trades on, as all others have already been overcome this year.