Compared to previous years, in 2022, Russia’s foreign policy had its most difficult period. In an interview earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe. Russia’s subsequent invasion of Ukraine, while not as great a geopolitical catastrophe as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, caused Russia to face its biggest problems in recent years.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent occupation of the Donbas region in 2014 was considered a strategic success. Following this, Russia’s military intervention and air force operations in Syria to protect the Damascus regime in 2015 fueled talks about Russia becoming a global power. Russia’s military interventions are therefore not anything new. However, the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 damaged the perception of Russia as a global power and the Moscow administration lost prestige.
As is well known, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has led to various consequences, most of which have been to Russia’s detriment. First of all, Russia has been recognized as an aggressive power in the world. This is why Ukraine has gained the support of almost the entire world in its war against Russia. More than 50 countries, mainly members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have supported Ukraine. NATO member states have also provided military and economic support to Ukraine.
Moreover, the Kremlin has not received any support from BRICS member countries such as China, India and Brazil, which it considers as allies. These countries have even called for Russia to end the war as soon as possible. Even its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) did not approve of Russia’s use of force and did not want to send troops to Ukraine. In addition, Russia’s attempt to invade Ukraine and its territorial annexations have caused Kazakhstan to perceive Russia as a threat.
The second major negative development for Russia is its military failure in Ukraine. Russia has had to change its war strategy in Ukraine several times. Russia’s plan to take control of the whole of Ukraine in a few days and overthrow the Zelensky administration failed. Russia’s invasion attempt met with unexpected resistance from Ukrainians. Having abandoned the idea of capturing Kiev, Russia focused its attention on the southern regions of Ukraine.
In March 2022, with the failure of the diplomatic agreement reached in March, Russia launched a second invasion attempt and wanted to seize the entire south of Ukraine up to the Moldovan border. However, this plan also did not yield results and in addition to the Donbas region, which it had previously controlled, it invaded the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. In September 2022, it organized a referendum in these regions and announced its annexation. However, it was unable to move beyond these areas and was forced to adopt a defensive position in November 2022. It even had to withdraw from the Kherson region, where it held a referendum and included it in its constitution as a Russian territory.
Another negative development in terms of Russia’s war strategy was the attacks on Crimea and the strategically important Kerch Bridge, which connects Russia to the island. Crimea had not been subjected to Ukrainian aggression since 2014. However, after August 2022, Crimea began to be subjected to drone attacks, and the idea of Crimea as an “island of security” vanished. With the explosion of the Kerch Bridge, it became clear that Ukraine had no more inhibitions towards Russia. In fact, during the last three months of 2022, Ukraine began launching attacks on Russia’s internal regions, striking Russian military bases and strategic oil refineries.
In response, Russia has attacked Ukraine’s energy and other civilian infrastructure in an attempt to plunge the country into a social catastrophe. In terms of Russia’s war strategy, the last months of 2022 was focused on destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure and military capacity.
The year 2022 has also been costly for Russia from an economic point of view. The sanctions imposed on the country, especially in the energy sector, have led to a serious loss of revenue. In 2021, Russia held a leading position by dominating 40% of the European natural gas market, but by December 2022, its share had fallen by 90%. European countries have cut their natural gas purchases from Russia beyond the amount they need.
In mid-2022, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe, leading to an energy crisis not only in Europe but also in the world. One of the aims of Moscow’s gas cut-off is to end European support for Ukraine. However, while this development caused headaches for the West, it did not yield the results Russia expected. Europe was able to prepare for winter by buying the natural gas it needed from the Middle East, North Africa, and the USA. In addition to this, the Nord Stream-1 and Nord Stream-2 gas pipelines were blown up, essentially ending Russia’s energy cooperation with Europe. Russia, the dominant player in Europe’s natural gas market, has been completely excluded from this market within a year.
A similar situation has also occurred due to oil resources. Europe has gradually reduced its purchases of Russian oil and on December 5, 2022, it completely stopped the purchase of Russian oil arriving by sea. The G7 countries also imposed a cap price of 60 dollars per barrel on countries that will buy oil from Russia by sea. Those who did not comply were threatened with sanctions. Thus, Russia has completely lost its natural gas and oil market in Europe. Although Russia has found alternative energy markets to Europe, it has reached the point of trading its oil exports at a loss by December 2022. In addition, Russia’s accounts and assets in Western banks worth around 300 billion dollars were seized. This decision by the West undermined Russia’s ability to finance the war.
As Western pressure on Russia continues, the Ukrainian army has been better militarized. According to Russian statements, the USA and its Western allies provided Ukraine with approximately 50 billion dollars worth of arms support in 2022. In December 2022, as part of the 2023 budget adopted, the USA decided to provide Ukraine with an additional 45 billion dollars in aid. This move by the USA shows that Russia’s request to the West not to arm Ukraine is not being taken seriously. The West wants to turn the war in Ukraine into a war of attrition.
In conclusion, Russia is being isolated from the world. The West wants Russia to be economically and militarily weakened. Based on this information, it is possible to forecast that 2023 will be a difficult year for Russia, similar to 2022.