From special operation to full-scale war
Russia has changed its paradigm from realism to the Theory of a Multipolar World, has directly rejected liberalism in all its forms, and has directly challenged modern Western civilization, openly denying it the right to be universal.
A year has passed since the start of Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine. It began precisely as a Special Military Operation, it is clear today that Russia has found itself in a full-fledged and difficult war. The war not so much with Ukraine - as a regime, not with a people (hence the demand for political denazification was put forward initially), but first of all with the "collective West", that is, in fact, with the NATO bloc (except for the special position of Turkey and Hungary, seeking to remain neutral in the conflict - the remaining NATO countries take part in the war on the side of Ukraine one way or another).
This year of war shattered many illusions that all sides of the conflict had.
The West was wrong in its calculations
The West, hoping for the effectiveness of an avalanche of sanctions against Russia and its almost complete cut-off from the part of the world economy, politics, and diplomacy controlled by the United States and its allies, did not succeed. The Russian economy has held its own, there have been no internal protests, and Putin's position has not only not wavered, but has only grown stronger. Russia could not be coerced into stopping military operations, attacking Ukraine's military-technical infrastructure, or withdrawing decisions to annex new entities. There was no uprising of the oligarchs, whose assets were seized in the West, either. Russia survived, even though the West seriously believed that it would fall.
From the very beginning of the conflict, Russia, realizing that relations with the West were crumbling, made a sharp turn toward non-Western countries - especially China, Iran, Islamic countries, but also India, Latin America and Africa - clearly and contrastingly declaring its determination to build a multipolar world. In part, Russia before tried already to strengthen its sovereignty, but with hesitation, not consistently, constantly returning to attempts to integrate itself into the global West. Now this illusion has finally dissipated, and Moscow simply has no way out but to plunge headlong into building a multipolar world order. It has already achieved certain results, but here we are at the very beginning of the way.
The Russian plans were drastically changed
However, in Russia itself, everything did not go the way it was supposed to. Apparently, the plan was not to wait for Ukraine to attack Donbass and then Crimea, which was being prepared during the Minsk agreements with the active support of the globalist elites of the West - Soros, Nuland, Biden himself and his cabinet – but to strike a swift and deadly preemptive blow against Ukraine, rush to besiege Kiev and force Zelensky’s regime to capitulate. After that, Moscow planned to bring a moderate politician (someone like Medvedchuk) to power, and begin to restore relations with the West (as it happened after the reunification with Crimea). No significant economic, political, or social reforms were planned. Everything was supposed to remain exactly as before.
However, it all went very wrong. After the first real successes, huge miscalculations in the strategic planning of the entire operation became apparent. The peaceful mood of the army, the elite, and society, unprepared for a serious confrontation - neither with the Ukrainian regime, nor with the collective West - had its impact on the development of the situation. The offensive stalled, encountering desperate and fierce resistance from an adversary with unprecedented support from the NATO military machine. The Kremlin probably did not take into account either the psychological readiness of the Ukrainian Nazis to fight to the last Ukrainian, or the scale of Western military aid.
In addition, we did not take into account the effects of eight years of intensive propaganda, which forcibly inculcated Russophobia and extreme hysterical nationalism in Ukrainian society day in and day out. While in 2014, the overwhelming majority of eastern Ukraine (Novorossiya) and half of Central Ukraine were positively disposed toward Russia, although not as radically as residents of Crimea and Donbass, in 2022 this balance has changed. The level of hatred toward Russians has significantly increased, and pro-Russian sympathies have been violently suppressed, often through direct repression, violence, torture and beatings. In any case, Moscow's active supporters in Ukraine became passive and intimidated, while those who hesitated before sided finally with Ukrainian neo-Nazism, encouraged in every possible way by the West (I think for purely pragmatic and geopolitical purposes).
Only a year later, Moscow finally realized that this was not a Special Military Operation, but a full-fledged war.
Ukraine performed relatively well
Ukraine was more ready for Russia's actions than anyone else, as it began talking about them in 2014, when Moscow had no even remote intentions of expanding the conflict, and reunification with Crimea seemed quite sufficient. If the Kiev regime was surprised by anything, it was precisely Russia's military failures that followed its initial successes. This greatly boosted the morale of a society already saturated with rabid Russophobia and exalted nationalism. At some point, Ukraine decided to fight Russia in earnest to the very end. Kiev, given the enormous military aid from the West, believed in the possibility of victory, and this became a very significant factor for the Ukrainian psychology.
The great disaster for Russian pro-Western elite
But the biggest surprise of all was the very beginning of the Special Military Operation for the Russian liberal pro-Western elite. This elite was deeply integrated into the Western world on an individual level, most kept their savings (sometimes gigantic) in the West and actively participated in securities transactions and stock market games. The Special Military Operation actually put this elite under a direct threat of total ruin. And in Russia itself, this habitual practice began to be perceived as a betrayal of national interests. Therefore, Russian liberals, until the last moment, did not believe that the Special Military Operation would begin, and when it happened, counted the days when it would end. Having turned into a long and protracted war with an uncertain outcome, the Special Military Operation was a disaster for the entire liberal segment of the ruling class. Until now, some are making desperate attempts to stop the war (on any terms), but neither Putin, nor the masses, nor Kiev, nor even the West, would accept it. The West has noticed the weakness of Russia, somewhat bogged down in the conflict, and along with Kiev will go all the way in its supposed destabilization.
Hesitating allies and Russian loneliness
Russia's friends and allies were also partly disappointed by the first year of the Special Military Operation. Many probably thought our military capabilities were so substantial and well-tuned that the conflict with Ukraine should have been resolved relatively easily, and the transition to a multipolar world seemed for many already irreversible and natural, while the problems Russia faced along the way brought everyone back to a more problematic and bloody scenario.
It turned out that the liberal elites of the West were ready to fight seriously and desperately to preserve their unipolar hegemony, up to the likelihood of a full-scale war with direct NATO participation and even a full-fledged nuclear conflict. China, India, Turkey and other Islamic countries, as well as African and Latin American states, were hardly ready for such a turnaround. It is one thing to get closer to a peaceful Russia, quietly strengthening its sovereignty and building non-Western (but also not anti-Western!) regional and interregional structures, and it is something else to enter into a frontal conflict with the West. Therefore, with all the tacit support of the partisans of multipolarity (and above all thanks to the friendly policy of great China), Russia was left in this war with the West, in fact, alone.
All this became obvious a year after the start of the Special Military Operation.
The phases of war: Beginning
The first year of this war had several phases. In each of them many things changed in Russia, in Ukraine, and in the world community.
The first abrupt phase of Russian success, during which Russian troops passed Sumy and Chernihov from the north and reached Kiev, was met with a barrage of fury in the West. Russia proved its seriousness in liberating the Donbass, and with a swift rush from Crimea established control over two more regions, Kherson and Zaporozhye. This phase lasted for the first two months. In a situation of demonstrable successes, Moscow was ready for negotiations that would consolidate military gains with political ones. Kiev also reluctantly agreed to negotiations.
2nd phase: The failure of impossible peace talks
But then the second phase began. Here the military and strategic miscalculations in the planning of the operation made themselves felt in full measure. The offensive stalled, and in some directions Russia was forced to retreat from its positions. Russia tried to gain something by peace talks in Turkey. But failed.
Negotiations became meaningless because Kiev felt that it could resolve the conflict by military tools in its favor. From then on, the West, having prepared public opinion with the furious Russophobia of the first phase, began to supply Ukraine with all forms of lethal weapons on an unprecedented scale.
3rd phase: Stalemate № 1
In the summer of 2022, the situation began to stalemate, although Russia had some success in some areas. The second phase lasted until August. During this period the contradiction between the initial idea of Special Military Operation as a rapid and fast set of precise military strikes, which should have soon entered the political phase, and the need to conduct combat operations against a heavily armed enemy, which had logistical, intelligence, technological, communications, and political support from the entire West, became apparent in its entirety. And now the front was of enormous length.
Meanwhile, Moscow tried to continue to lead the Special Military Operation according to the original scenario without wishing to disturb society as a whole or address the people directly. This created a contradiction in the sentiments at the front and at home, and led to disagreements in the military command. The Russian leadership did not want to let the war inside society, postponing in every way the imperative of partial mobilization, which had become overdue by that time.
During this period, Kiev and the West in general turned to terrorist tactics - killing civilians in Russia itself, blowing up the Crimean bridge, and blowing up the Nord Stream gas pipelines.
4th phase: Ukraine counterattacks
Thus we entered Phase 4, which was marked by a counteroffensive by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Kharkov region, which to this time had already partially passed under Russian control. The Ukrainians' attacks on the rest of the front also intensified, and the mass delivery of HIMARS units and the supply of the secured satellite communications system Starlink to Ukrainian troops, in combination with a number of other military and technical means, created serious problems for the Russian army, for which it was not prepared. The retreat in the Kharkov region, the loss of Kupyansk and even the town of Krasnyy Liman in the DNR was the result of initial “half-war”. It was at this point that the Special Military Operation turned into a full-fledged war. More precisely, this transformation was finally realized in earnest in the Russian upper echelons.
5th phase: Partial awakening of Russia
These failures were followed by the fifth phase that changed the course of the events. The announcement of partial mobilization, the reshuffling of the military leadership, the creation of the Coordinating Council on Special Operations, the transfer of the military industry to a tougher regime, the tightening of penalties for failure to fulfill the state defense order, and so on. The culmination of this phase was the referendum on accession to Russia in four subjects - the DNR, the LNR, and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, Putin's decision to let them join Russia, and his fundamental ideological speech on this occasion on September 30, in which he stated, for the first time, with all frankness, Russia's opposition to Western liberal hegemony, its complete and irreversible determination to build a multipolar world, and the beginning of the acute phase of the war of civilizations, in which the modern civilization of the West was declared “satanic”.
In his later Valdai speech, Putin reiterated and developed the main theses. Although Russia was already forced to surrender Kherson after that, while still in retreat, the attacks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces were stopped, the defense of the controlled borders was strengthened and the war entered a new phase. As the next step of escalation, Russia began regular destruction of Ukraine's military-technical and sometimes even energy infrastructure with unstoppable missile-bombing strikes.
6th phase: New equilibrium -- Stalemate № 2
But gradually the front stabilized and a new stalemate developed. Now none of the adversaries could turn the tide. Russia has reinforced itself with a mobilized reserve. Moscow supported the volunteers and especially the Wagner “group”, which managed to achieve significant success in turning the tide in the local theaters of war.
This phase has lasted until now. It is characterized by a relative balance of power. Both sides cannot achieve decisive and decisive successes in this state. But Moscow, Kiev and Washington are ready to continue the confrontation for as long as it is necessary.
Use of nuclear weapons: last arguments
The seriousness of Russia's confrontation with the West has raised the question of the likelihood of this conflict escalating to a nuclear one. The use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) and Strategic Nuclear Weapons (SNWs) was discussed at all levels, from governments to the media. Since we were already talking about a full-fledged war between Russia and the West, such a prospect ceased to be purely theoretical and became an argument that is increasingly mentioned by various parties to the conflict.
A few comments should be made in this regard.
Despite the fact that the actual state of affairs in nuclear technology is deeply classified, and no one can be entirely sure how things really are in this area, it is believed (and probably not without reason) that Russia's nuclear capabilities, as well as the means to use them through missiles, submarines and other ways, are sufficient to destroy the United States and NATO countries. At the moment, NATO does not have sufficient means to protect itself from a potential Russian nuclear strike. Therefore, in case of an emergency, Russia can resort to this last argument. Putin outlined what he meant by this: Essentially, if Russia faces a direct military defeat at the hands of NATO countries and their allies, occupation and loss of sovereignty, Russia can use nuclear weapons.
Nuclear sovereignty: only two instances
At the same time, Russia also lacks air defense equipment that would reliably protect it from a US nuclear strike. Consequently, the outbreak of a full-scale nuclear conflict, no matter who strikes first, will almost certainly be a nuclear apocalypse and the destruction of humanity, and possibly the entire planet. Nuclear weapons - especially in view of SNWs - cannot be used effectively by only one of the parties. The second would respond, and it would be enough for humanity to burn in nuclear fire. Obviously, the very fact of possessing nuclear weapons means that in a critical situation they can be used by sovereign rulers - that is, by the highest authorities in the United States and Russia. Hardly anyone else is capable of influencing such a decision on global suicide. That is the point of nuclear sovereignty. Putin has been quite frank about the terms of the use of nuclear weapons. Obviously, Washington has its own views on the problem, but it is clear that in response to a hypothetical strike from Russia, it too will have to respond symmetrically.
Could it come to that? I think it could.
Nuclear Red Lines
If the use of SNW is almost certainly the end of humanity, it will only be used if red lines are crossed. This time, very serious ones. The West ignored the first red lines that Russia identified before the start of the Special Military Operation, being convinced that Putin was bluffing. The West was convinced of this, partly being disinformed by the Russian liberal elite, which refused to believe in the seriousness of Putin's intentions. But these intentions should be treated very carefully.
So, for Moscow the red lines, crossing which would be fraught with the beginning of a nuclear war, are quite obvious, and they sound like this: A critical defeat in the war in Ukraine with the direct and intensive involvement of the United States and NATO countries in the conflict. We were on the threshold of this in the 4th phase of the Special Military Operation, when, in fact, everyone was talking about TNWs and SNWs. Only some successes of the Russian army relying on conventional means of arms and warfare defused the situation to some extent. But, of course, they have not removed it completely. For Russia, the issue of nuclear confrontation will be removed from the agenda for good only after it achieves full victory. We will talk a little later about what that victory will consist of.
The West has no reasons at all to use nuclear weapons
For the United States and NATO, in the situation where they are, there is no motivation at all to use nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. They would only be used in response to a Russian nuclear attack, which would not happen without a fundamental reason (i.e. without a serious – or even fatal -- threat of a military strike). Even if one imagines that Russia would take control of all of Ukraine, that would not bring the US any closer to the red lines. In a sense, the US has already achieved a lot in its confrontation with Russia: It derailed a peaceful and smooth transition to multipolarity, cut Russia off from the Western world and condemned it to partial isolation, succeeded in demonstrating a certain weakness of Russia in the military and technical sphere, imposed serious sanctions, contributed to the deterioration of Russia's image among those who were its real or potential allies, updated its own military and technical arsenal, and tried out new technologies in real-life situations. If Russia can be beaten by other means, rather than by mutual extermination, the collective West will be more than happy to do so. By any means, except nuclear. In other words, the position of the West is such that they don't have any motives to be the first who will use nuclear weapons against Russia, even in the distant future. But Russia does.
But here everything depends on the West. If Russia is not driven to a dead end, this can easily be avoided. Russia will destroy humanity only if Russia itself is brought to the brink of destruction.
Kiev: this figure is doomed in any case
Finally, there is Kiev. Kiev is in a very difficult situation. Zelensky has already once asked his Western partners and patrons to launch a nuclear strike against Russia after a Ukrainian missile fell on Polish territory. What was his idea?
The fact is that Ukraine is doomed in this war from all points of view. Russia cannot lose, because its red line is its defeat. Then everyone will lose.
The collective West, even if it loses something, has already gained a great deal, and no critical threat to the European countries of NATO, let alone the United States itself, comes from Russia. Everything else that is said in this regard is pure propaganda.
But Ukraine in this situation - in which it has found itself several times in its history, between the hammer and the anvil, between the Empire (white or red) and the West - is doomed. The Russians will not make any concessions after all, and will stand until victory. A victory for Moscow would mean the complete defeat of Kiev's pro-Western Nazi regime. And as a national sovereign state, there will be no Ukraine even in the distant future. And it is in this situation that Zelensky, in partial imitation of Putin, is ready to “press the nuclear button”. Since there will be no Ukraine, it is necessary to destroy humanity. In principle, it is fashionable to understand this, it is quite in the logic of terrorist thinking. The only thing is that he has no red button, because Ukraine has no sovereignty – neither nuclear nor else.
Asking the US and NATO to commit global suicide in the name of Ukrainian “nezalezhnost”, i.e “independence” (which is nothing more than a fiction) is naive, to say the least. Weapons yes, money yes, media support, yes of course, political support, yes. But nuclear?
The answer is too obvious to give. How can one seriously believe that Washington, no matter how fanatical the supporters of globalism, unipolarity and maintaining hegemony at any cost, are ruling there today, will go to the destruction of humanity for the sake of Ukrainian Nazi war cry "Glory to the Heroes!" Even by losing all of Ukraine, the West does not lose much, and Kiev's Nazi regime and its dreams of world greatness will, of course, collapse.
In other words, Kiev's red lines should not be taken seriously. Zelensky acts like a real terrorist. He has taken a whole country hostage and threatens to destroy humanity.
The end of the war: Russia's goals
After a year of war in Ukraine, it is absolutely clear that Russia cannot lose in it. This is an existential challenge: to be or not to be a country, a state, a people? It is not about acquiring disputed territories or about the balance of security. It was a year ago. Things are much more acute now. Russia cannot lose, and crossing this red line again refers us to the bringing dawn of the nuclear apocalypse. On this issue everyone should be clear: This is not just Putin's decision, but the logic of the entire historical path of Russia, which at all stages has fought against falling into dependence on the West - be it the Teutonic Order, Catholic Poland, bourgeois Napoleon, racist Hitler or the modern globalists. Russia will be either free or nothing at all will be.
Now we need to consider, what is victory for Russia? There are three options here.
The minimum scale of victory for Russia could, under certain circumstances, consist of putting all the territories of the 4 new entities - the DNR, LNR, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions - under full Russian control. In parallel with this disarmament of Ukraine and full guarantees of its neutral status for the foreseeable future. Meantime, Kiev has to recognize and accept the actual state of affairs. With this, the peace process can begin.
However, such a scenario is very unlikely. The Kiev regime's relative successes in the Kharkov region have given Ukrainian nationalists hope that they can defeat Russia. Their fierce resistance in Donbass demonstrates their intention to stand till the end, reverse the course of the campaign, and go on a counteroffensive again - against all new subjects of the Russian Federation, including Crimea. And there is almost no chance that the current authorities in Kiev would agree to such a fixation of the status quo.
For the West, however, this would be the best solution, as a pause in hostilities could be used as the Minsk agreements to further militarize Ukraine. Ukraine itself - even without these areas - remains a huge territory, and the question of neutral status would be fashionably confused in ambiguous terms.
Moscow understands all this; Washington understands it somewhat worse. And the current leadership of Kiev does not want to understand it at all.
Middle victory: Liberation of Novorossia
The middle version of victory for Russia would be the liberation of the entire territory of historical Novorossiya, which includes Crimea, 4 new subjects of Russian Federation and three more regions - Kharkov, Odessa and Nikolaev (with parts of Dnepropetrovskaya oblast’ and Poltava). This would complete the logical division of Ukraine into Eastern and Western parts, which have different histories, identities and geopolitical orientations. Such a solution would be acceptable to Russia and would certainly be perceived as a very real victory, completing what was started, and then interrupted, in 2014.
It would also suit the West, whose strategic plans would be most sensitive to the loss of the port city of Odessa. But even that is not so crucial, due to the presence of other Black Sea ports - Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey of the three NATO countries (not potential, but actual members of the Alliance).
It is clear that such a scenario is categorically unacceptable to Kiev, although a caveat should be made here. It is categorically unacceptable for the current regime and the current military-strategic situation. If it comes to the full successful liberation of the four new subjects of the Federation and the subsequent expansion of Russian troops to the borders of the three new regions, both the Ukrainian army and the psychological state of the population, the economic potential and the political regime of Zelensky itself will be in a very different state. The infrastructure of the economy will continue to be destroyed by Russian strikes, and defeats on the fronts will lead a society, already exhausted and bleeding from the war, to complete despondency. Perhaps there will be a different government in Kiev, and it cannot be ruled out that there will also be a change of government in Washington, where any realist ruler will certainly reduce the scale of support for Ukraine, simply by soberly calculating the national interests of the United States without a fanatical belief in globalization. Trump is a living example that this is quite possible and not far beyond the realm of probability.
In a mid-victory situation, that is, the complete liberation of Novorossia, it would be extremely beneficial for Kiev and for the West to move to peace agreements in order to preserve the rest of Ukraine. A new State could be established that would not have the current restrictions and obligations, and could become - gradually - a bulwark to encircle Russia. To save at least the rest of Ukraine, the Novorossiya project would be quite acceptable and in the long run would be rather beneficial to the collective West - including for future confrontation with sovereign Russia.
Full victory: Complete liberation of Ukraine
Finally, a complete victory for Russia would be to liberate the entire territory of Ukraine from the control of the pro-Western Nazi regime and recreate the historical unity of both the state of the Eastern Slavs and the great Eurasian power. Then multipolarity would have been irreversibly established, and we would have turned human history upside down.
In addition, only such a victory would make it possible to fully implement the goals set at the outset - denazification and demilitarization, because without full control of the militarized and Nazified territory, this cannot be achieved.
But even under this option, the West would not have suffered critical damage in a military-strategic and even more so in an economic sense. Russia would have remained cut off from the West and demonized. Its influence on Europe would be reduced to zero, if not to minus. The Atlantic community would have been more consolidated than ever in the face of such a dangerous enemy, and Russia, excluded from the collective West and cut off from technology and new networks, would have inside herself a huge mass of population that was not entirely loyal, if not hostile, and whose integration into a single social structure would require an extraordinary effort from an already war-weary country.
And Ukraine itself would not be under occupation, but as part of a single people, without any infringement on the ethnic basis and open to any prospects for occupying positions in government of all kinds and moving freely through entire territory of Greater Russia. If one wished, this could be seen as “annexation of Russia to Ukraine”, and the ancient capital of the Russian State would again be at the center of the Russian world, rather than on its periphery.
Naturally, in this case, peace would come by itself, and there would be no point in negotiating its terms with anyone.
This is how one should think in a balanced and objective analysis, free of any propaganda.
Changing the Russian-IR formula: From realism to the conflict of civilizations
There is one last thing worth considering when analyzing the first year of the Special Military Operation. This time it is a theoretical assessment of the transformation that the war in Ukraine has caused in the space of International Relations.
Here, we have the following picture. The Joe Biden administration, exactly like Bill Clinton, neocon George Bush Jr. and Barak Obama, is rigidly on the side of liberalism in International Relations. They see the world as global and governed by the World Government above the heads of all nation-states. Even the US itself is in their eyes nothing more than a temporary tool in the hands of a cosmopolitan world elite. Hence, the dislike and even hatred of democrats and globalists for any form of American patriotism and for the very traditional identity of Americans.
For the supporters of liberalism in international relations, any National State is an obstacle to World Government, and a strong sovereign National State that openly challenges the liberal elite is the real enemy that must be destroyed.
After the fall of the USSR, the world ceased to be bipolar and became unipolar, and the globalist elite, the adherents of liberalism in IR, seized the main levers of the management of mankind.
The defeated, dismembered Russia, as the remnant of the second pole under Yeltsin rule, accepted these rules of the game and agreed with the logic of the liberals in IR. Moscow only had to integrate into the Western world, part with its sovereignty, and start playing by its rules. The goal was to get at least some status in the future World Government, and the new oligarchic top brass did everything they could to fit into the Western world at any cost - even on an individual basis.
All universities in Russia have since this time taken the side of liberalism in the question of International Relations. Realism in IR was forgotten (even if they knew it), equated with "nationalism", and the word "sovereignty" was not uttered at all.
Everything changed in real politics (but not in education) with the arrival of Putin. Putin was a staunch realist in International Relations and a radical supporter of sovereignty. At the same time, he fully shared the opinion of universality of Western values and considered the social and scientific-technological progress of the West the only way to develop civilization. The only thing he insisted on was sovereignty. Hence the myth of his influence on Trump. It was realism that brought Putin and Trump together. Otherwise, they are very different. Realism is not against the West, it is against liberalism in International Relations and against World Government. Such is American realism, Chinese realism, European realism, Russian realism and so on.
But the unipolarity that has developed since the beginning of the 90s has turned the heads of the liberals in the International Relations. They believed that the crucial moment had arrived, history as a confrontation of ideological paradigms is over (Fukuyama's thesis) and the time has come to begin the process of unification of mankind under the World Government with new force. But to do this, residual sovereignty had to be abolished.
This line was strictly at odds with Putin's realism. Nevertheless, Putin tried to balance on the edge and maintain relations with the West at all costs. This was quite easy to do with the realist Trump, who understood Putin's will for sovereignty, but became quite impossible with the arrival of Biden in the White House. So Putin, as a realist, came to the limit of possible compromise. The collective West, led by the liberals in international relations pressed Russia harder and harder to start finally dismantling its sovereignty, rather than strengthening it.
The culmination of this conflict was the beginning of the Special Military Operation. Globalists actively supported the militarization and Nazification of Ukraine. Putin rebelled against this because he understood that the collective West was preparing for a symmetrical campaign - to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Russia itself. Liberals turned a blind eye to the rapid flowering of Russophobic neo-Nazism in Ukraine itself and, moreover, actively promoted it, contributing to its militarization as much as possible, while Russia itself was accused of the same thing - "militarism" and "Nazism," trying to equate Putin with Hitler.
Putin started the Special Military Operation as a realist, no more than that, but a year later the situation changed. It became clear that Russia is at war with the modern Western liberal civilization as a whole, with globalism and the values that the West tries to impose on everyone else. This turn in Russia's awareness of the world situation is perhaps the most important result of the Special Military Operation.
From the defense of sovereignty, the war has turned into a clash of civilizations (by the way correctly predicted by S. Huntington). And Russia no longer simply insists on independent governance, sharing Western attitudes, criteria, norms, rules and values, but acts as an independent civilization - with its own attitudes, criteria, norms, rules and values. Russia is no longer the West at all. Not a European country, but a Eurasian Orthodox civilization. This is exactly what Putin declared in his speech on September 30th on the occasion of the reception of the four new subjects, then in the Valdai speech, and repeated many times in other speeches. And finally, in Edict 809, Putin approved the foundations of a state policy to protect Russian traditional values, a set that not only differs significantly from liberalism, but in some points is the exact opposite of it.
Russia has changed its paradigm from realism to the Theory of a Multipolar World, has directly rejected liberalism in all its forms, and has directly challenged modern Western civilization, openly denying it the right to be universal.
Putin no longer believes in the West, and he explicitly calls modern Western civilization "satanic”. In that use of terms, one can easily identify a direct appeal to Orthodox eschatology and theology, as well as a hint of confrontation between the capitalist and socialist systems of the Stalin era. Today, it is true, Russia is not a socialist State. But this is the result of the defeat suffered by the USSR in the early 1990s, and Russia and other post-Soviet countries found themselves in the position of ideological and economic colonies of the global West.
Putin's entire reign until February 24, 2022 was a preparation for this decisive moment, but it used to remain within the framework of realism (the Western way of development + sovereignty, that is). Now, after a year of severe trials and terrible sacrifices that Russia has suffered, the formula has changed: sovereignty + civilizational identity, i.e. the Russian way.