The strongest change is that this is not a war between Russia and Ukraine but between Russia and NATO. My link to the NATO wars was immediate but to observe that Putin was merely doing what NATO did on several occasions before, thus finding an occasion and pretext to do so, which could also be used by other powers, prominently, China with Taiwan. It is now more clear that such a situation has been i) brought about by NATO and is ii) actively maintained and degraded by NATO. One could basically say that NATO started this war, finally succeeding in having the other side make the first step. My initial surprise, not to say shock, at Putin starting the hostility, has rescinded to the realization that war in one form or another was only a matter of time, with time playing against Russia. Putin has been in fact patient since 2014 if one considers all the diplomacy, all the warnings, all the threats that have been signaled by Russia who drew a clear red line, and would he have let the situation worsen further still, he might have been in a situation where his only remaining move would have been the last possible one: nuclear deterrence. It is possible that he—or his successor, as his aging and retirement is probably a factor for the timing—would thus have had to recognize defeat and surrender completely, finding the homeland or personal pressure too strong to, admittedly, nuke the planet. By surrender, I mean let NATO or the Occident make the first military move, on any pretext whatsoever, even as futile as protection of gay rights or transgender identity, to submit Russia to occidental leadership. A deeper analysis of the historical precedents and geopolitical situation, such as that by Asselineau (in French), shows that the situation and ongoing politics in Ukraine were doomed to trigger a frontal conflict of some sort with Russia. Any opinion not constrained by ideology has to recognize that the situation is much more complex and balanced than any of the past conflicts impulsed by the Occident throughout the world, and that this move in Ukraine is not a made-up problem to pretext a territorial annexation, and certainly not a whim from Putin himself, but a direct, albeit distance, consequence from the cold war. Hear for instance Eduard Limonov, once described by the Guardian as Putin's worst nightmare, speak about this situation in 1992:
Second, but in a direct line, my belief that Putin was committing a mistake in starting the war, evolved to think that he will probably come out victorious, and, if not NATO, at least Europe will come out losing. The sanctions enforced on Russia will result in its emancipation while, on the other hand, they will result in considerable and near-term difficulties for Europe's economy, and possibly cause a financial crash and societal uprising. I also increasingly wonder if this is not the ultimate goal from the Occident, to precipitate a collapse of its economy and society, so as to achieve a transition from increasingly dysfunctional democracies, to an authoritarian, centralized and globalized type of government. In the worst-case scenario, there will even be restrictions on how we live. It might be that there is a will for a "great reset" indeed, of what we eat, how much we heat, how far we drive, how often we go out, etc. It is likely that we will live through restrictions that most of us had never even thought possible. I remember my parents stocking non-perishable food. We will probably have to experience what they dreaded: having no food to give our children, who have known nor even conceived privations. We try to preserve our kids as much as we can from these waves of nonsense: first covid, now a war. Of course, at some point, they will be victims like all the others, starting with having no milk, no fruits or vegetables, being cold at home, maybe living with no electricity. Who knows where this stops? I hope it won't get to the point of warfare in our streets. Do we really want to sacrifice our safety, that of our children, our future, our way of life, to decide which side has the moral right to commit atrocities?
Third, I was correlating the duration of the military intervention to its success, and not imagining that Russia could badly fail, was thinking, or at least hoping, for a rapid resolution, lest it would deteriorate badly. It was clear that we were going into long-term geopolitical disruptions in any case, but the military intervention would not stall. It was my strong belief that the longer the operation would take, the more of a defeat it would be for Putin, the more costly for him, more difficult to justify, more pressing the international reprobation and more likely to degenerate it would become. I was probably too young to remember that when NATO bombed Yugoslavia, exactly 23 years ago today, its intervention lasted 78 days. Besides, it was unhampered and took no precautions. I now think that Russia has more control of the situation than it seems, at all levels: military and diplomatic. They do not bomb to coerce into submission but actually made a ground invasion from day one, and fight, as already observed, not Ukrainian battalions, but NATO in disguise, which provides funds, military material, ammunitions and certainly strategical support and intel. In this case, the Russian intervention is certainly not showing any obvious signs of failing, although there is indeed much credence given by the Western media to the operation being a military venture turned into a complete catastrophe. It now appears that time is not an issue to achieve the goals, that support for Russia instead increases at the international level, with developing cooperations with China, India, Brasil, Africa and other places. Even close allies of the Occident like Japan or Korea failed to follow in the magnitude and earnestly of their "sanctions". My fear of possible nuclear escalation has, in the wake of this understanding, tampered down.
Now what feelings have been reinforced?
The main confirmation is that bad faith and hypocrisy are sky-rocketing, including conformism and virtue-signaling from the general population. All of a sudden, it became a top priority to care for those afflicted by a conflict, we have to send money to fund pro-Ukraine associations, manifest our support in the streets, host refugees, proclaim our sadness at existence and incapacity to live a normal life anymore because there is a war in Ukraine, as if there wasn't before. The passion is so high that there is no sacrifice we should not be ready to make to manifest this adhesion, including ruining the economy or even endangering our own security and that of the rest of the World. The anti-Russian feeling that prevailed in Ukraine was the first to globalize, with sanctions extended to Russian nationals living abroad, even those against the war, on the sole account of, sometimes, their name or birth. In parallel, indefectible admiration of everything Ukrainian must be professed, or, when too obnoxious, ignored, disregarded as fake news or belittled. This includes racial apologies connected to far-right ideologies, or people tied to poles and flogged in the streets, which has been described as proud Ukrainian civilians having fought back with the unique punishment. In unconditional and continuous support, people now not only put little Ukrainian flags on their social media, many also actually arbor it as their profile picture. Even for covid, I hadn't seen people put a syringe as their avatar. All this would be good and well if it was genuine or, which is even worse, would not be the result of people expressing true feelings because they have been instructed to do so by the media. How is such a posture even possible when there is Palestine? Or, if you find a way out of the Palestinian situation, how is that possible when there is, say, Afghanistan, in war with everything and everybody since 1978, with the Soviets until 1989, then with themselves for three consecutive civil wars, until 2001, at which point NATO invaded and war raged for 20 years. With Talibans now in command again, the bloodshed has returned to some sort of civil war again and is looking forward to getting its next episode with Iran. This never-ending conflict caused over two-millions casualties and shows no sign of ever improving, in one direction or the other. If there is one place that one can forget about, it's Kabul, let alone to cross the Salang pass. If we can't live with Russia intervening to protect its ethnic minority in its historical lands, how can we live with that literal hell on Earth? Madeleine Albright died yesterday, by the way. In memory of her "work", let us remind the full assurance with which, upon being queried, tongue-in-cheek, whether the "price" of half a million children having died was "worth it", she replied in cold blood: "we think that the price is worth it". Of all the people who complain about Putin being an evil and cruel dictator, how many have actually listened to any of his various discourses on the Ukrainian situation? My experience is that people have spared themselves the luxury of listening to all sides before forming an opinion. I have listened, several times, his speeches on the matter, made throughout the years since 2014. Here is the one before the military intervention:
Now you tell me how much is factually wrong, and how much is revulsing and make you want to puke, as is doubtlessly the case when you listen to some of the American narratives on how "it's worth it" (see also Hillary Clinton's we came, we saw, he died speaking of a man raped to death). Besides the conclusion of Putin's address, which is fierce and threatening in tone as befits a declaration of war, does it not inspire, if not more sympathy, at least more credibility, than, say, George Bush's axis of evil rhetorics?
Now let us compare with the other side, for instance with this recent address by Zelenski to the US congress, with standing ovation and all, where he calls for a global government in the form of "an association, U-24, United For Peace, a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflict immediately, provide all the necessary assistance in 24 hours, if necessary, even weapons, if necessary, sanctions, humanitarian support, political support, finances — everything you need to keep the peace and quickly save the world, to save lives":
The inserted video with violins and shots of dead babies is a necessary touch for those who would get tired of a discourse, however exuberant and patriotic it can be. Putin comes with geopolitical arguments, balance of power, cold and nuclear wars. Zelensky replies with Holywood rhetorics, vaccines to save lives and a club of the good guys to lead the World towards Pax Americana. Here is an extract from the English spoken part, near the conclusion, where he calls for the US—since they "keep the planet alive and keep justice in history"—to become the leader of the World:
Today, the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine; we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future. That’s why today, the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe and the world to keep the planet alive, to keep justice in history. Now, I’m almost 45 years old. Today my age stopped when the heart of more than 100 children stopped beating. I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths. And this is my main mission as the leader of my people, brave Ukrainians, and as the leader of my nation, I’m addressing the President Biden. You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.
Zelenski is good in his role: the actor. He is, after all, a comedian. But even giving him the credit of a predestined reconversion, who can take him seriously when he is lamenting that he sees no sense in life anymore if he cannot stop the deaths, at the same as he is calling for a direct, frontal attack against the two major military powers over the very heads of those he pretends to be caring for? Aren't children casualties in Donetsk equally heartbreaking? It is true that he is acting president since 2019 only, and that he made apparently sincere attempts at improving the Donbas situation that culminated under nightmarish proportion under Poroshenko. Politicians are so corrupt and bad at their job that anybody else from outside their establishment will likely do a much better job, and that was indeed the case with Zelenski, the Servant of the People whose wildest dream became reality. But still, his reliance on the Occident's governmentship and its military retaliation are not speaking in his favor. He will, doubtlessly, remain famous, but so far, mainly for being the first internet war leader, using social media as a direct weapon, with fairly good success to date; just compare his tee-shirt, unshaved footage with Putin's convening with his closest, most trusted counsels, including Lavrov, at the other extreme of an unending table:
Great photo shoots don't make, obviously, actual political and strategical decisions better, but they certainly help in the collective apprehension of the situation to form an image of who is the good guy, the victim, the hero and who is the deluded, dangerous and guilty maniac, regardless of the weight of the facts and History.
Finally, what remains my most strongly held, and still firmly adhered-to opinion, is that there should have been an immediate return to diplomatic discussions and an unconditional ceasefire by refusing to confront in a futile resistance the progression of the Russian army, backed up by a genuine will of supposed external parties to mediate and ultimately come to an agreement. This would have been the best option, and failure to have done so, to enter instead into a deadly and long-lasting military operation, will definitely lead to many and dire consequences, at least for Ukraine, certainly for Russia too, probably for Europe, possibly for the World.