Three major issues dominated 2023: the conflict in Ukraine, the economy and the conflict in Palestine. The first two upheavals began in 2022, the third in 2023. In all three cases, developments brought about a head-on collision with largely concealed realities. A mental universe built on myths, fantasies, fables, “alternative facts”, and “narratives”, not to mention crass ignorance, self-delusion, and conceit, smashed against the reef of the real world. The shock was brutal, akin to a hard landing, and devastating for the storytelling in which the West has become accustomed to wallowing. It has now become harder to engage in wishful thinking!

“Bringing Russia to its knees in the short term”: which “talking head” or hack writer will today claim responsibility for the US propaganda and the other rubbish he or she spouted in the mainstream media (and with their support) on prime time or in full newspaper columns? “Economic crisis”: it did happen, but in the West, not in Russia where the war-mongers wanted to see it. “Burial of the Palestinian question”: where are the champions of the “Abrahamic” agreements that were supposed to bring Israel and the Arab countries together in an unnatural union, reducing the Palestinians to oblivion?

Reality reclaims its rights; chase it away with smoke and mirrors, and it surges back as a “surprise”. It is easy to imagine, and even easier to spread fantasies when one has the heavy artillery of the Western media at hand. Spinning tales feeds on itself, in an escalation of mythomania bordering on exaltation and delirium. Everything goes smoothly as long as the truth can be suppressed. The mechanism breaks down when tangible facts, with bad taste, spoil the celebration by showing up to remind of their existence. The shock is incomprehensible, the awakening rude, the disappointment demoralizing, the sobering painful, for partygoers who have overconsumed substances produced by their imagination.

Ukraine: Coming out of Self-Intoxication

Following the carousing of 2022 came the hangover in 2023. Using Ukraine as an accessory, the USA/NATO was supposed to make Russia bite the dust in a proxy war on Ukrainian territory. Weak, bumbling, disorganized, politically fragile, deindustrialized, a mere “gas station” (according to John McCain), it would be an easy mouthful for a rich, powerful, armed West with unlimited propaganda capacity. The Russian population would not put up with an embargo (“sanctions”) “the likes of which the world has never seen”, would blame its government (and not the West) for its suffering, would rise up as one to demand Putin’s head in a grandiose “color revolution”, making the Kiev Maydan (2014) look like a modest hors-d’oeuvre on a plump neoconservative menu, put in charge of Russia a Western puppet who would hand over the country’s Ali Baba’s cave of raw materials to his sponsors and, for good measure, implement the neocons’ cherished dream of a Russia fragmented into 13 powerless states at the mercy of the USA/NATO.

It turned out that the Russians, who were said to have been reduced to using any scrap metal found in rubbish dumps, had lethal artillery, precise missiles of all ranges, devastating Lancet drones and shells in unsuspected quantities, to such an extent that Western arsenals have been emptied in an attempt to cope with them. No attention has been paid in the West to the fact that Kiev successively lost two armies to numerically inferior Russian forces, that it won no pitched battles, that it lost all urban battles, that it only took back bits of territory that the Russians had evacuated to tighten their lines, that the bulk of Russian forces was not even committed. How is it that military professionals, in principle more knowledgeable than the propaganda mouthpieces, did not see the meaning of all this?

With failure following the failure of Kiev’s troops on the battlefield (the “meat grinder”), the belief was nurtured that the next miracle weapon supplied by the USA/NATO would fall to Russia. From Himars and Caesar guns to SCALP/Storm Shadow cruise missiles, Leopard, Challenger, and Abrams tanks, hope rests now on F-16 aircraft, representing the 6th or 7th act of faith in a Wunderwaffe that would bring Russia to its knees. Let Ukraine supply more warm human bodies and the West will arm and finance them. But there’s a shortage of grown-up men; teenagers, older men, and women are now recruited. No government, no token “expert” and no pro-US mainstream columnist ponders the fact that Russia has countered all these weapons. The image of the charred, smoking Leopard carcasses remains emblematic of the real military situation. No Atlanticism spokesperson reflects on the fact that Russia has the best air defense in the world, or that the S300 and S400 are specifically designed to knock aircraft like the F-16 out of the sky.

Nobody wonders how a country with “no industry” can produce combat aircraft and weapons systems that compare favorably with anything the rest of the world possesses, and how Russia was able to take the lead in hypersonic weaponry, nuclear-powered missiles, underwater drones, electronic jamming, etc., while the US is still at the testing stage (unsuccessfully, incidentally). Ignorant of history, contemporary Russophobes fail to remember that they are not the first to despise Russia and be “surprised” by its real capabilities and by the resilience of the Russian population. Napoleon and Hitler were forerunners of the same blindness that afflicts the US/NATO today.

In addition to the fanciful calculations of Western governments and “strategic” think tanks encouraging Ukrainians to throw themselves into a disastrous battle (“Ukraine is winning”), there is surely an unprecedented degree of cynicism. Perhaps not so foolish as to believe that Ukraine could win against Russia, they could have knowingly sacrificed Ukrainians as cannon fodder to bleed and slaughter Russia. Before the Ukrainian people and the world, the responsibility for such a Machiavellian design, for the instrumentalization of Ukraine, and the whole anti-Russian adventure unleashed since the coup in Kiev in 2014 will remain heavy before history.

The final hope was the “counter-offensive” launched by Kiev in June 2023 and stillborn under Russian fire. The best troops, recently trained by NATO, were wasted in an attack that led to the destruction of a third Ukrainian army. The best units were cut to pieces without even getting close to the first of three Russian defensive lines. Even the most inebriated could not help but notice the rout. Illusions fell apart. An embarrassed silence replaced the bluster and the din. A few neocon hotheads earn a smile as they try to convince themselves that there is a “stalemate” or that the situation is a “draw”. Of a different nature, unpleasant facts from the past inconveniently surfaced. The warm applause in the Canadian Parliament for well-known Ukrainian Nazi Yaroslav Hunka, a member of the Waffen SS, reminded all the persistence of this problem and the welcome given in Western countries to Nazis and collaborators of Germany after the Second World War.

As an unparalleled hero since February 2022, a fearless knight in shining armor, celebrated as the most illustrious personality of our era, everywhere present in the Western public sphere, a media star, and the darling of the Western jet set, Volodymyr Zelensky is now just at a hair’s breadth away from disgrace. Geopolitics are merciless. Proxies who no longer perform the services their backers have paid for end up on the scrap heap. Zelensky cannot ignore the gallery of US “allies” discarded after use like banana peels and/or shipped off to another world. Since July, he has been shunned at “summits” and international forums. Since then, he has struggled to make his voice heard or to be talked about. He has to sit in waiting rooms to be received by those who barely yesterday praised him to the skies. The image can arouse a kind of compassion, whatever one thinks of the individual and what he has done. To fall from such a height…

In the meantime, the Ukrainian military command and USA/NATO authorities are trying to pin the blame for the debacle on him, even though the “counter-offensive” could not have taken place without the green light from NATO, whose war games forecast that the unbeatable Western armor would break through Russia’s inept defensive lines. At this point, the US’s only concern is to extricate itself from the quagmire into which it has plunged headlong by deluding itself and adhering to neoconservative daydreaming. It is now searching for a replacement to Zelensky who could limit the damage to the US position.

Economic Surprise

Alongside Ukraine, the other cases of a return to reality follow the same sequence: self-delusion, followed by the difficult absorption of reality. Deprived of its links with the West, the Russian economy was supposed to collapse in less than three months, bringing about the regime change so desired by the USA/NATO. It was on the economic front, even more than the military, that Russia was expected to suffer its most bitter defeat. However, by all accounts, the dead man walking is not only still alive but in very good shape. While European leaders have readily agreed to gut their economies to satisfy the United States’ anti-Russian plans (the induced collapse of the German economy is unprecedented), the countries of the South are not suicidal. They declined to respond to the call to isolate Russia and continued their relations with it. At the very least, half the world’s economy no longer obeys Western injunctions, and it is even organizing itself to function without the West—a nasty surprise.

As a result, Russia’s economy is growing, while Europe’s is stagnating. The West’s policy of economic warfare has turned Russia toward itself. Doing without the West, Russia is returning to its historic policies of self-sufficiency and pivoting towards the East and South. Its oil and gas are in demand there. Its other products find takers there, ready to replace those of the West. All this is the very opposite of what the “sanctions” were supposed to achieve. No Western decision-maker seems to have noticed that, after the “sanctions” of 2014, Russia had initiated this transition to self-sufficiency. Since 2022, it has been stepping up the pace. At the same time, in the West, prices are soaring, the population is getting poorer, living standards are falling and social gaps are widening.

The proxy war was aimed first and foremost at weakening Russia economically. It was necessary to force Russia to intervene in Ukraine to justify reprisals on the scale of the sabotage of the Nordstream gas pipeline. The United States, now the world’s leading producer and virtually self-sufficient in oil and gas, would slate to supply Europe’s needs, along with Saudi Arabia, especially if the latter was willing to lower its oil prices. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia, which had, in the eyes of the Americans, the extraordinary advantage of selling its resources in petrodollars, was to cause another unpleasant surprise. Mohammed Ben Salmane not only gave Joe Biden the cold shoulder, but he also refused to lower oil prices. Through the very significant intermediary of China, he made peace with his Iranian neighbor and joined the ranks of the BRICS. On the international stage, the message resonates loudly: in the Middle East where the United States brings discord, war, and desolation, China resolves conflicts. The contrast is striking.

Palestinian Renaissance

Against all odds, Palestine came back to the world’s attention. After years of absolute domination, Israel boasted that it had “solved the Palestinian problem” by force and division. There was confident talk about the Middle East under Israeli control, with the assent of Arab countries and under American tutelage, all directed against the enemies of “democracy”: Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and Iraq. The Palestinians were a thing of the past. Their disappearance as a people was taking place gradually, step by step. Their fragmentation between the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority subservient to Israel, and a Gaza strip encircled like an open-air prison, while Palestinians within Israel suffered apartheid, seemed to promise a bright future for occupation and colonization. This strategic configuration in the Middle East would allow the United States to concentrate on its overriding objective, bringing down Russia and China.

On October 7, 2023, a major surprise shattered all this scaffolding. The Palestinians were back; in fact, they had never left, even if everything had been done to make them invisible. The reality of the situation in Palestine is now abundantly clear: settler colonialism, carefully veiled in the past, appears in all its crudeness; there is almost no need to demonstrate it. Israeli leaders no longer sugarcoat their calls for genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. The true face of Israel is in full view. The whole history of settler colonialism and the destruction of people started in 1948, and even in 1917, comes back to the surface.

October 2023 is also revealing in other ways. It was known that, as an entity of colonial origin in conflict with its entire environment, Israel always depended on imperialism, first British, then American. It was their bridgehead or extension in the region. Israel is financed and armed by the United States. What we have learned since October is that it is tactically – on a day-to-day basis – dependent on the USA for missiles, munitions, and intelligence. As early as October 7, Israel had to urgently request ammunition and shells to face an infinitely smaller force of Palestinian irregulars armed with light weapons. One might have thought it possessed enough resources for such an attack and even more. The Israeli army suddenly appeared not to be the elite that propaganda made it out to be. Its reputation is overrated. Past successes have been against poorly trained and less equipped regular armies. In recent years, Israel has only fought once, in 2006, and lost to Hezbollah. For a long time now, the Israeli military has been nothing more than a repressive force, shooting Palestinian children and storming Palestinian villages at night to destroy, kill, and kidnap the inhabitants (hence the numerous detainees in Israeli prisons).

The immediate arrival of a U.S. armada to Israel’s rescue revealed the emptiness of claims concerning its ability to wage a war on its own, even against a militarily insignificant adversary like Gaza. The propaganda that Israel is all-powerful has been ridiculed. As for the U.S., bound hand and foot to Israel, the only country truly committed to its cause, it can barely conceal its embarrassment. Its interests now lie elsewhere, centered on Russia and China; the Middle East is secondary, except to ensure a Saudi oil hegemony willing to support the US dollar as the world’s main reserve currency. The U.S. needs to seduce the South against Russia and China. Unfortunately, the non-Western world, which has experienced colonization, apartheid, and racism, is in solidarity with the Palestinians, and the massacres in Gaza are further distancing it from the U.S., Israel’s accomplice. Association with Israel is toxic. Moreover, the U.S. rightly suspects Israel of trying to draw it into a general war against Iran, Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq, and perhaps even Turkey. Contrary to post-1990 propaganda, the U.S. is not in a position to fight several wars at once. Already, to supply Israel, it has to deprive Ukraine of weapons. The neocon dream that the U.S. was capable of waging war everywhere simultaneously is coming to an end. As in Ukraine, the U.S. objective in Palestine is to put an end to the current crisis as quickly as possible, so as not to bear responsibility for the carnage.

Reality cannot forever be concealed

2023 represents the return in force of reality, against which the world of fantasies, lies, and mirages concocted in industrial quantities crashed. It heralds the end of the phantasmagoria of fabricated narratives, triumphalism, and arrogance. The West has become accustomed to being satisfied with its preconceptions, to living in a parallel world, in cognitive dissonance with reality. It deludes itself, stakes everything on its ability to produce “narratives” and ends up believing its disinformation. Its contact with reality is hindered by the overconsumption of “public relations” and by the hegemony of the” digital”. What is processed, fabricated, and invented has eliminated what is true. Within a post-modernism that has come to bite its tail, it succeeds perfectly well in intoxicating itself. Hence its dismay when it is suddenly confronted with reality. The shock is destabilizing, exposing manipulative political leaders, servile “experts” and mainstream media parroting official propaganda and having lost what little credibility they had left. It’s a safe bet to predict that 2024 will further enhance our knowledge of the real world.

And that will be all the better. Solutions to problems require first that they be understood so as to avoid taking the wrong paths. The first indispensable step is emancipation from the lies, hogwash and fiction that blur vision, paralyze action, and prevent all positive action. The next step is to analyze the world we now see more clearly to pinpoint necessary changes, and then get on with the task. Humanity has already confronted great challenges with success and there is no reason to think it cannot do so again.