STORY: Russia faces more economic pain and isolation in 2023.
Despite U.S. intelligence warnings, many European and Ukrainian officials didn't believe Russia would invade.
Their logic: it would irrational of President Vladimir Putin and far too much for his army to bite off.
Nonetheless, Putin incensed by what he saw as Ukraine's westwards pivot, ordered his quote “special military operation.”
Russia's invasion of Ukraine upended geopolitics.
NATO expansion was the very thing Putin opposed – now the alliance is poised to add Finland and Sweden.
Previously Ukraine struggled to get the West interested in its conflict with Russia, but it’s now receiving unimaginable international support.
The U.S. is providing the lion's share of the financial and military aid required to keep Ukraine in the fight.
Meanwhile harsh sanctions are shrinking Russia’s role as one of the world's big energy and commodity producers.
Even a temporary ceasefire is looking hard to achieve.
Ukraine insists Russia must withdraw from all its territory, including Crimea, before any peace talks happen.
Russia can expect more Western attempts at isolation in 2023 – including of Putin personally.
Iran, North Korea and Belarus remain staunch supporters. And China and India are buying heavily discounted Russian oil.
But Beijing hasn't been as publicly supportive as expected.
Moscow will also have to manage its sanctions-hit economy - while potentially slashing funding for services.
And - economic stability is linked to political stability.
Sources told Reuters in October, that Putin's grip on power could also loosen quickly if defeat in Ukraine looms.