General Zaluzhnyi's military strategy basics
In his article for the Economist (published on November 1), General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, gave readers a crash course in the strategy of modern warfare. In the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war, first and foremost
However, if we take a broader view, we can see how it relates to other military confrontations around the world: Israel and Hamas, South and North Korea, Taiwan and China.
Because, as our Commander-in-Chief noted, the armed confrontation between democratic and authoritarian political regimes has the prospect of spreading to these regions, where the situation is based on geopolitical models similar to the Russian-Ukrainian one.
This is an important conclusion, since the world media, experts, and politicians are discussing the need to perceive the wars in Ukraine and Israel as elements of the same process. With the same participants involved: Russia and Iran, as well as - with certain reservations - China.
The addressees of the new Ukrainian strategy are also global: the West, Russia, and Ukraine itself.
"You want a strategy? Here it is"
Zaluzhnyi's articles are primarily directed towards America, focusing on discussions about the assistance to Ukraine. These discussions cover the extent of aid, its objectives, and strategies to attain those goals. A group of Republican congressmen, including the newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, are demanding that Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy have a strategy for winning the war with Russia as a precondition for allocating USD 61 billion to Ukraine.
Zaluzhnyi seemed to answer for the heads of state: "You want a strategy? Here it is". With a detailed list of weapons, ways to use them, and the conditions under which they will work.
Zaluzhnyi can speak firmly about the new stage of the war and, accordingly, the need for a new strategy, because he has great achievements behind him: stopping Russian aggression in the spring and summer of 2022 (when no one in the West expected it) and brilliant counteroffensives in Kharkiv, right-bank Kherson, and parts of southern Ukraine, all without the support of Western tanks and aircraft.
The counteroffensive during this year's summer and autumn did not yield the same level of remarkable success, despite being meticulously prepared "following NATO guidelines and mathematical models." This statement by the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is aimed at Western politicians, experts, and journalists who have been pushing the narrative of the "failure" of the Ukrainian army.
There has been no failure, because the counteroffensive is still ongoing. But in the current circumstances, there is no hope of breaking through the echeloned defensive positions of the Russian army with access to the "operational space" with a daily march of 30 kilometers, "entering" Crimea and "getting out" of the peninsula.
Going back to maneuver operations
The new reality is a World War I-style positional war, in which the parties have reached parity in the key forms of modern military confrontation: artillery, counter-battery warfare, and air defense systems and means.
Ukraine does not want a positional war, Zaluzhnyi argues, because it plays into Russia's hands, given its greater potential: economic, industrial, and human. Therefore, a new strategy is needed, although its goal is not to negotiate with Russia, but for Ukraine to win on the battlefield.
There is no other way to achieve peace, because the enemy does not count its own losses.
General Zaluzhnyi proposed 5 elements of the new strategy: 1) air superiority; 2) overcoming the deeply entrenched system of minefields; 3) increasing the effectiveness of counter-battery warfare; 4) creating and training the necessary reserves; 5) building up electronic warfare capabilities. As a result of the successful use of these means, Ukraine should resume maneuver warfare, which is the most successful way to expel Russian occupiers from our territory.
Zaluzhnyi is not denied
The prospect of returning to maneuver warfare is a clear message to Russia's military leadership, which does not take into account the enormous losses of its own troops. After all, there is a limit to everything, the commander-in-chief said.
The Russians deployed two of their armies to Avdiivka, which was enough to capture a few hundred meters. Even the Russians will eventually run out of capabilities to train and arm hundreds of thousands of mobilized soldiers, as losses in equipment are even more damaging.
In addition, when the Ukrainian Armed Forces acquire new capabilities, Russian losses will be incomparably greater. And our army will return to the operation to liberate Crimea ("Putin's greatest vulnerability").
Three weeks ago, the Russian dictator fantasized that if the Western assistance to Ukraine were to cease, our military would only last a week in battle.
Zaluzhnyi's previous op-ed in the Economist, published in December last year, emphasized that the West is unlikely to reject addressing the requirements he delineated, even though not everything is being promptly executed, as he candidly pointed out.
Attention to new recruits
Zaluzhnyi's message is that the strategy of "getting in and getting out" of Crimea (repeatedly) has not succeeded this year, but it surely will in the coming year. It is directed not only to Putin and his associates but also to the Ukrainian people and our government.
That is, to the third recipient of Zaluzhny's publications in the Economist.
Contrary to the many voices in the Ukrainian media, the articles by the Chief of Staff do not express sentiments of "betrayal," the "end of Ukraine," or the "inevitability of negotiations" with Moscow. Instead, there is a firm conversation with allies, enemies and friends.
Ukrainians must remain ready for mobilization efforts, tightening of the system, and implementation of more extensive military training for citizens. Our victory and the achievement of peace hinge on this preparedness, as we cannot rely on the Russians getting "tired of war." Our neighbor is too crazy for that.
Training should be conducted mainly outside of Ukraine, because our military centers and training grounds are among the main targets of the enemy. The primary task of Ukrainian recruits is to master military skills in order to minimize our losses on the battlefield.
Strengthening the defense, not holding elections
Zaluzhnyi formulated logistical tasks for the government, namely: the development and capacity building of the Ukrainian defense industry, the creation and development of an "asymmetric arsenal of weapons and military equipment in Ukraine; the creation, production and deployment of new missile technology."
It is extremely simple and easy to understand, so that no one doubts what the main responsibilities of the state authorities are for the implementation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces strategy and Ukraine's victory.
Meanwhile, the President's Office, the government, and the parliament are working hard to prepare for the spring presidential election. Although this is obviously absurd, it is a work to split society and waste resources that are desperately needed by the army and the state. And this is exactly how 80% of Ukrainians think about elections during the war.
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi added convincing military arguments to the common sense of most Ukrainians. It would be wise for Volodymyr Zelenskyy's team not to play with the will of the people and the voice of the army.
About the author. Mykola Kniazhytskyi, journalist, Member of Parliament of Ukraine.
The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the column and blog authors.