Espreso. Global

How Ukraine's Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief first said mature things about war

4 November, 2023 Saturday

Zaluzhnyi admitted: I made a mistake, but I know exactly how to fix it, and this is what we need

The sensational quotes from the leaders of Bankova Street in TIME resembled a gathering of a bunch of info-gypsies. But the column by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in The Economist is a calm man's conversation about very unspectacular things. It was probably the first time that an adult said that the war was not for 2-3 weeks, but for real and for a long time.

First of all, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi admitted that he was wrong. That his assessments of the instability of Russia were exaggerated. Over the past year, Russia has managed to adapt its economy to the needs of wartime and the needs directly at the front.

Saying "I was wrong" is not typical of any Ukrainian politician. Usually, Ukrainian officials say that they inherited a terrible people, very bad journalists and extremely cunning opponents. And zero recognition of their own mistakes.

Zaluzhnyi admitted: I made a mistake, but I know exactly how to fix it, and that's what we need.

The tone of the article certainly caused anger in the Presidential Office. I would not be surprised if in the near future anonymous telegram channels intensify their smear campaign against the Commander-in-Chief, or a series of dismissals of high-ranking military officers will begin. It may well be that the sudden dismissal of Viktor Khorenko, the commander of the Special Operations Forces, without Zaluzhnyi's knowledge, was the first wake-up call. It could be a warning from Bankova to other high-ranking military officers, as well as to Zaluzhnyi himself. Very few people like the naked truth that the war is not yet won, and sitting in a bunker in Kyiv is not evidence that we have won the battle for independence.

It turns out that there is no need for daily victory reports, no need to keep a pool of flattering advisers around you and no need to give an order to a journalist who will then tear you apart like a fox tearing a chicken apart in the pages of TIME. You should be a pro and go out once every six months, and the whole world will be talking about you.

The main thing to remember from Zaluzhnyi's article is that we have all become hostages to the illusions that "barbecues in Yalta are coming soon" and "Russia is about to collapse". Instead, it turned out that Russia took into account its weaknesses after the Kharkiv and Kherson offensives and adapted its economy to the needs of the war.

Secondly, Zaluzhnyi states that the war with Russia has entered a new phase - positional. A classic of the First World War. This means that from now on, the war can last for a very long time until one of the parties is exhausted. Modern technologies - Western and ours - can break Russia. This means that we should finally stop blindly involving Kvartal's scriptwriters in drone affairs and think about more global stories.

Next, between the lines, there was a reproach to the current parliamentarians and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, who had not done enough to create conscription registers and mobilize people under the age of 27. It is not only Zaluzhnyi who speaks about this, about two months ago, the former head of the British Ministry of Defence, Ben Wallace, also spoke about the need to rejuvenate our army, whose average age is 43.

So, in the near future, we will understand whether Bankova has heard anything of the five points mentioned by Zaluzhnyi.

Unfortunately, it is clear that the top political leadership is more interested in the election. After all, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said outright that Zelenskyy was "studying the possibility" of holding elections in the spring of 2024.

As we know, the most pressing issue of those elections is whether the military will take part in them or not. Will people who have experience and desire but are constrained by conscription, oaths and direct service on the front line have the right to run for parliament? The idea of our parliaments to hold elections only in half of Ukraine, because in the de-occupied and border regions it is "not the right time", was also a cold shower. The most pressing issue for the President's Office is the incredibly high level of support for the Armed Forces in all opinion polls.

Instead, Zaluzhnyi gave a specific recipe to those of our Western comrades who are asking for a "recipe for Ukraine's victory" here and now. Give us more modern technology, and the issue of Russia will be resolved for the next fifty years. Let's solve the issue of mobilization, because we cannot live in the narrative that the generation of two revolutions must die in the trenches, and we will not touch the youth, because they are still voting for the Servants of the People. And absolutely in every sentence was a hint: let's tell the truth, the sad but true truth, to Ukrainian society.

To win the war, we definitely need to stop the victorious stories of a single telethon, change the configuration of the government, which is mired in corrupt money from defence procurement and the energy sector. And most importantly, we need to stop thinking that the West will provide us with everything, and we don't have to do anything at all.

Finally, it is obvious that Ukrainian political leaders should stop interfering in the affairs of the military, sending them to take Horlivka without reinforcements and artillery just because they want to take a selfie with the flag. 

It's time to take off the dirty olive t-shirts and engage in economic planning and diplomatic negotiations, where support and security guarantees for Ukraine should be at the forefront. And not, God forbid, announcements of presidential elections under fire.

A wartime economy does not mean that children as young as 13 will be sent to work at shell factories. It means stopping lying, giving up petty revenge on the army, because, God forbid, Zaluzhnyi or someone else will go into politics.

And you should definitely not try to make a mini-copy of Russia here. Because plagiarism has no chance of winning against a rich and quite strong original.

Specially for Espreso

About the author: Maryna Danyliuk-Yarmolaieva, journalist

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of blogs.

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