What a difference a year makes …
Time’s big new story is quite revealing:
That offensive has proceeded at an excruciating pace and with enormous losses, making it ever more difficult for Zelensky to convince partners that victory is around the corner. With the outbreak of war in Israel, even keeping the world’s attention on Ukraine has become a major challenge.
Quoting a soldier on the front of the counter-offensive, the Economist agrees:
“Left Handed”, an infantryman fighting at the front between Robotyne and Verbove, says Ukrainian losses have increased to alarming levels, in part due to the work of drones. The plains of Zaporizhia have turned their back on life, he says. “It’s hellish. Corpses, the smell of corpses, death, blood and fear. Not a whiff of life, just the stench of death.” Those in units such as his own had more chance of dying than surviving. “Seventy-thirty. Some don’t even see their first battle.”
Still, Zelenski is urging them on:
But his convictions haven’t changed. Despite the recent setbacks on the battlefield, he does not intend to give up fighting or to sue for any kind of peace.
On the contrary, his belief in Ukraine’s ultimate victory over Russia has hardened into a form that worries some of his advisers. It is immovable, verging on the messianic. “He deludes himself,” one of his closest aides tells me in frustration. “We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that.”
Zelensky’s stubbornness, some of his aides say, has hurt their team’s efforts to come up with a new strategy, a new message. As they have debated the future of the war, one issue has remained taboo: the possibility of negotiating a peace deal with the Russians. Judging by recent surveys, most Ukrainians would reject such a move, especially if it entailed the loss of any occupied territory.
The war is lost. They know it. But they are unwilling to give up.
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Zelenski’s people put the blame everywhere but on the those who have caused the mess. It was the ‘victory’ messaging by Zelenski and his crew that has led the public into utter complacency.
As Strana headlines (machine translation):
Strategically, Ukraine is losing the war because of the inadequate perception of the situation by society.
This opinion was expressed by the commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Dmitry Kukharchuk in an interview with Channel Five.
He claims that at the beginning of the war, all Ukrainians were ready to defend the country, there were many volunteers. But after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kiev, the situation changed.
“Immediately after that, I noticed that there were theses in the media that we are fighting with homeless people, that the Russian army does not know how to fight, that in principle victory will be in a week or two, a maximum of a month. That first in the spring, then in the summer, then in the autumn, then in the winter, without specifying which winter, we will go to the Crimea. That the victory is basically victorious. So people were put in a warm bathroom. We have broken down the vision of reality. But it didn’t happen in Russia. They began to realize that the war was not going to be easy for them. They realized that they would have to fight for a long time, ” Kukharchuk believes.
He also says that the Russians are “getting stronger” every day, and if Ukraine really fought the “degenerates”, it would have defeated them long ago.
“That’s why we’re losing. They have these processes going on, and their public readiness is much higher than that of our society. And when they talk about a nuclear bomb, a war of all against all, for some reason it seems to me that they are ready for these processes, ” the battalion commander added.
Napoleon, Hitler and several other folks who had sought war with Russia, had to learn to never underestimate the depth of its resources. Now NATO, the U.S. and its European proxies, are learning that lesson.
Zelenski still hasn’t. He won’t concede:
The cold will also make military advances more difficult, locking down the front lines at least until the spring. But Zelensky has refused to accept that. “Freezing the war, to me, means losing it,” he says. Before the winter sets in, his aides warned me to expect major changes in their military strategy and a major shake-up in the President’s team. At least one minister would need to be fired, along with a senior general in charge of the counteroffensive, they said, to ensure accountability for Ukraine’s slow progress at the front. “We’re not moving forward,” says one of Zelensky’s close aides. Some front-line commanders, he continues, have begun refusing orders to advance, even when they came directly from the office of the President. “They just want to sit in the trenches and hold the line,” he says. “But we can’t win a war that way.”
When I raised these claims with a senior military officer, he said that some commanders have little choice in second-guessing orders from the top. At one point in early October, he said, the political leadership in Kyiv demanded an operation to “retake” the city of Horlivka, a strategic outpost in eastern Ukraine that the Russians have held and fiercely defended for nearly a decade. The answer came back in the form of a question: With what? “They don’t have the men or the weapons,” says the officer. “Where are the weapons? Where is the artillery? Where are the new recruits?”
In some branches of the military, the shortage of personnel has become even more dire than the deficit in arms and ammunition. One of Zelensky’s close aides tells me that even if the U.S. and its allies come through with all the weapons they have pledged, “we don’t have the men to use them.”
Since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has refused to release official counts of dead and wounded. But according to U.S. and European estimates, the toll has long surpassed 100,000 on each side of the war. It has eroded the ranks of Ukraine’s armed forces so badly that draft offices have been forced to call up ever older personnel, raising the average age of a soldier in Ukraine to around 43 years. “They’re grown men now, and they aren’t that healthy to begin with,” says the close aide to Zelensky. “This is Ukraine. Not Scandinavia.”
The Ukraine’s old problems, foremost corruption, persist:
Amid all the pressure to root out corruption, I assumed, perhaps naively, that officials in Ukraine would think twice before taking a bribe or pocketing state funds. But when I made this point to a top presidential adviser in early October, he asked me to turn off my audio recorder so he could speak more freely. “Simon, you’re mistaken,” he says. “People are stealing like there’s no tomorrow.”
Knowing that the ship is sinking, this its probably what I would do too. Bring anything available onto my personal life raft and prepare for cutting its lines to the mother ship.
The Time piece is a signal. It announces the end of Zelenski’s regime. I am sure that the National Security Council, as well as the State Department, is feverishly looking for an alternative – and for a face saving way to install it.
Someone seems to protect and promote Alexey Arestovich for exactly that purpose (machine translation):
After leaving the Presidential Office with a scandal in January 2023, Arestovich, although he began to criticize the actions of the authorities, nevertheless did it carefully until recently.
But right now, he’s just slamming the ruling team.
Arestovich focuses on two things: the military decisions of the country’s leadership and its domestic policy.
The second version: Arestovich enlisted the support of Americans who want to see more political diversity in Ukraine and are not interested in Zelensky’s monopolization of power.
In favor of this version, they also use the fact mentioned above that the tightening of the rhetoric of the ex-adviser to the president’s Office began after his trip to the United States. Also in this regard, they recall his interview with Gordon in early October, where he says that if the West decides to end the war without reaching the borders of 1991 and Zelensky resists this, then the president of Ukraine will be “changed” in the elections.
“It is possible that Arestovich is supported by a certain part of the Western elites, who care about the breadth of opinions in Ukraine. They say that the country can speak not only with Zelensky’s voice, but there are also different critical opinions, ” political analyst Ruslan Bortnik comments to Strana.
In its grand strategy the White House had sought to pivot to Asia. But the U.S. is – first in Ukraine, in a completely unnecessary conflict the U.S. itself has caused, and, with Gaza in flames, again in the Middle East.
In a recent talk in Australia John Mearsheimer takes a deep dive into this dilemma (video). He doesn’t foresee a good outcome.
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