Political activity in Ukraine and political impact of war (13.11-30.11)
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The Ukrainian government keeps making efforts to persuade Ukrainian public and Ukraine’s foreign partners that Ukraine has to reject the idea of ceasefire because it is dangerous and immoral to make any deals with Russia which has been repeatedly called a terrorist-state
According to the address by the President of Ukraine on the occasion of the Day of Dignity and Freedom, Ukraine, Europe and “the whole world” will be doomed to lose if “the enemy manages to undermine international support and solidarity” and “the civilized world begins to seek compromises with terrorists and make concessions to tyrants”. https://www.president.gov.ua/news/zvernennya-prezidenta-ukrayini-z-nagodi-dnya-gidnosti-ta-svo-87165
However, it is impossible to comprehend what Ukraine is going to achieve if truce is not established and the hostilities drag on. Even Zelensky and his associates have stopped making promises concerning the imminent liberation of the territories occupied by Russia. Some prominent military experts have been warning that the highly probable Russian winter offensive may be perilous for the exhausted Ukrainian forces.
Former head of the Polish Land Forces Gen. Waldemar Skrzypczak cautioned in his interview with “Wirtualna Polska” emphasizes that Russian troops have been preparing convenient positions to launch attacks on the Ukrainian defense in the upcoming winter. The Polish general is convinced that Ukrainian army has to cease immediately all the offensive operations and turn to the strategic defense. Ukrainian military leaders are obliged to adhere to defensive activities because they cannot afford any offensive operations and will not be able to conduct them successfully in the foreseeable future. The Russian offensive beyond Donbas region, in the direction towards Poltava and Dnipro can be expected. The Russian troops in contrast to Ukrainian have resources required for offensive operations and can endure the losses caused by offensive activities without dangerous consequences for their resilience. https://wiadomosci.wp.pl/atak-zimy-to-czas-na-ofensywe-rosji-general-wskazuje-kiedy-nastapi-6967654099577728a?utm_medium=push&utm_source=pushpushgo&utm_campaign=WPWiadomosci-push&utm_content=6564f92ce446c06a87bfda98
Despite that there is no actual opportunity of military success and no resources needed for continuation of offensive operations lack, Zelensky keeps repudiating policies aimed at establishing a cease-fire.
On November 20, in his interview with the British tabloid “The Sun”, Zelensky denied that the idea of immediate truce. He stated that Russia will use the ceasefire “to build up strength and attack again”. Besides, it will get an opportunity to concentrate its efforts on instigating the conflicts in other parts of Europe, especially in Balkans, and on preparing an invasion into the Baltic states. Zelensky also declared that the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has taken away the focus from the war in Ukraine. He expressed his conviction that Russia’s wanted to achieve that goal and managed to do it with the Iranian assistance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnSWd-LgTkA
It should be noted that on November 22, in his speech at the Extraordinary G20 Summit (conducted by video-conference) Putin described the war in Ukraine as a “tragedy” for people, families, and “the country as a whole”. He declared that “this tragedy” should be stopped and confirmed that Russia has been disposed “to negotiate peace”. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/72790
There is no necessity to point out that Putin’s willingness to reach peace can be doubted. But declaring his desire to end the hostilities he can successfully influence the public opinion of the Global South and some countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
Zelensky seems to be extremely anxious that decrease of the Western support and international pressure will make him start negotiations on truce and ceasefire. It prevents him from carrying out a coherent foreign policy and getting a grasp on the geopolitical situation.
Zelensky seems to ignore reality in order to cope with a failure of his political strategy to secure his political position by achieving a decisive military victory. This personal defense mechanism makes him deny necessity of truce negotiations and make statements that obstruct the beginning of negotiation process. For that reason Zelensky constantly emphasizes that he considers Putin to be a terrorist who cannot be trusted. On November 5 in his interview with NBC, Zelensky called Putin a “terrorist” deliberately adding an obscenity as a descriptive adjective. Zelensky seems to expect that Putin as an authoritarian leader will publicly refuse from truce negotiations after his dignity was publicly injured.
Though US and EU leaders are trying to reduce Zelensky’s anxiety and reassure him that the support of Ukraine will be provided despite political obstacles, the Ukrainian president keeps making attempts to continue offensive operations in order to give a reason for an increase of military aid. At the same time Zelensky and his associates strive to hold commander-in-chief Zaluzhny responsible both the current lack of military success and probable failures.
These tactics have not changed after the surprise visits of German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Kyiv. They both pledged support for Ukraine and tried to demonstrate that Ukraine’s war efforts are highly appreciated by its Western allies. https://www.voanews.com/a/german-defense-minister-pledges-support-for-ukraine/7363799.html
But in spite of these declarations the pressure on Zaluzhny from presidential administration seems to have been increased. It might indicate that Zelensky is not certain that he will be given an opportunity to continue hostilities without a significant military success. Because of that he attempts to become indispensable to the Western allies as the only political and military leader of Ukraine who can count on the wide public support.
The relations between Zelensky and Zaluzhny have exacerbated after the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces acknowledged in his interview with “Economist” that Ukraine military capabilities and technologies to accomplish offensive operations. He made it clear that Ukraine will not be able to sustain prolonged hostilities successfully due to Russian air superiority and artillery superiority.https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2023/11/01/the-commander-in-chief-of-ukraines-armed-forces-on-how-to-win-the-war
The interview of Zaluzhny has been severely criticized by Zelensky’s associates as an attempt to undermine public confidence in the victory over Russia. Since the publication of Zaluzhny’s interview the presidential office is trying to reduce the influence of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and increase the significance of Defence Minister Umerov who has been trying to gain control over the troops.
Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SOF) commander Khorenko, a close associate of Zaluzhny, was unexpectedly dismissed by Zelensky at the request of Umerov on November 3. Khorenko told in interview soon after his discharge that he did not know the reasons for such a decision and Zaluzhny also could not explain them.
The commander-in-chief was not informed and Khorenko according to his words could not understand what had happened. The majority of Ukrainian military experts were outraged that the president made such an important decision without consulting Zaluzhny. The concerns were expressed that Zaluzhny may be the next in line to be fired. https://www.bbc.com/ukrainian/articles/cz725848ngko
Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary Committeeon National Security Maryana Bezugla, who represents the ruling party “Servant of the People” blamed Zaluzhny for the lack of strategy, inability to foresee and prevent enemy actions, disregard for the warnings of military experts and demands of civil society. Bezugla called for profound changes in the military operations planning and military management. She accused high military officers in turning into a caste hostile to any new people regardless of their abilities. https://www.obozrevatel.com/ukr/politics-news/lyutij-tresh-bezugla-nakinulasya-z-novimi-zvinuvachennyami-na-adresu-zaluzhnogo-i-oburila-merezhu.htm?utm_source=wpush&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=webpush
On November 28, Internet-media started to disseminate the record of conversation between two persons who were identified as billionaire Rinat Akhmetov and former president Petro Poroshenko, who tried to defend Zaluzhny from critisim. The conversers agreed to make conspiracy against the incumbent president in order to bring Zaluzhny to power. https://mriya.news/256254-zagovor-porosenko-i-axmetova-protiv-ze
This campaign is clearly aimed at drawing together in public perception Zaluzhny, oligarchs and Zelensky’s political opponents.
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- The continuation of hostilities will inevitably lead to military and social disaster. The Ukrainian government cannot independently take steps aimed at negotiating a truce; it can only be compelled to do so through the external influence.
- The President will not be able to restore the grasp of reality because in that case he would have to acknowledge that his strategy has failed. But he should not be allowed to continue the offensive operations in order to prevent the complete exhaustion of Ukraine’s military resources.
- The promotion of the idea of truce in Ukraine’s public mind can eventually change the attitude of Ukrainian society. So the government will try to block expressions of public support to any suggestions of cease-fire. There is a certain danger that Arestovich and other supporters of this idea will be prevented from participation in the political process and their media activity will be severely restrained under pretext of confronting with the Russian influence.
- Zelensky will try to use the preservation of democratic procedures (including the elections) as a bargaining issue in his communications with the EU and the US. He will restrain and cancel democratic procedures when the danger of diminishing of Western military and financial aid appears.
Recommendations for European institutions and organizations::
- The Ukrainian sociological surveys showing public support to the continuation of hostilities cannot be considered to be reliable because the opinion of the Ukrainian citizens who left the country cannot be counted. There is a strong need of the survey on the opinion of the Ukrainians who live in the EU countries on the issue of ceasefire.
- The Ukrainian government should be advised not to take any attempts to prevent the spread the idea of truce in the Ukrainian public mind and impose restrictions on the media activity.
- The Ukrainian government should not be allowed to exclude citizens who identify themselves as ethnic Russians from obtaining civil and cultural rights in accordance with European standards.