Time for US to Dump Zelensky
There has been no greater cheerleader for the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine than Ukraine’s president, Volodymir Zelensky.
From the very onset of the conflict, Ukraine’s leader has been elevated to near mythical status by the propaganda arms of the collective west, manufacturing a cartoon-like caricature credited with heroic utterances he never made, yet were injected into the mainstream discourse through the collaboration of western intelligence services and a compliant media.
The famous quote attributed to Zelensky early in the conflict, after he reportedly turned down an offer to be evacuated from Kiev, is a case in point. “The fight is here,” Zelensky was attributed as saying. “I need ammunition, not a ride.” The quote was first promulgated by the Associated Press, citing a US Embassy source. However, there is no corroboration that Zelensky ever actually said these words. They are attributed to “a senior American intelligence official [at the US Embassy in Kiev] with direct knowledge of the conversation,” and yet no one is familiar with the conversation in question. In this case, fact checking wasn’t on the agenda—the quote was too good not to use, so the media ran with it, and the rest is history.
The Ukrainian President did issue a video statement at the time, where he declared “I am here. We are not putting down arms. We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this.”
Twenty months later, the Ukrainian President is still “here”, at the helm of a nation that has been devastated by a war he was elected to prevent. And he still believes in the inevitability of a Ukrainian victory. “Nobody believes in our victory like I do. Nobody,” Zelensky told Time Magazine in a recent interview.
The problem for Zelensky is that no one seems to share in his optimism. “The scariest thing is that part of the world got used to the war in Ukraine,” Zelensky noted in the same interview. “Exhaustion with the war rolls along like a wave. You see it in the United States, in Europe. And we see that as soon as they start to get a little tired, it becomes like a show to them: ‘I can’t watch this rerun for the 10th time.’”
Apparently, the CIA wasn’t around to massage this message into something catchier.
One of Zelensky’s biggest problems is that his own military no longer believes in victory. In an illuminating interview with The Economist, General Valery Zaluzhny conceded that Ukraine’s much-hyped counteroffensive, designed to cut the land bridge connecting Crimea with the rest of Russia, has failed—spectacularly. After five months of bloody fighting, Zaluzhny concluded that the conflict with Russia had reached the level of a “stalemate”, and that there “will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.” Ukrainian losses during this time exceeded 90,000 dead and wounded, along with more than 300 tanks, approximating the number of troops trained by NATO for the counteroffensive, as well as the number of tanks supplied by NATO to assist in the attacks.
It was nearly a year ago that Zuluzhny gave a far more upbeat interview to The Economist, during which he declared “I know that I can beat this enemy. But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 ifvs [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers. Then, I think it is completely realistic to get to the lines of February 23rd [note: the day before Russia initiated the Special Military Operation.]”
Zaluzhny made no secret about where his primary focus of effort would fall, and why. “In order to reach the borders of Crimea, as of today we need to cover a distance of 84 kilometers to Melitopol. By the way, this is enough for us, because Melitopol would give us a full fire control of the land corridor, because from Melitopol we can already fire at the Crimean Isthmus.”
In his most recent interview with The Economist, Zaluzhny seems to have forgotten his bold plans to seize Melitopol; the well-prepared Russian defenses in and around the village of Robotino saw that dream go up in smoke, like the armor of the German-made Leopard tanks that litter the Zaporizhian fields. Instead, Zaluzhny tells a new tale, that his strategy was to cause massive Russian casualties to break the spirit of the Russian Army and compel the Russian political leadership to the negotiating table. “That was my mistake,” Zaluzhny said. “Russia has lost at least 150,000 dead. In any other country such casualties would have stopped the war.”
Zaluzhny’s comments raise two critical issues. The first is the accuracy of the figures he cites. While Russia has not released an official accounting of its casualties from the Special Military Operation in months, open-source analysis conducted by the BBC and Meduza indicate that between 30,000 and 47,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the conflict—a huge number, but far less that the 120,000 cited by Zaluzhny.
But Zaluzhny ignored the elephant in the room—Ukrainian casualties. By some estimates, between 350,000-400,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the fighting with Russia, exhausting Ukrainian reserves and mobilization potential alike. While Russian losses are considerable, they have been compensated for by the mobilization of 300,000 reserves supplemented by more than 300,000 volunteers. Russia’s ability to generate combat strength while Ukraine depletes its own is the real reason Ukraine’s counteroffensive has failed—and why the ultimate outcome will be a strategic Russian victory, not the stalemate envisioned by Zaluzhny.
The statements of Ukraine’s top general were not well received by the Ukrainian President. Shortly after The Economist interview became public, Igor Zhovka, the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, criticized Zaluzhny. “I am sure that everything has been carefully read, noted down and conclusions drawn” by the Russians, he said. Moreover, Zhovka added, Zaluzhny’s comments regarding a stalemate have Ukraine’s allies “in a panic.”
Zelensky himself contradicted the dire conclusions of his top military commander. “Time has passed, people are tired, regardless of their status, and this is understandable,” told the press during a news conference. “But this is not a stalemate, I emphasize this once again.” Later, in comments made during a meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, Zelensky noted that while “There are difficulties, there are different opinions,” he believed that “we have no right to even think about giving up, because what’s the alternative?”
Time Magazine, in its October 2023 article, characterized Zelensky’s belief in Ukraine’s ultimate victory as delusional, with Zelensky’s perception of his role as “verging on the messianic.” According to a close aid to the Ukrainian President, “We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that.”
It appeared that someone did. The result was typical Zelensky—angry and bitter. “We are not ready to give our freedom to this f_____g terrorist Putin,” he told NBC News in an interview.
“We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means,” the famous Prussian military strategist, Carl von Clausewitz, wrote in his classic treatise, On War. War must always be regarded as merely a means through which political views can be modified, Clausewitz noted. “[T]he political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.”
Clausewitz’s words serve as the basis for an assessment of the chasm that has opened between Zelensky—the owner of the “political view”—and Zaluzhny—the wielder of the “military means.” The reality, however, is that neither man is the master of his respective realm. As was the case regarding Zelensky’s “I need ammunition, not a ride” quote, control of the script from which both Zelensky and Zaluzhny are reading from rests with the United States and its European allies—the so-called “collective West.” And it is here that both men find themselves in trouble.
Zelensky’s “political view” has nothing to do with the aspirations he might have for Ukraine as a nation, but rather what utility Ukraine has for furthering the strategic geopolitical goals and objectives of the collective West regarding Russia. Ukraine has been, is, and will always be little more than a tool in the minds of the western leaders Zelensky has aligned himself with, to be used when convenient, and discarded when no longer so. The fact of the matter is that the collective West has become exhausted by the Ukraine conflict, both financially, militarily, and politically. Far from becoming weakened by the conflict, Russia has emerged stronger on every level—economically, militarily, and politically.
The gambit by the collective West to weaken Russia by promoting a conflict with Ukraine has failed. This is the new reality of Zelensky’s “political view”—he is no longer a useful tool for the collective West, which is desperately trying to find the right conditions under which to discard him.
As for the “military means”, General Zaluzhny’s comments underscore the impotence of the Ukrainian military when it comes to being a useful political instrument. The strategic defeat of the Ukrainian military has been accomplished by the Russian military. While there is still the potential for more fighting and much bloodshed before a final Russian victory is secured, the fact is that such an outcome is all but assured.
In this environment, the collective West is loath to continue throwing good money after bad. There is a growing reluctance in the US Congress to continue providing billions of dollars in support of a losing cause. Europe is likewise exhausted. Zaluzhny’s “stalemate” is a rose-colored portrait compared to the dark reality he and the Ukrainian military faces. Out of tanks, out of ammunition, out of men, the hard truth is that Ukraine is trapped in a war of attrition where every factor favors Russia.
Today, the question of “what’s next” hangs uncomfortably in the air, if for no other reason that the simple fact that everyone knows the answer—Ukraine has lost the war. NATO has lost the war.
Zelensky lost the war.
In the weeks and months ahead, the collective West will have to find the means to discard Zelensky and Ukraine. The current conflict between Hamas and Israel appears to have provided a convenient excuse for accelerating this process, with military resources that otherwise might have been made available to Ukraine being diverted to Israel, a reality that will exist for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps it is high time for the CIA scriptwriters to craft an ending to the tragedy they helped create. “I have no ammunition left,” Zelensky could be quoted as saying. “I need a ride.”