Oleksandr Syrskyï and Valery Zalushnyi
I finally had a chance to read the entire piece published last week in the Economist — Volodymyr Zelensky and his generals explain why the war hangs in the balance — and it is consequential. Given that the Economist magazine functions much like a ventriloquist dummy, with the British intelligence services’ hand jammed up Ukraine’s backside — pulling the strings and moving the mouths of Ukie officials — this article signals a clear shift in the United Kingdom’s policy towards Ukraine and Russia. The Brits are prepping an exit strategy to get out of Ukraine.
When you read the article you will see that Volodomyr Zelensky is handled as an after thought. He says nothing relevant. The real focus is on the top two Ukrainian military leaders and their comments are at odds with Zelensky’s previous pronouncements.
In recent days The Economist has interviewed the three men at the crux of Ukraine’s war effort. One is Mr Zelensky. The second is General Valery Zaluzhny, who has served as the country’s top soldier for the past year and a half. The third is Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of Ukraine’s ground forces, who masterminded the defence of Kyiv in the spring and Ukraine’s spectacular counter-offensive in Kharkiv province in September. All three men emphasised that the outcome of the war hinges on the next few months. They are convinced that Russia is readying another big offensive, to begin as soon as January. Whether Ukraine launches a pre-emptive strike of its own or waits to counter-attack, how it garners and distributes its forces, how much ammunition and equipment it amasses in the coming weeks and months—these looming decisions will determine their country’s future.
The Economist scribe responsible for this article identifies three critical challenges Ukraine faces in its war with Russia. First problem, the escalating air war:
But neither General Zaluzhny nor General Syrsky sounds triumphant. One reason is the escalating air war. Russia has been pounding Ukraine’s power stations and grid with drones and missiles almost every week since October, causing long and frequent blackouts. Though Russia is running short of precision-guided missiles, in recent weeks it is thought to have offered Iran fighter jets and helicopters in exchange for thousands of drones and, perhaps, ballistic missiles.
“It seems to me we are on the edge,” warns General Zaluzhny. More big attacks could completely disable the grid. “That is when soldiers’ wives and children start freezing,” he says. “What kind of mood will the fighters be in? Without water, light and heat, can we talk about preparing reserves to keep fighting?” On December 13th American officials said that they were nearing a decision to give Patriot air-defence batteries to Ukraine, which, unlike the systems sent so far, are capable of shooting down ballistic missiles.
Second, Russia’s grinding success in the Donbas, which is a consequence of General Surovikin becoming the Supreme Russian Commander and instituting coordinated operations, and Russia’s growing cooperation with Belarus:
A second challenge is the fighting currently under way in Donbas, most notably around the town of Bakhmut. General Syrsky, who arrives at the interview in eastern Ukraine in fatigues, his face puffy from sleep deprivation, says that Russia’s tactics there have changed under the command of Sergei Surovikin, who took charge in October. The Wagner group, a mercenary outfit that is better equipped than Russia’s regular army, fights in the first echelon. Troops from the Russian republic of Chechnya and other regulars are in the rear. But whereas these forces once fought separately, today they co-operate in detachments of 900 soldiers or more, moving largely on foot. . . .
Ukraine also faces a renewed threat from Belarus, which began big military exercises in the summer and more recently updated its draft register. On December 3rd Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, visited Minsk, the Belarusian capital, to discuss military co-operation. Western officials say that Belarus has probably given too much material support to Russian units to enter the fray itself, but the aim of this activity is probably to fix Ukrainian forces in the north, in case Kyiv is attacked again, and so prevent them from being used in any new offensive.
The third observation from Zaluzhny and Srysky is a real stunner — they acknowledge that Russia has Ukraine out mobilized.
The third challenge is the most serious. Russia’s mobilisation effort has been widely disparaged, with countless stories of inadequate kit and disgruntled conscripts. Ukraine’s general staff and its Western partners are more wary. “We all know that the quality is poor and that they lack equipment,” says Kusti Salm of Estonia’s defence ministry. “But the fact that they can mobilise so fast is an early-warning dilemma for Ukraine and ultimately for NATO.” Schemes run by Britain and the European Union can train around 30,000 Ukrainian troops in 18 months, he says. Russia has been able to conjure up five times as many new soldiers in a fraction of the time.
“Russian mobilisation has worked,” says General Zaluzhny. “A tsar tells them to go to war, and they go to war.” General Syrsky agrees: “The enemy shouldn’t be discounted. They are not weak…and they have very great potential in terms of manpower.” He gives the example of how Russian recruits, equipped only with small arms, successfully slowed down Ukrainian attacks in Kreminna and Svatove in Luhansk province—though the autumn mud helped. Mobilisation has also allowed Russia to rotate its forces on and off the front lines more frequently, he says, allowing them to rest and recuperate. “In this regard, they have an advantage.”
After 10 months of Ukrainian and Western officials and media insisting that the Russians are a beaten force and led by incompetents, Zaluzhny and Syrsky kill that meme. Not only is Russia a powerful force, they can mobilize and train 10 times the number of troops in half the time that NATO can. The two Generals also reveal an uncomfortable truth — only 28% of the Ukrainian army is “trained for combat:”
Ukraine has enough men under arms—more than 700,000 in uniform, in one form or another, of whom more than 200,000 are trained for combat. But materiel is in short supply. Ammunition is crucial, says General Syrsky. “Artillery plays a decisive role in this war,” he notes. “Therefore, everything really depends on the amount of supplies, and this determines the success of the battle in many cases.” General Zaluzhny, who is raising a new army corps, reels off a wishlist. “I know that I can beat this enemy,” he says. “But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers.” The incremental arsenal he is seeking is bigger than the total armoured forces of most European armies.
I don’t know if General Zaluzhny is a Christian and a believer in Santa Claus, but his wish list of weapons can only be met if Jesus perform’s a miracle, e.g. raising Lazarus from the dead, or Santa decides to take on an army of elves and turn his workshop into Raytheon and Lockheed Martin production facilities. Ho, ho, ho!
Zaluzhny and Syrsky are signalling the desperate and deteriorating state of the Ukrainian military capability to fight Russia and their grudging concession that Russia is winning and Ukraine has no viable path to victory.
So why would British Intelligence give the Economist the green-light to tell the truth? I think it has something to do with the tsunami of strikes flooding the English labor force, double digit inflation and scarce energy. This trifecta makes it politically impossible for the UK to continue funneling billions into the black hole of Ukraine. I think this is the first sign of wavering resolve on the part of the Brits. Will NATO follow suit?