February 22, 2024

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Will Zelensky dismiss the Commander of the Armed Forces, Valery Zalozny?

Will Zelensky dismiss the Commander of the Armed Forces, Valery Zalozny?

He said it indirectly, but he didn't dare to do so yet. We are talking about replacing the Head of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valery Zalozhny, with the President of the country V.V. Zelensky. The latter hinted at this as “part of a more general change” or “a change of faces” in a recent interview with RAI, while the rumor has been circulating for several days, perhaps also to detect reactions.

Zelensky's problem here lies in three aspects: First find an alternative that enjoys the general trust of the populationlike what Zalozny is doing today, or at least obtaining the approval of the majority of soldiers. Second, find someone who has a guarantee of success against Russia. Greater than Zalozny, Thirdly, finding someone who has good relations with NATO and the West. So that he can work with them directly, and provide them with guarantees that Ukraine will continue to fight in an orderly manner.

All of the above is difficult, since by changing Zalozny, Zelensky will automatically be accused of any consequence in continuing the war, and he will have “produced” himself a competitor in the country’s political scene. Zalozny is currently considered the most popular figure in Ukraine and if he has not yet expressed any political ambitions, “Destabilization” during war could push him there. Surprisingly, in Ukrainian society, the failure of last year's counteroffensive was not particularly blamed, but rather credited with the major counteroffensive in 2022, in which Kherson was liberated.

However, the difference between Zelensky and Zalozny is crucial politically and for other, more serious reasons: Zelensky insists – and cannot do otherwise – that Ukraine's goal is to completely expel the Russians from the country, even from the areas that Moscow has controlled since 2014, namely the Crimean Peninsula and half of the Donbass region. This is not a “big mouth”, as it seems at first glance, but a declaration necessary to “restore the frontiers” of a conquered country, so that it cannot demand anything other than its full extension. However, in practice, it is no secret that Ukraine would be content to return to the “pre-2022 situation,” i.e. allowing Moscow to take control of the previous occupations.

Zaluzny (who is only 50 years old) here offers a different philosophy. Without specifying such geographical and political goals, he sees that the daily life of a war of attrition, Calls for new mass recruitment Which will necessarily now reach the age of 18-25 (until now it has been a source of volunteers), while it is necessary The continued flow of weapons and ammunition westward to continue the conflict. So Zalozny demands that Zelensky bear the political cost of all these decisions, while remaining in the bulletproof zone himself. That is why continuing to coexist with them is so difficult.

Ukraine's dystopia is thus multifaceted: Zelensky points to Ukrainian society's weariness from a brutal war that has already succeeded in preventing Russian pressure on a massive border, but without a major step forward in sight. At the same time, he points out the difficulty of the West continuing to prepare its country at the same rate, with the “Trump threat” constantly escalating. Because if the silent Republican presidential candidate is elected in November, he will likely pressure Ukraine to reach a settlement.

So, in the meantime, that is, the few spring and summer months of this year, when operations will begin again at the front (we are now in a partial rest phase due to winter), It is crucial that “something has to be done,” and it is clearly a positive thing for Ukraine, that it is in a somewhat better position to negotiate.

But in general, whatever Zelezny does, the chances of his success militarily and politically are slim. If the popular general is expelled, he will enter into conflict with society. If she keeps him without giving him what he asks for, it will seem like she is undermining him. If he expels him and finds successors in other critical positions, and they do not do so, he will be held accountable again for everything. If he retains Zalozhny and undertakes the necessary large-scale mobilization, he will have to bear the brunt of that, but he cannot promise the Ukrainian people a “spectacular victory” anytime soon.

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Who can now be Zalozny's successors? It's a choice Lieutenant General Kirilo Budanov, President of GUR It is affiliated with the Armed Forces' secret services, which have been in the spotlight recently as they deal with drone attacks against Russia's Black Sea Fleet, as well as other attacks and sabotage within Russian territory. But can he, the youngest officer (38 years old), give the country's armed forces the breathing space they need?