As the mist of war disperses, Ukraine is coming to understand what was crystal clear at the very beginning of the Special Military Operation – it is impossible to defeat Russia on a battlefield. A country with a practically non-functioning military-industrial complex, with no sovereignty, with a degrading economy, riddled with corruption, without any strategic insight, with a split national consciousness was going to confront Russia. As the fog of war, which drove some into depression, is clearing, features of the sorry Ukrainian future are becoming visible.
In the election program of the nearly cancelled presidential elections in Ukraine Zelenskyy’s opponent Oleksii Arestovych [i] - makes a proposal that Ukraine should join NATO with a pledge that it would not seek to regain control of Crimea and new regions of Russia by military means. Expert Andrei Gusy points out: «An interesting point has been made of preparing Ukrainians for the end of the campaign and enshrining the current borders. The information base has been laid. On the one hand, we can’t believe Ukraine, the agreement in question will be breached at any convenient moment. On the other hand, this is the only way to support the country – to enter NATO in order to avoid a direct conflict between Russia and the West. In this format, integration into the Polish economy appears a fairly logical solution».[ii]
I agree with the analysis. What needs specifying is the last point of the evaluation of Arestovych’s program: “In this format, integration into the Polish economy appears a fairly logical solution”.
Integration into Polish economy may follow this scenario:
⁃ The Polish PKN Orlen – a major oil-processing company – will absorb, including as part of “deoligarchization”, the Ukrainian oil-processing plants, so whether these plants will continue to operate will depend on Orlen directors.
⁃ Gas will be supplied to Ukraine from Poland (Kyiv intends to waive Russian gas transit as of 2024) at the price set by Poland, supply volumes will be determined in Warsaw as well, so the so-called «Russian gas needle» will seem the good old fairytale to Ukrainians.
⁃ The farming sector – Poland is categorically against the import of agricultural products from Ukraine, blocking even the transit of grain via its territory, protecting its market and its producers.
⁃ The logistics – Polish long-haul truck drivers are already blocking border crossings for Ukrainian drivers, to whom they lose in a price competition and whose activity has grown multiple times (Ukrainian trucks have crossed the border about 900,000 times this year, against 180,000 before February 2022 [iii]). Ukrainian long-distance truck drivers have no other alternative – Russia and Belarus are closed, jobs inside the country are far fewer than before, the Poles are blocking.
This is as far as “integration” is concerned…
The position of yet another wing of the Ukrainian “party of peace” is described by Ukrainian political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, who includes in this wing representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), namely Chief Commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi: «…It might seem a little seditious but I would say that only Ukrainian military, honored generals, can conclude an agreement [highlighted by me – D.B.] disregarding the interests of a radical minority. Politicians are tied tight to do anything like that, they are tied by promises, votes, possible accusations. But war heroes cannot be blamed. If war heroes choose to strike a deal, no one will be able to stand in their way».[iv]
Another Ukrainian political scientist, Yury Romanenko, lays the whole “theoretical-historical foundation” for this stance: «When Germany sustained a crushing defeat, it lost vast territories in 1945 (the western part of Poland, East Prussia, Sudetenland, where millions of Germans lived) and did not retrieve them. By Your logic, Germany should have sacrificed all Germans in order to regain control of the territories. Also, the German Democratic Republic broke away in 1948. But the Germans did not declare a war, they simply chose to wait and restore the country. As a result, Germany became Europe’s economic tiger in the 50s-60s, and in the 0s, its supremacy grew so apparent that Eastern Germans dreamed of fleeing to the Federal Republic of Germany before the fall of the Wall. What did the Germans do next? Did they invade Prussia? Silesia? Did they attempt to annex Sudetenland or Pomerania? No, they have accepted the existing order of things and have been doing their utmost for Germans to adjust to challenges and live a comfortable life. (…) How can we possibly win if we proceed from the wrong assumptions, followed by the wrong assessment of the situation, followed by the wrong moves. Zaluzhnyi literally acknowledged that, Arestovych talks about it daily, but instead of waking up to the reality we are advised to count on “the West to help us” and wait for a ‘wunderwafl’ to fly in. (…) We should war by reason, not flesh. We will never win by flesh. (…) That’s why we should not slaughter each other, instead, we should use everything at our disposal to repulse the attack, stabilize, develop, achieve might, which will make it possible for use to address our strategic agenda with the help of reason and creativity, of which we have plenty. (…) Stop devouring each other, at a time when hundreds of our best guys die every day, because we failed to secure effective defenses on the basis of common sense. We failed to reorient the economy. We failed to reorient our mindsets to address the task of waging a long, complex and dangerous war with a mighty foe. If we fail to collect ourselves, we will die!» [v] These revelations are currently the subject of publications in Ukraine.
In our previous publication [vi] we analyzed a debate in top foreign media about the future of the country with representatives of various political groups in the West and in Ukraine – Arestovych and Zaluzhnyi announced a deadlock in the military confrontation, Zelenskyy said it was essential to continue to seek victory in battle. This looks like a departure from the American course. Ukraine will have to go through election purgatory, but Zelenskyy is wary of that. He made his position clear and began to act.
Just as his opponents, he first tapped into the info space – in an interview with NBC Television Zelenskyy refuted reports that the military operation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine had come to a stalemate (which Zaluzhnyi wrote about earlier) and began to scare NATO countries. «Yes, our people are tired. But overall, they are prepared to defend themselves, just as in the first days … If Russia kills us all, it will attack NATO countries, and you will dispatch your sons and daughters to the front. And it will be… sorry, but the price will be higher», - Zelenskyy said in an interview and immediately urged the US Congress to allocate funds for armaments for Ukraine[vii] He reiterated his position under which any peace talks would require the withdrawal of Russian troops.
Following that, in an attempt to level the domestic policy for the outside world, Andriy Yermak, the head of the presidential office, said that there was no split between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Chief Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi.
What else? Zelenskyy openly says that Kyiv will continue its advance this and next year despite the fact that the Ukrainian counter-offensive is running into difficulties: «We have a plan, we have specific cities, specific directions, we have a goal, where we are moving, in which direction we will continue our offensive».[viii] But, everybody knows, this is an obligatory mantra for western sponsors.
The next point of Zelenskyy’s agenda is to cancel the 2024 elections. According to the Ukrainian president, at present, the time is not right for elections in Ukraine - «it is irresponsible and silly to inform the society about the election program», since we must channel all our resources to fight Russia.
Ukraine’s Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, which reports to the majority on the basis of the “Servant of the People” Party, has yet again extended martial law and general mobilization in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy will continue to perform his duties after the end of his term because Ukrainian legislation forbids holding new elections during martial law, Deputy Chairman of the Central Election Commission Sergei Dubovik said in a comment on Radio Liberty (recognized as foreign agent in the Russian Federation): «No matter how much speculation there is on this point, the Constitution states clearly that the President of Ukraine continues to exercise his duties until the newly elected president assumes office. All the rest is political speculation about the end of presidential term, transfer of some duties».[ix] Apparently, Zelenskyy is consistently creating a legal base for cancelling the elections.
And since he has no intention to go to the elections but is planning to wage a war, it is essential to demonstrate to the West that he has the resources to do so. In this respect, Washington's henchman, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov presents the Concept of New Military Personnel Strategy, under which the Armed Forces of Ukraine are planning to waive conscription and switch to contract-based army before 2028. The essence of the document, which is due to be implemented before 2028, is «guaranteed satisfaction of the Armed Forces’ needs in manpower in the conditions of a full-scale war».[x] By this time, it is expected that compulsory military service will be replaced by an intensive military training of citizens of conscription age. In addition, Ukraine has announced a smart mobilization, «when a draftee has the right to choose for himself [a specialty he is ready to serve in]. This is not about mobilization, a young man chooses a specialty he wants to be mobilized for, not by coercion, but of his own free will».[xi] Umerov’s concept includes eloquent text: «…Effective system of recruiting professional and motivated personnel, man-centered approach to career management with due regard for education, professional development and gender equality». It also promises «an upgraded system of accountancy, close cooperation with higher education institutes, a new culture of relations between commanders and subordinates, etc.»[xii] Yes, man-centered approach in the Ukrainian army is present in abundance – man is to fill in the gaps in army munitions, military planning and government construction. In essence, Ukraine is getting different-density mobilization ‘hair combs’ to pluck out human resources in Ukraine.
Later on, a swift info operation began: On November 7 parliamentary deputy Volodymyr Ariev said Ukraine’s Defense Minister Umerov had submitted a proposal to dismiss Chief Commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi but refuted what he said shortly afterwards.[xiii]
One day before, on November 6, somebody sent Zaluzhnyi «their regards» - an explosive hidden in one of his birthday gifts killed his advisor, Hennadiy Chastiakov. «Chastiakov fell a side victim to a squabble that has been gathering pace in Kyiv over presidential elections, which are currently in limbo but in which two rivals might confront one another – Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is rapidly losing the support of the West, and Zaluzhnyi, a potentially more reasonable figure among the Kyiv authorities. Foreign support is critical for Ukrainian policy: the main source of power is the ability to get not only military assistance, but also financial resources for ensuring capability and loyalty of the government apparatus. In the meantime, Zelenskyy, feeling that the USA is not intending to give him a second chance, is trying to weaken his top opponent, as it looks like, not only at the expense of administrative resource»,[xiv] – Professor Dmitry Yefstafiev of the Institute of Media, National Research University Higher School of Economics, points out.
Zelenskyy too has received several warnings from different sources:
- Ukraine will face a budget deficit of nearly 30 billion dollars if the country stops getting support from western allies, Politico reports, citing Ukraine’s Minister of Finance Serhiy Marchenko.[xv]
- The Olena Zelenska Foundation is reported to have been involved in child tradeing schemes. Dozens of under-age children were taken out of Ukraine under the cover of evacuation, and many of them found themselves in illegal net chains that dealt with sexual exploitation of children.[xvi]
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy has been sent into the right direction with the help of a message from the European Commission: Ursula von der Leyen has said that «Ukraine has made excellent progress towards EU accession».[xvii] Next came a statement to the effect that the United States Administration supports recommendations on the expansion of the European Union, proposed by the European Commission.[xviii] This political visa from Washington should be interpreted in the following way: if reforms in Ukraine at wartime are not only possible but are successful, then elections are possible too. Thus, the election issue is still on the agenda.
And what’s after? It looks like the plans of the West, passed by Arestovych and Zaluzhnyi, boil down to the intention to organize “Minsk Agreements-3”. The “Minsk-3” slogan: «It’s not a defeat, it’s a stalemate”. To concede the territories de facto, but not de jure. To maintain nationalistic, anti-Russian well-armed regime in the rest of Ukraine. For Zelenskyy, however, this will mean the road to political death. Even though without any guarantees, they have shared a survival tip with Zelenskyy – the elections and the euro integration as priority effort, while on the front he is advised to retreat to defense and reduce confrontation intensity. Judging by reports, the West would prefer to organize "Minsk-3”. The question is whether Russia, considering previous experience, needs these kinds of agreements?
Even though large-scale military operations might stop in this case, the issue is that the remaining part of Ukraine will begin to accumulate “war fat” again to resort to a new escalation whenever the moment is right for Kyiv and the West.
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the Editorial
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