Ukraine – Is There Really A Change Of The Narrative?

In Alastair Crooke’s latest piece he discusses the change of narrative that occurred due to The Economist‘s recent Ukrainian interviews:

The Economist leads with interviews with Zelensky, General Zaluzhny and Ukraine’s military field commander, General Syrsky. All three are interviewed – interviewed in The Economist, no less. Such a thing does not occur by happenstance. It is messaging intended to convey the Ruling Class’ new narrative to the ‘golden billion’ (who will all read and absorb it).

On the surface, it is possible to read The Economist piece as a plea for more money and many more weapons. But the underlying messaging is clear: “Anyone who underestimates Russia is heading for defeat”. The Russian force mobilisation was a success; there is no problem with Russian morale; and Russia is preparing a huge winter offensive that will start soon. Russia has huge reserve forces (of up to 1.2 million men); whereas Ukraine now has 200,000 who are militarily trained for conflict. The ‘writing is on the wall’, in other words. Ukraine cannot win.

Scott Ritter, in discussion with Judge Neapolitano, believes that The Economist interviews reveal the West pushing aside Zelensky – as Zaluzhny administers his large dose of reality (that will be shocking to many sherpa loyalists). The Economist interview emphasis thus was unmistakably on General Zaluzhny, with Zelensky pointedly de-emphasised – which Ritter suggests indicates that Washington wishes to ‘switch leadership horses’. Another ‘message’?

Just to be clear, General Zaluzhny once said he considers himself a disciple of Russian General Gerasimov, the Chief of General Staff. Zaluzhny reportedly is familiar with the latter’s writings. In brief, Zaluzhny is known in Moscow as a professional soldier (albeit one committed to the Ukrainian nationalist cause).

So, is the West preparing its narrative to cut from this unwinnable conflict –Ukraine – and to move on?

That might indeed by a possibility. Could the U.S. and NATO just limp out of the situation and leave it to Zaluzhny to negotiated his defeat with Russia?

But haven’t Biden, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg and Germany’s chancellor Scholz said that Russia ‘can not be allowed to win’? Sure, they have.

But Crooke points to Afghanistan and how fast the chaotic retreat from Kabul has vanished from the media and is now mostly forgotten. The Taliban were another enemy that could not be allowed to win. They won. And no one cares about it.

I dearly hope that the scenario, as Crooke lays it out, will soon come true in Ukraine. But alas I am a realist. Russia will not stop the war without achieving its aims. Zaluzhny will not be allowed to negotiate for peace.

M. K. Bhadrakumar notes that any peace negotiations depend on Biden’s agreement:

The clearest indication that the US is far from in a hurry to negotiate comes from none other than the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan whose visit to Kiev last month (just before the US midterms) had triggered a flurry of speculations that Washington was pressuring President Zelensky to negotiate. 

Now, Sullivan’s remarks at an appearance at the Carnegie last weekend made it clear that the US is in Ukraine for the long haul. He said: 

“We don’t know when this is going to end up. What we do know is that it is our job to continue to sustain our military support to Ukraine so that they are in their best possible position on the battlefield, that if and when diplomacy is ripe, they will be in the best possible position at the negotiating table. 

“That moment is not ripe now, and so, as a result, we’ve gone to Congress and asked for a substantial amount of further resources to be able to continue to ensure that Ukraine has the means to fight this war. We’re confident we will get bipartisan support for that… 

“I am not going to precept the future, I’m only going to assure that in the present we are doing everything we can to maximise Ukraine’s chances of defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity… yes, it is likely to go on for quite some time…”

Basically, the US claims to have a winning hand in Ukraine.

The Economist interviews were published on December 15. The Sullivan talk at Carnegie was held a day later. If there had been a change of mind in the White House it would have been part of that interview.

I also think that Zaluzhny is not the kind of leader who is likely to organize, or allow himself to be drawn into a coup. In fact it may well be that the rumors from Kiev are true and that Zelensky and his staff are working to push him out. He would be replaced by the other Ukrainian general The Economist had interviewed:

On several occasions, [General Syrsky] was actually senior in the chain of command to Valery Zaluzhny, appointed to be the commander-in-chief of the entire armed forces in July 2021. Some political actors behind the scenes may be using that fact in an apparent attempt to foment tensions between the two. Rumours even persist that the presidential administration might be inclined to replace the popular but independent-minded General Zaluzhny with his former boss. Cracks of disunity have high-placed Western military officials worried. The two generals on their part say they fully trust each other and wish to stay out of politics. General Syrsky is uncomfortable with the conversation. “The army is outside of politics,” he says. “It is how it should be, and how the law demands it to be.”

Neither Zaluzhny nor Syrsky are men for a coup. If Zelenski is to go, some other politician, probably a more radical one, is likely to take the lead.

As Bhadrakumar concludes:

Therefore, in the prevailing circumstances, Russia’s option narrows down to inflicting a crushing defeat on Ukraine in the coming months and installing a government in Kiev that is not under Washington’s control. But that requires a fundamental shift in the Russian military strategy, which would factor in the real possibility of a confrontation with the US and NATO at some point.

Even while they are still deluded about Ukraine’s chance for success, neither NATO nor the White House have shown any appetite for war with Russia. They have likely come to understand the real meaning of General Zaluzhny’s request:

I know that I can beat this enemy. But I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs, 500 Howitzers. Then, I think it is completely realistic to get to the lines of February 23rd.

At the start of the war Ukraine had, at least on paper, a well equipped military:

Ukraine has a lot of tanks and is ranked 13th across the globe with 2,430. In terms of armored vehicles, Kiev also ranks high, occupying the seventh spot globally with 11,435. Kiev’s artillery power is also formidable at 2,040 batteries.

That General Zaluzhny requested all that new stuff is a confession that most if not all the old stuff is gone. That includes the weapons he received after the war started. If the 20 percent of the Russian military that was used in Ukraine could do so much material damage in such a short time how long would a NATO army in a war against Russia survive?