Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Prof. ST Hsieh

Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum

626-376-7460

[email protected]

November 27, 2023

The proxy war in Ukraine should never have started in the first place: it is the failure of President Zelenskyy. Without any real leadership or geopolitical insight, Zelenskyy as an actor, transferred his delusion to a national optimism. He went along with the US led allies and “invited” Putin to fight a war in his homeland. The root cause of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is all about NATO.

Zelenskyy’s delusion is that NATO will support him till Putin is defeated and then Ukraine will be a member of NATO so Russia will not be able to challenge Ukraine. Further, EU will welcome Ukraine as a member. In the sense both NATO and EU would be obliged to support Zelenskyy a hero who beats Putin to the dust.

But in terms of national power, Ukraine is no match for Russia and in terms of personal capacity, Zelenskyy is no match for Putin. However, Zelenskyy sticks to his personal conviction of victory and maintained a dead-end cease fire condition that Russia must return all the territories including Crema. Further, his allies all said in public that it is Zelenskyy’s call for any cease fire. He is stuck!

Now it is time for Zelenskyy to wake up from his delusion of wining but find an exist-strategy to end this proxy war as soon as possible. Otherwise, the continued battlefield casualties and physical destructions will render Ukraine a badly broken nation for generations. Then what is the meaning or purpose for Ukraine be a member of NATO and EU?

If Zelenskyy realizes that he is not capable of leading Ukraine to peace, then he should leave his office as soon as possible and let someone else stop the bleeding.

Ukrainian optimism fades at start of another winter of war

Rumours of tensions at the top, exhaustion after two years of fighting and frustration with allies dampen the mood in Kyiv

Shaun Walker in Kyiv

Mon 20 Nov 2023 05.25 EST

There is a subtle yet unmistakable sense of gloom in Kyiv at the moment, and not only because of the dark afternoons and plunging mercury of an eastern European November. A number of internal and external factors have combined to create perhaps the most downbeat mood about the prospects for a swift and decisive Ukrainian victory over Russia since the first weeks of the full-scale invasion.

“At the end of last year and beginning of this one, there was such euphoria. Now we see the other extreme, the down, and I guess we will see some ups and downs for some time to come,” said Bartosz Cichocki, who last month finished a four-year posting as Poland’s ambassador in Kyiv.

The much-anticipated summer counteroffensive has been thwarted by impenetrable Russian minefields and fortifications. There are rumours of tensions in Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s team, and of a rift between the president and his commander-in-chief, which were reinforced late on Sunday when Zelenskiy fired the head of Ukraine’s military medical forces and called for operational changes in the army.

The exhaustion of two years of fighting, the continued loss of life at the front and frustration at the slow pace with which western partners continue to provide weaponry have combined so that for the first time since the early stages of the war, some voices have quietly pondered the possibility of ceasefire negotiations, while accepting they would be risky and could benefit Russia.

Then there is the horror unfolding in the Middle East, which has taken attention away from Ukraine and slowed down flows of ammunition. There is also increasing “Ukraine fatigue” in western capitals, as well as the looming prospect of a second term for Donald Trump in the US, which could upend support from Kyiv’s biggest ally.

But as Ukrainians brace for another winter of potential Russian attacks on critical infrastructure, as well as the ongoing nightly terror from missiles and drones aimed at Ukrainian cities, the optimism of six months ago that the defeat of Russia and the return of Donbas and Crimea could be just around the corner has begun to fade.

It won’t be the victory that we dreamed of and it will take much longer than we thought,” said Volodymyr Omelyan, a former minister of infrastructure who signed up for the territorial defence forces on the first day of the war and is a captain in the Ukrainian army.

The C-word

Most people recognise that as long as Vladimir Putin is in the Kremlin, there is not likely to be any lasting peace, and any pause in the fighting would be used by Russia to rearm. Surveys show that the majority of Ukrainians oppose negotiations with Russia, especially if they would involve acknowledging lost territory.

At the same time, the exhaustion of those who have been at the front since the start of the conflict, the difficulty in mobilising new recruits and the failure of this summer’s counteroffensive to take back territory have led to some cautious voices suggesting that a change of tack is required.

“The choice is very simple. If we are ready to send another 300,000 or 500,000 lives of Ukrainian soldiers to capture Crimea and liberate Donbas, and if we get the right number of tanks and F16s from the west, we can do this,” Omelyan said. “But I don’t see the 500,000 more people ready to die and I don’t see the readiness of the west to send the type and quantity of weapons we would need.”

The other option, said Omelyan, would be “a ceasefire deal to make great reforms, become a member of Nato and the EU, then Russia will collapse and later we will take back Crimea and Donbas”.

That may be wishful thinking, however, and Zelenskiy has said any negotiations would only play into Russia’s hands, given that the Kremlin’s ultimate war aim remains the total subjugation of Ukraine.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, conceded that this was a difficult phase of the war but said this stage “requires the strongest and most difficult concentration” to keep going.

“Let’s be clear, there is no option for real negotiations. All it would be would be an operational pause. Russia would use this to significantly improve its army, carry out new mobilisation and then relaunch its war, with even more tragic consequences for Ukraine,” he said in an interview at the presidential administration in Kyiv.

Still, a recent interview with Zelenskiy by the journalist Simon Shuster, who has written a forthcoming biography of the president and has enjoyed unusually close access to his team, suggested that even within Zelenskiy’s inner circle there were people who doubted his messianic belief in Ukraine’s victory.

Shuster quoted a frustrated Zelenskiy aide who said the president was delusional about the prospect of victory on the battlefield. “We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that,” said the aide.

Conflict in the Middle East

The Hamas attacks on Israel and Israeli assault on Gaza in response have proved tricky for Ukraine in three ways. Firstly, the war in the Middle East has meant that for perhaps the first time since February 2022, Ukraine has not been the main foreign policy issue on most western leaders’ minds for a sustained period of time.

Secondly, it has meant a decrease in ammunition supplies to Ukraine, according to Zelenskiy, which has exacerbated an already crucial problem for the Ukrainian military.

Finally, there is the fallout from Zelenskiy’s decision to line up behind America’s hard pro-Israeli position on the Gaza conflict. He has described Hamas and Russia as “the same evil”. This has undermined a push by Ukraine to broaden alliances in the Middle East and elsewhere outside the west, which was a key part of the remit of the recently appointed defence minister, Rustem Umerov.

The looming prospect of a Trump second term

With just a year to go until the US presidential election, the potential return of Donald Trump, who frequently claims he would be able to do a quick deal to end the war, is an alarming prospect for many in Kyiv.

Even without Trump in office, Republicans can frustrate the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy. Congress has been unable to pass a new bill on aid to Ukraine since September, with a chunk of Republicans opposed, meaning military shipments to Kyiv have been reduced. Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, travelled to Washington last week to meet Democrats and Republicans in the hope of underlining the importance of continued weapons deliveries.

The return of politics

For the first year of the war, Ukrainians were united behind Zelenskiy, in awe of his leadership during the crucial first days and unified in their national struggle against Russia. Naturally, as time has gone on that agreement has started to fray.

The president is acutely worried about the “Churchill phenomenon”, according to one informed source, of electoral defeat for a successful wartime leader. With presidential elections due next March, there had been some suggestion Zelenskiy might attempt to hold a vote, giving himself a new mandate before what may be a more difficult phase of the war.

Zelenskiy eventually ruled out a vote next spring but, elections or not, there are now caveats to wartime unity. Opposition politicians say that when the war is over, questions about Zelenskiy’s preparations in the run-up to the invasion will be revisited. “Black PR” campaigns and kompromat are again spread through Telegram channels, where most Ukrainians get their news.

Cichocki, the Polish former ambassador, said it was clear that in recent months there had been an uptick in political jockeying. “Politics is back in Ukraine,” he said. “The original consolidation of one unified force fighting evil, it’s different now.”

Russia offered to end its invasion of Ukraine if it dumped plans to join NATO, but Kyiv feared a double cross, says negotiator

Rebecca Rommen 

Nov 26, 2023, 6:22 AM PS Rebecca Rommen 

Nov 26, 2023, 6:22 AM PST

  • A Ukrainian politician said Russia proposed ending the war if Ukraine abandoned its NATO ambitions.
  • Russia made the proposal during peace talks soon after the full-scale invasion began.
  • “There is no, and there was no, trust in the Russians that they would do it,” the politician said.

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