Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
December 8, 2023
The proxy war in Ukraine has dragged too long already, the US public, who shouldered billions of dollars support for Ukraine, does not have a credible account of how the war is going. Zelenskyy does not disclose any Ukraine’s casualty or specific battle ground gain/loss information by claiming national security. We are exposed to Ukraine propaganda that how badly the Russians have suffered. But somehow, Russians are still in Ukraine.
Now it is “privately” disclosed that the hyped Ukraine counteroffensive is a failure! But what else about the war is still unknown to the public?
We are not surprised now that Zelenskyy and his top commander do not get along. It is not surprising, because Zelenskyy has no military background but acts like a supreme commander of Ukraine who calls all the shots. Now the proxy war is going nowhere, it is natural for the blame game to start.
The crucial challenge for Zelenskyy is to justify his goal and propose a clear pathway of moving forward. It is clear that after almost two years of heavy fighting that caused major damages and causalities in Ukraine, Zelenskyy’s declared “win” is not realistic or he is not going to “defeat” Putin by any means.
Before anyone contributes more to Zelenskyy’s war, we demand accountability and a specific exit strategy with a timetable.
US, Ukraine Officials Privately Say Counteroffensive Against Russia Has ‘Failed’ (Exclusive)
The Messenger Politics
The assessments come at a volatile time for Ukraine as the Biden Administration presses Congress for more than $60 billion in additional support
Updated 12/07/23 05:09 PM ET
James LaPorta and Nicole Gaudiano
A series of meetings over the last month between U.S. officials and representatives of Ukraine’s presidential office and defense ministry concluded that the months-long counteroffensive against Russian forces has failed to meet its objectives and reached a stalemate, The Messenger has learned.
Amid the backdrop of a high-stakes debate in the U.S. Congress over continuing American military and financial support for Ukraine, multiple U.S. defense and intelligence officials told The Messenger that the meetings held in November and December surfaced a range of political and military issues which could undercut Ukraine’s war efforts. The American officials spoke under condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security matters.
Beyond the slow pace of the counteroffensive, those issues included a growing rift over the course of the war between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his top military commander, setbacks in troop mobilizations and desperately low stocks of artillery ammunition.
The U.S. officials said that participants in the meetings agreed that key objectives of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which began in June, have not been met and that there was little chance that they would be, particularly if American aid was suspended. Those objectives included driving Russian forces from land taken in the eastern Donbas region and reaching the Sea of Azov to cut the land bridge between the Crimean Peninsula–which Russia annexed and seized from Ukraine in 2014–and the Russian mainland.
American participants in the meeting went so far as to suggest that given the limited gains, a longstanding U.S. policy of letting Ukraine define the terms of victory in the war be reconsidered.
On Thursday a U.S. official told The Messenger that U.S. policy “will continue to be that it is up to Ukraine to define victory and that it should remain up to Ukraine to decide how this war ends.”
Zelenskyy and his commander
The U.S. defense and intelligence officials told The Messenger that the meetings raised questions about the fraying relationship between Zelenskyy and several Ukrainian generals, including his top military commander Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, and how these tensions may be impacting the war.
Multiple reports have described friction between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny, some of which spilled into public view last month when Zaluzhny gave an interview to The Economist in which he doubted that either side could win the war.
Gen. Zaluzhny said that “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough,” and that the conflict risked becoming “an attritional trench war” that could drag on for years.
Zelenskyy’s office chided Zaluzhny for the comments. A top aide said Zaluzhny’s interview “eases the work of the aggressor” and that his remarks had stirred “panic” among Ukraine’s Western allies.
Zelenskyy himself disputed the general’s characterization of the fighting.
“Time has passed, people are tired, regardless of their status, and this is understandable,” the president said. “But this is not a stalemate.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst told The Messenger that tensions between Zaluzhny and Zelenskyy have been evident since the early days of the war, and had grown in recent months.
“We’re hearing about it again and even more loudly, which is not surprising because we are at the most dangerous moments of the war,” Herbst said. “And the reason why this moment is so dangerous is because at this point, the unreliability of American support for Ukraine.”
This week Ukraine’s defense minister dismissed the reports of tension between the president and his top general. “There is no conflict. This is a fictional construct,” Rustem Umerov told The Kyiv Post.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill…
The bleak assessments come at a particularly volatile time for Ukraine. The Biden Administration is pressing Congress to authorize more than $60 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, arguing that cutting off weapons and equipment would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield.”
“This cannot wait,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday from the White House. “It’s as simple as that.”
But Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blocked the Senate from beginning consideration of the emergency spending package on Wednesday. Republicans have said they won’t vote to authorize more funds unless the package includes policy changes to halt migration at the U.S. border, and they have called on the White House and other supporters of aid to Ukraine to articulate a path to victory.
The private U.S.-Ukraine meetings over the past month suggest that path is more difficult now than at any point since the early stages of the war.
A blame game?
Herbst, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, disputed the suggestion that the counteroffensive had failed and blamed the White House and Congress for a slower-than-needed delivery of military support.
“So to suggest that their counteroffensive was a failure, especially coming from the American officials who did not give Ukraine what it needed, is kind of laughable,” he said. “To have expected a breakthrough, given the way we armed them, was not sound strategic thinking.”
In a phone call with The Messenger, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that such criticism ignored the scale of U.S. and European assistance since the first days of the war.
On Wednesday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said “We would agree that (the Ukrainians) didn’t go as far, as fast, as they, themselves, wanted to go. And again, as winter sets in, I don’t think we should expect any more than we did last winter that the fighting is just going to stop.”
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Story by Lindsey McPherson • 3d