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Ukraine’s many struggles


The Ukrainian offensive clearly missed its goals. The political leadership in Kiev is self-critical and formulates clear expectations of the military. What should now bring success.

Vasily Golod

Crying with relief, the residents of the city of Kherson fall into the arms of Ukrainian soldiers – it has been a year since the Ukrainian military was able to liberate Kherson from Russian occupation. It was the hope for these emotions that President Volodymyr Zelensky stirred up in many when he declared 2023 the “Year of Return.”

Today it is clear: these expectations could not even begin to be fulfilled.

The Ukrainian offensive was without resounding success. The reasons for that are complex. There was a lot of long-term discussion in the West. Whether, which and how many weapons can be delivered. Promises were not followed by immediate deliveries.

The fact is: This gave Russia enough time to expand its own positions and create massive minefields. Many military experts believe that expectations of the Ukrainian offensive were excessive.

Basic Disagreements

It is also a fact: Ukraine itself clearly expected more. Nobody keeps this a secret anymore. In a much-discussed article for the British Economist, Valeriy Zalushny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, admits mistakes, speaks of an impending stalemate and draws comparisons to the First World War.

But there are fundamental differences of opinion about how to publicly deal with one’s own mistakes. Saluschnyj’s text caused anger among the political leadership.

Zelensky, Zalushny and the vast majority of their compatriots agree on the goal: Ukraine is fighting to return to its internationally recognized state borders from 1991, including Crimea and Donbass.

The president is said to have been all the more astonished when he read the contribution of his most important military officer. The content was apparently not agreed upon. They see their political efforts in the presidential office being torpedoed, particularly by the comparison with the First World War.

Top military officers are to be exchanged

While Salushnyj probably wanted to shake up the West with his sober military analysis and persuade them to supply more weapons, the political leadership around Zelenskyj fears the exact opposite due to the nature of the communication.

That’s why Zelensky is pushing to bring Ukraine back to a position of strength – on the front lines and in public communications. This is also why Saluschnyj, who was long considered untouchable, was publicly reprimanded by the presidential office.

The message: Nobody is untouchable. There are considerations about exchanging top military personnel, including generals. The people of Ukraine should see that decision-makers are held accountable. The partners in the West should see that the slow developments at the front are not just being passed on to them.

Trust in Zelensky is waning

But the president is also increasingly coming under public criticism. The Ukrainian population’s trust in Zelensky is still high, but has fallen from 91 percent to 76 percent in the past few months.

In addition to the lack of military successes, frequent accusations include his lack of ability to take criticism. Trust in the Ukrainian armed forces remains consistently at more than 90 percent.

Fight for attention – and support

Everyone in Ukraine is aware that without help from the West, the country will not be able to survive the grueling war of attrition against Russia. Its own arms production has been massively ramped up and is expected to produce more and more drones and ammunition.

But because Russia has many more weapons and people and can also rely on arms deliveries from North Korea and Iran, Ukraine also needs reliable support from the EU and the USA.

“Deliveries to us have decreased,” President Zelensky said this week at a meeting with journalists, at which the ARD was represented. Zelensky speaks of a direct consequence of the war in the Middle East.

Deliveries have slowed down because each state has to keep an eye on its own ammunition stocks. However, he sees efforts in the West to increase their own production capacities.

The hope for “Taurus”

This is also why the tone has changed. In January, Zelensky threw out Chancellor Olaf Scholz ARD-Exclusive interview still lacks political will.

Today Zelenskyj speaks of a trusting relationship with Scholz and the best relations in the shared history of both states. And this despite the fact that the Chancellor is against the delivery of “Taurus” cruise missiles.

The missiles have a longer range and could help Ukraine militarily to cut off Russian-occupied Crimea from supplies. In the background, the Ukrainian leadership is trying to convince the federal government to make a delivery.

Thanks remain public. In the current situation, Ukraine cannot afford to jeopardize good relations with its second largest supporter.

The goal: a position of strength

More than 630 days after the start of the Russian war of aggression, the Ukrainian leadership appears to have a sober view of its own military options. Nobody in Kiev is anymore talking about a quick military reconquest of all Russian-occupied areas.

People are proud of the military successes in Crimea. According to Ukrainian information, by pushing back the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 151 freighters were able to use the temporary corridor on the Black Sea.

Ukraine needs further military successes. The hope in the presidential office is that this would not only boost morale after a difficult year, but also put the country in a position of political strength.

Only from such a position does the idea of ​​possible negotiations no longer seem to be ruled out.

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