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Washington Post tells story of “friendly and complicated” relations between US’ and Ukraine’s top army commanders

Current Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told about the tumultous forging of their personal bond as they jointly dealt with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhnyi and former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Washington Post tells story of “friendly and complicated” relations between US’ and Ukraine’s top army commanders

In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi had a cold call with Gen. Mark A. Milley, then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ukraine had only a handful of functioning aircraft left and desperately needed Western military aid, Zaluzhnyi said, according to the Washington Post.

By the end of the conversation, Zaluzhnyi said, he felt “like I was talking to myself.” He cut off communication entirely with Milley for a week. However, “frankly speaking, due to my youth and stupidity, I admit that it was my mistake,” Zaluzhnyi, who is 50, added.

Soon, Milley and Zaluzhnyi were speaking for hours in regular calls, discussing battlefield developments. Generally, each call was structured the same way. Zaluzhnyi gave Milley his assessment of what was happening on the battlefield. Milley answered with US intelligence on the same. Then, they would shift to resources: what did Ukraine need for the next weeks or months and how could Washington help?

Shortly before the invasion, Milley asked Zaluzhnyi where his family would shelter if war erupted. The Ukrainian general said his wife Olena and children would stay in Kyiv. One daughter, a medic, would treat the wounded while the other would join the army. “We will fight and die in Kyiv, if necessary,” Zaluzhnyi told him.

That’s when I said, ‘Wow,’” Milley recalled. “These guys are serious guys. And he’s just representative of the Ukrainian people in my mind. And he’s totally committed to defending his country.

The candid conversations offered Milley insights into Ukraine’s determination against daunting odds. The two commanders have developed a personal bond while coordinating Ukraine’s existential battle for survival.

Zaluzhnyi said he regrets not having more informal time to talk with Milley during their meeting on the Polish-Ukrainian border in 2023. After their last official coal, Zaluzhnyi noted he thanked Milley personally for “always being by the side of our people.”

Ukraine’s military leader expresses gratitude to outgoing and incoming US Joint Chiefs chairmen

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