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Ukraine must rely on itself and drones in 2024, top general Zaluzhnyi says in essay on CNN

Facing rumors of his impending dismissal, Ukraine’s Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, published an essay on CNN stating Ukraine must adapt to reduced military aid and boost technology to defeat Russia.
Valeriy Zaluzhnyi
Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine

While he didn’t comment on his relationship with Zelenskyy and the swirling information about his ousting, Zaluzhnyi focused on Ukraine’s war strategy and the challenges it may face, suggesting that the country has to rely mainly on itself in the war effort.

According to the top general, Ukraine’s defense establishment must focus efforts in 2024 on:

  • creating a system to provide its armed forces with high-tech assets like drones and electronic warfare
  • introducing a new philosophy of training and warfare that takes account of restrictions in assets and how they can be deployed (unstable support, global ammunition shortfalls, sanctions loopholes enabling Russia’s arms production).
  • mastering new combat capabilities as soon as possible.

Zaluzhnyi already established high-tech assets, first of all drones, as crucial to Ukraine’s strategy in a similar op-ed from November. In the latest essay, he calls for a “completely new state system of technological rearmament” that would include R&D, production and maintenance, training and lessons learned analysis, use of troops, flexible funding, and logistics. Zaluzhnyi believes creating this system would take five months.

The essay argues Ukraine now has possibilities beyond simply destroying enemies if it can accelerate the accumulation of the latest combat potential. This will allow smaller, technology-enabled forces to impose disproportionate costs on Russia, terminating aggression and securing Ukraine’s future safety with economized resources.

Ukraine’s most critical task is adopting a new perspective on utilizing defense forces to achieve victory. The main driver for changes is developments in weaponry and military hardware, especially drones, which offer a pathway out of disadvantageous positional warfare ongoing in Ukraine.

However, Zaluzhnyi notes other factors influencing decisions around new force employment concepts, including:

  • unstable political conditions around Ukraine reducing military backing
  • the high probability of Russia fomenting other conflicts to divert Ukraine’s partners
  • Russia’s superior mobilized manpower versus Ukraine’s difficulty expanding forces without unpopular measures
  • production bottlenecks in Ukraine’s defense industry due to partial monopolization, which deepen Ukraine’s dependence on allies for supplies, especially ammunition.

The issue of mobilization in Ukraine is a contentious one, with the recent rift between Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy and his top commander being exacerbated by Zaluzhnyi’s insistence on intensifying the draft amid a drastic shortage of manpower and Zelenskyy’s reluctance to take political responsibility for the unpopular step.

CNN’s analysis of the column provided insights into Zaluzhnyi’s “attitude of self-help.” “He does not say it in as many words, but the article seems to suggest a growing sense that, ultimately, Ukraine’s fate is in its own hands,” CNN suggests.

Ukraine has given priority to developing its own drone industry, which has resulted in notable achievements. These include successfully targeting Russian naval sites in the Black Sea through its sea drone program, as well as hitting various locations in and around Russia’s largest cities with its long-range aerial drones, which have flown hundreds of kilometers.

CNN also commented on the military chief’s confirmation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive’s unproductive ending. “Zaluzhnyi’s characterization of the situation as a war of position…amounted to a recognition that the Ukrainian counteroffensive, launched to great fanfare earlier in 2023, was effectively over,” the analysis says.

In his essay, Zaluzhnyi makes no mention of the supposed conflict with Zelenskyy, despite the rumors swirling for weeks. The informational tension reached its climax on the evening of 29 January, when reports started to appear on social media regarding Zelenskyy’s alleged dismissal of Zaluzhnyi. These reports are said to have originated from anonymous Telegram channels that are associated with the President’s Office.

Does Zelenskyy want to fire top general Zaluzhnyi? Everything we know

Despite being officially refuted by the Ministry of Defense and the President’s press secretary, the information resurfaced in the following days in Western media. The Financial Times, BBC, The Economist, and CNN reported citing their sources that Zaluzhnyi’s sacking is only a matter of “when.”

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