by SIMPLICIUS THE THINKER
The talk of the blogosphere is the new devastating TIME magazine profile on Zelensky which paints the most grim, 1945 Führerbunker portrait of Zelensky yet. Bernhard covers it well on MoA, but I’m going to retread some of the same points to take the analysis into a slightly different direction of anticipating what comes next vis a vis the current political turmoil in the U.S.
First let’s cover the most salient revelations.
Zelensky admits that the entire world is losing interest in Ukraine, treating it as a TV re-run that’s on for the 10th time in a row:
“The scariest thing is that part of the world got used to the war in Ukraine,” he says. “Exhaustion with the war rolls along like a wave. You see it in the United States, in Europe. And we see that as soon as they start to get a little tired, it becomes like a show to them: ‘I can’t watch this rerun for the 10th time.’”
Members of Zelensky’s team say he’s lost the “sparkle” he once had, now arriving to give orders then coldly leaving without any fanfare or trivialities. He feels “betrayed” by his “allies,” he says.
But that’s where the frightening part comes in:
But his convictions haven’t changed. Despite the recent setbacks on the battlefield, he does not intend to give up fighting or to sue for any kind of peace. On the contrary, his belief in Ukraine’s ultimate victory over Russia has hardened into a form that worries some of his advisers. It is immovable, verging on the messianic. “He deludes himself,” one of his closest aides tells me in frustration. “We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that.”
This is the quintessential Führerbunker moment.
They go on to say that Zelensky’s stubbornness keeps them from discussing the one big taboo subject: ceasefire.
Zelensky very forthrightly admits that if he doesn’t get further aid, Ukraine will lose:
In a very revealing paragraph, they admit that not only has the counteroffensive failed and that Zelensky will have to fire the general in charge, but that things have gotten so bad units are no longer even following orders to advance or attack:
The cold will also make military advances more difficult, locking down the front lines at least until the spring. But Zelensky has refused to accept that. “Freezing the war, to me, means losing it,” he says. Before the winter sets in, his aides warned me to expect major changes in their military strategy and a major shake-up in the President’s team. At least one minister would need to be fired, along with a senior general in charge of the counteroffensive, they said, to ensure accountability for Ukraine’s slow progress at the front. “We’re not moving forward,” says one of Zelensky’s close aides. Some front-line commanders, he continues, have begun refusing orders to advance, even when they came directly from the office of the President. “They just want to sit in the trenches and hold the line,” he says. “But we can’t win a war that way.”
Expanding on this, they recount how the order was given to retake Gorlovka, which was met with frank disbelief on the frontline, urging commanders to ask: with what?!
When I raised these claims with a senior military officer, he said that some commanders have little choice in second-guessing orders from the top. At one point in early October, he said, the political leadership in Kyiv demanded an operation to “retake” the city of Horlivka, a strategic outpost in eastern Ukraine that the Russians have held and fiercely defended for nearly a decade. The answer came back in the form of a question: With what? “They don’t have the men or the weapons,” says the officer. “Where are the weapons? Where is the artillery? Where are the new recruits?”
One interesting aspect to this admission is that some may recall several months ago, around the time of the counteroffensive, I discussed possibilities for vectors here. One thing I specifically mentioned was how Russell “Texas” Bentley was loudly urging the Russian military to send reinforcements to the north Donetsk-Gorlovka area because he felt that the southern Azov direction was just a feint, and the AFU would actually attack to try to retake Donetsk-Gorlovka. It’s interesting now to see that perhaps some of his instincts were correct.
But the dreadful article goes on, confessing that the lack of manpower has become so dire for the AFU that even if all the newfangled weapons from the West were to be delivered, Ukraine may no longer even have the men to use them:
In some branches of the military, the shortage of personnel has become even more dire than the deficit in arms and ammunition. One of Zelensky’s close aides tells me that even if the U.S. and its allies come through with all the weapons they have pledged, “we don’t have the men to use them.”
You recall how many videos I’ve posted recently showing frontline commanders and Ukrainian pundits specifically highlighting this? More and more voices have risen from the ranks of the AFU recently stating that they are flat out running out of men. This included the countless videos explaining how soon the entire population will have to be mobilized, man, woman, and child.
The most recent of these videos was the commander of the Ukrainian 3rd Assault Brigade, Dmitry Kukharchuk, explaining exactly the hinge point at which Ukraine began to lose the war:
There’s even a new video of a Ukrainian official calling for more meat because all the losses have depleted them:
It’s something that’s been echoed over and over recently by many of the more serious and ‘aware’ pundits on the Ukrainian side, which I’ve covered here repeatedly: Ukraine was defeated by its own Western propaganda.
After the very military-strategically brilliant and gutsy move to pullback Russian forces from Kiev last year in order to shorten lines and concentrate all forces in a much smaller area, the Western pro-Ukrainian propaganda mills went into overdrive. They thought Russia was ‘on the run’ and had hoped that they could deliver a final “finishing blow” by way of propaganda, which would collapse Russian societal morale and lead to some kind of overthrow that would end the SMO.
But these people sadly knew very little about military doctrine or strategy. What Russia did was carry out an absolutely simple and pedantic textbook reorientation of forces with a clear logic. In fact, that moment should have been an extremely chilling maneuver for Ukraine. It should have signaled: “Uh oh…this means Russia is taking its gloves off.” The initial thunder-run on Kiev was merely a brazen attempt to avoid bloodshed and see if the conflict could be ended fast and early. But not having worked, Russian military planners clearly knew that now the entire operation had to be shifted into actual war footing, rather than mere enhanced special operations raid.
Everything changed from that point on. Pro-Ukrainians should have keyed in on this and realized the heavyweight was now removing his gloves. But instead, what they did was run with the propaganda that Russia is a defeated, cowardly, inept, and completely helpless paper tiger. This propaganda “worked” incredibly well, too well—but the problem is, it worked on the wrong side.
Instead of convincing Russians of it, it convinced the Ukrainians and Western public that the war had already been won, that Russia could never recover from this brutal “loss” (which was not a loss in the slightest but a strategic maneuver and concentration of forces). Since then, no one in Ukrainian society thought to take the war seriously anymore and Ukraine’s own “rear” end had dropped out, while Russia’s rear in fact throttled up into overdrive, in terms of the galvanization of society to supporting the troops and military machine top to bottom.
Now, the most aware pro-Ukrainian pundits are desperately trying to steer their flock back to rational thinking—but it’s too late.
In fact, this will be studied for generations as an example of a massive propaganda fail—a propaganda campaign which destroyed its own side by way of inadequate attenuation and nuanced micromanagement of perceptions. They instead did a bruteforce method of flooding every which way without concerning themselves with who the propaganda was actually negatively affecting.
I’ve posted videos for months where Ukrainian soldiers from the frontlines begged civilians to stop exaggerating and underestimating Russian forces. They said over and over that this is disrespectful to the AFU who are dying by the yacht-load every day to these so-called toothless “Orcs” and “homeless drunks” which Russian soldiers were characterized as being. But to no avail. One can likely blame the infantile NAFO movement as the chief culprit in this.
But the Times report goes on to underline the losses:
Since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has refused to release official counts of dead and wounded. But according to U.S. and European estimates, the toll has long surpassed 100,000 on each side of the war. It has eroded the ranks of Ukraine’s armed forces so badly that draft offices have been forced to call up ever older personnel, raising the average age of a soldier in Ukraine to around 43 years. “They’re grown men now, and they aren’t that healthy to begin with,” says the close aide to Zelensky. “This is Ukraine. Not Scandinavia.”
The article veers into corruption with the same old stories that we all know are ever-present. The only interesting take away is that Arestovich later commented on the article, not only agreeing with the corruption bits but painting Zelensky in exactly those lone, detached dictator tones:
MoA believes Arestovich could perhaps be undergoing preparations as replacement, posting this article which discusses the various theories for why Arestovich is suddenly ‘allowed’ to so sharply criticize the ruling regime.
And why would they release such a damning TIME report now? Some believe it’s merely done to light a fire of urgency under the U.S. Congress—as if to say, “look how bad things are, we need that budget pushed through ASAP!”
It could be, though I think it’s also a desperate bid to regain global sympathy after the world’s reserve of it went to the Israeli situation the past few weeks. The TIME editors likely thought by showcasing the ultra-grim reality of the Ukrainian front, they could turn the world’s attention back onto Ukraine out of sheer guilt. In essence, a last ditch attempt to guilt trip the world into re-engaging with Ukraine.
So how does all this dovetail with the ongoing mess in U.S. Congress?
The latest from ZeroHedge still points to a complete deadlock:
So the House plan to separate Israel aid from that of Ukraine is completely dead-on-arrival in the Senate. But the Senate’s plan to combine the two is completely DOA in the House. Neither side can agree and it appears no one knows, precisely, what happens if the deadlock continues until the budget runs out.
“If Sen. McConnell thinks he’s going to pass a $100 billion conglomeration — what Biden wants — there’s no way it passes the House. Sen. McConnell’s not unaware of the way the House works,” Paul told us. “It’s a very precarious position the speaker is in. I think that’s all he can get through.”
There are some practical challenges tied to what Vance and Paul are pushing for. For one, a standalone Israel bill with offsets is a no-go for the Democratic-led Senate.
As the future starts to look increasingly bleak for Ukraine, there are reports that internally Ukraine is being urged to switch to full-on defense on every front, rather than continuing attempts to carry out some showy advances and assaults in obscure areas.
From Legitimate Ukrainian TG channel:
About warnings to the Kiev regime from the West:
“Our source reports that Western intelligence services are warning the Office of the President of another offensive by the Russian Armed Forces in a direction other than Avdievka, where the Russians are adopting the “noose” tactic. Now there is an accumulation of manpower and equipment in the RF Armed Forces. The West advises Zelensky to abandon any offensive operations and undertake deep defense, otherwise the consequences will be catastrophic.
From Rezident_UA channel:
💬 “The Ukrainian counteroffensive is nearing its tragic conclusion – the so-called “Azov Massacre” has come at a great cost to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (AFU), resulting in significant losses in equipment and manpower.
Furthermore, Ukraine’s ability to undertake a similar operation in the future has been severely diminished, as its military strength is waning, along with the confidence of its Western partners in Kiev.
It’s worth noting that, throughout their summer counteroffensive, the AFU managed to recapture less than 300 square kilometers of territory and did not secure any strategic positions.
Currently, there is substantial evidence indicating that the Russian Armed Forces are gaining the upper hand on the frontlines, particularly in the eastern sector where the Russian forces’ offensive is notably strong.
Western military experts are convinced that the positional warfare will gradually deplete the remaining reserves of the AFU, forcing President Zelensky to choose between the loss of Kupyansk, Marinka, Avdeevka, or a mass retreat along the Azov direction. Counteroffensive is no longer an option, at most, the AFU can attempt to engage in defensive actions across the entire front.”
But Zelensky already explained his thinking on this in the new TIME profile, saying that he cannot stop attacking for the fear that it would give Russia all the initiative and advantage.
So the AFU, for now, continues to mindlessly throw themselves onto the spears and caltrops of the Russian army. The past few days have seen a number of reports of new, humongous losses for the AFU in every major district.
For instance, from Masno on Bakhmut:
From 200 to 4…
The fighting around Bakhmut is extremely heavy.
I discussed the Bakhmut situation with a Ukrainian soldier today, who was on weekend leave. His unit was surrounded over the last weeks. 200 men were surrounded, over 5 days 170 were killed. They eventually managed to break through and escape.
He spoke to his unit this morning, out of his original unit of 200, only 4 are alive today.
From what I am hearing, the cemeteries are filling up again in many cities.
The fighting that is taking place now, is much heavier than during the height of the Ukrainian offensive.
Many deaths go unreported, last week 20 Ukrainian soldiers died in a single strike on the border near Kharkov.
I presume this is in reference to the new breakthroughs Russian forces made in Berkhovka (northwest Bakhmut), where Ukrainian forces got somewhat pincered by the reservoir there and had to retreat. One of the reasons is the Russian elite VDV are operating in that zone, so I’m not surprised to hear of the AFU’s huge losses there.
And a new Nytimes report on Avdeevka fighting admits that the AFU is suffering heavy losses there:
☄️☄️☄️☝️Military personnel admitted to Nytimes journalists that it is not easy for them to resist the onslaught of Russian troops and that there are well-founded fears of losing a strategically important settlement
Ukrainians are suffering heavy losses in the battle for Avdiivka, military personnel of the Ukrainian Armed Forces admit to journalists from the New York Times. One of them said that only six soldiers from his unit, made up of more than 50 people, remained unharmed after the first days of fighting.
“The most we had was half a day of silence,” said the former MP, who now serves in the 109th Territorial Defense Brigade, “These battles were the most brutal of all time.”
The fighting on the first day was so intense that the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade ran out of drones. She turned to the 109th Brigade, located nearby, for reinforcements. But he also quickly ran out of supplies:
“We pushed them back, but at night [the Russian military] sent new soldiers,” said the pilot of the drone with the call sign “Boomer.” The unit had to call for volunteers to send more drones, he said.
Realistically assessing the situation, the battalion commander of the 59th brigade with the callsign “Bardak” believes that Ukraine could lose Avdiivka under the weight of such Russian firepower, as happened with Artemovsk (Bakhmut).
“This is possible if we run out of people and ammunition,” Bardak said☄️☄️☄️
In fact, it’s been now reported that the entire command structure has been evacuated out of Avdeevka, as they realize the pincers are beginning to close. It’s led to unconfirmed reports that Zaluzhny is now even pushing for a full withdrawal:
Office of the President of Ukraine: proposal to withdraw troops from Avdiivka by General Valery Zaluzhny – the 49-year-old Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian army – did not receive approval from Zelensky and his subordinates. Zelensky decided to let his soldiers fight to the end
It’s a redux of the Bakhmut situation, where Zaluzhny begged for full retreat in February 2023, but Zelensky kept the slaughter going for months, generating tens of thousands of killed soldiers.
Seguing to Avdeevka in general, there are now confirmations from the Ukrainian side that Russia has in fact taken the area south of the Slag Heap and is beginning to storm the Coke Plant. But also some reports even state Russia is now operating west of the Stepove railway and gaining ground there: