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Is this the end for Zelenskyy? The Ukrainian president is facing calls for regime change

(MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

(MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)


December 12, 2023   5 mins

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Western public has been sold the story of a Ukrainian front united in its unwavering commitment to a total military victory over Russia. Over the past few weeks, however, this narrative has started to crumble.

Despite the failure of Ukraine’s Nato-backed counteroffensive, which is now universally accepted, Zelenskyy continues to stick to the maximalist victory-at-all-costs narrative — that Ukraine must go on fighting until it retakes every inch of lost territory, including Crimea, and that Putin should not be negotiated with. This is understandable: he has staked everything on achieving that objective — anything less would probably mean the end of his political career.

But Zelenskyy’s position is looking increasingly isolated. As Simon Shuster wrote in Time magazine, “Zelenskyy’s associates themselves are extremely skeptical about the [current] policy”, describing the president’s belief in Ukraine’s ultimate victory over Russia as “immovable, verging on the messianic”.

In early November, none other than Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, told The Economist that the war with Russia had reached a stalemate and was evolving into a long war of attrition — one in which Russia has the advantage. Many took this to mean that the general believes that the time has come to negotiate a deal with Russia. This led to a public confrontation between Zaluzhny and Zelenskyy, who rebuked the general’s assessment and repeated his refusal to negotiate any ceasefire deal with Moscow.

Since then, the rivalry between the two has grown into an all-out power struggle. According to the Ukrainian news site Ukrainska Pravda, Zelenskyy views Zaluzhny’s popularity as a political threat — and recent events have only heightened the president’s fears. Indeed, the army, it reports, is divided between those who are subordinate to Zaluzhny and those who are loyal to Ground Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi, an ally of Zelenskyy.

But Zaluzhny has not been alone in criticising Zelenskyy. Last week, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko publicly supported Zaluzhny’s comments about the war, stating that Zelenskyy was “paying for mistakes he made”. At the start of this month, a long-standing conflict between Zelenskyy and the former president Petro Poroshenko also came to the fore, when Ukrainian authorities stopped the former head of state from leaving the country for a planned meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

According to his critics, this is evidence of Zelenskyy’s increasingly authoritarian grip on the country. “At some point, we will no longer be any different from Russia, where everything depends on the whim of one man,” Klitschko told Der Spiegel. Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Poroshenko’s former vice-prime minister, also spoke of “an authoritarian regression”.

But Zelenskyy isn’t just facing criticism over the way forward for Ukraine; some are now saying that the entire strategy was botched from the start. Oleksii Arestovych, Zelenskyy’s former presidential advisor now turned critic, recently wrote that “the war could have ended with the Istanbul agreements, and a couple hundred thousand people would still be alive”, referring to a round of peace talks that took place in March and early April 2022, mediated by Turkey.

On that occasion, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement — whereby Russia had agreed to withdraw troops along the lines prior to February 24, 2022 in exchange for Ukraine’s neutrality — but the deal was allegedly blocked by Boris Johnson and representatives of the American State Department and the Pentagon. Even David Arakhamia, the parliamentary leader of Zelenskyy’s own Servant of the People party who led the Ukrainian delegation in peace talks with Moscow, recently claimed that Russia was “ready to end the war if we accept neutrality”, but that the talks ultimately collapsed for several reasons — including Johnson’s visit to Kyiv informing Ukrainian officials that they should continue fighting.

But Zelenskyy isn’t only facing growing opposition from rival politicians and the military — it’s also from ordinary Ukrainians. Across the country, the families of soldiers have started taking to the streets to demand a cap on military service time and the return of those who have served 18 months or more, as well as information about the more than 15,000 soldiers who have gone missing in action. Meanwhile, a petition demanding a change to mobilisation rules has reached the 25,000-signature threshold for presidential consideration, further complicating Zelenskyy’s push for more troops, which has already been hindered by massive draft dodging.

This growing tide of hostility towards the president — and Ukraine’s war strategy in general — means that his political future looks increasingly in doubt. According to a recent poll, Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny’s approval ratings are now almost identical, while The Economist reported that trust in the president has fallen to 32%. Another poll still indicated Zelensky as the favourite candidate, but with growing support for both Poroshenko — in second place — and Zaluzhny (whom, it should be noted, has not yet shown any political ambitions).

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Zelenskyy recently ruled out holding elections, originally scheduled for next March, citing problems of security and funding. Most Ukrainians reportedly support the decision, but this doesn’t mean Zelenskyy’s problems are over. After all, the failure of the counteroffensive is also causing a backlash among his Western backers, as they realise that Ukraine is unlikely to improve its position on the battlefield.

Some Western analysts paint an even grimmer picture, noting that Ukraine isn’t even in a position to defend the territorial status quo. “Every category is in Russia’s favor and will continue to tilt in Russia’s favor”, according to former US Army Lt Col Daniel Davis, Senior Fellow and Military Expert at Defense Priorities. Even Nato’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Nato “should be prepared for bad news”.

With such pessimism widespread, new aid pledges to Ukraine have fallen to their lowest level since the start of the war, according to the German-based Kiel Institute’s Ukraine aid tracker. EU member states have been struggling for months to reach an agreement on a €50-billion aid package to Ukraine, mostly due to Hungary’s opposition, and it’s no mystery that European leaders are “tired” of the war in Ukraine, as Giorgia Meloni recently told two Russian pranksters posing as officials with the African Union. The military deadlock is reinforcing the view in Germany — and in British diplomatic circles — that negotiations with Moscow would be in Ukraine’s best interest.

Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, support for Zelenskyy’s strategy is at a record low. The Biden administration’s increasingly desperate attempts to convince Congress to approve a new round of emergency funding for Ukraine failed again last week, when the Senate blocked yet another aid bill. In some respects, Biden is in a similar position to Zelenskyy: he has systematically promised a complete Ukrainian victory and refused to negotiate with Putin, so is understandably concerned about doing an about-face before the next elections. Yet, in US defence circles, there is growing awareness that a protracted conflict would seriously jeopardise US interests.

One way for the Biden administration to save face could be to “freeze” the conflict for the time being — at least until the US elections — through some kind of informal agreement with Russia. But this strategy presents its own problems: not only is it far from clear that Russia would accept freezing the war while it enjoys a tactical advantage, but it would also require getting Zelenskyy onboard — or getting him out of the picture.

From the US perspective, a democratic regime change in Ukraine would arguably be the preferable solution; but, as noted, elections aren’t on the table at the moment. This doesn’t mean that change isn’t coming, though; if anything, it only heightens the risk of Zelensky’s opponents — inside and outside of the country — trying to get rid of him by other means. Indeed, Zelenskyy himself recently expressed concern that a new Maidan-type coup is being plotted in Ukraine — though he accused Russia, not local enemies, of being behind these plans. Regardless of how credible one believes this scenario to be, it speaks to Zelenskyy’s changing status on the world stage: as Western countries, and important segments of the Ukrainian establishment, look for an exit strategy, Zelenskyy is no longer seen as an asset — but as a liability.


Thomas Fazi is an UnHerd columnist and translator. His latest book is The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Toby Green.

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Nell Clover
Nell Clover
7 months ago

It is frequently asserted that Johnson “blocked” the Istanbul agreement. Variations of this assertion claim Johnson was “ultimately responsible” for the rejection of the Istanbul agreement. These assertions are not credible.

Johnson has few political friends in the machinery of government in either the USA or Europe. He isn’t that persuasive and he personally didn’t have anything to offer Ukraine if it didn’t ink the agreement. Johnson could never have personally induced Zelenskky to walk away, nor could Johnson personally induce the USA to commit more billions to support Ukraine.

Zelenskyy could only walk away from the Istanbul deal if the USA’s State Department and Pentagon had already decided to stump up the resources to fund the war through 2023. Likewise, the State Department and Pentagon would not have found £75bn for weapons and Ukraine’s fiscal budget if there was not already a firm plan from the Pentagon for how to continue the war through 2023. Once on the table, Pentagon plans are not easily rejected by anyone, let alone Zelenskyy.

Far more likely, Johnson was a convenient public figurehead to deliver the necessary rhetoric to ensure public support. And a useful public scapegoat should the war descend into an attritional stalemate and eventual defeat. Johnson almost certainly needed little encouragement to riff Churchill, and definitely did so without being privy to the machinations of the USA’s State Department and Pentagon.

Similarly, Zelenskyy too, quite literally, is just another actor on the world stage providing the mood music for public consumption. He too is definitely not privy to the USA’s strategic thinking.

The USA (with support from its allies) is funding Ukraine’s government, supplying the weapons, training the troops, managing logistics, analysing battlefield intelligence, and deciding military strategy. Ukraine’s government is only a proxy in this war, the UK playing only a supporting role. Let’s be clear: whether for good reasons or bad, the Istanbul agreement was blocked by the USA, not Boris Johnson. It was blocked because the State Department and Pentagon saw a strategic opportunity for the USA in doing so. And we’ll never know for sure if the current meat grinder war was not in fact the intended outcome…

Last edited 7 months ago by Nell Clover
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

“And we’ll never know for sure if the current meat grinder war was not in fact the intended outcome…”

Wasn’t that precisely the INTENDED outcome for Iraq? If so it has worked rather well has it not?

A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago

Nell & Charles – to that I’d add the various US think-tank papers prior to 2022 that talked of brining Russia into it’s ‘own Afghanistan’ (the infamous RAND one in particular). There’s the numerous statements of US politicians & gravy-training ex-Generals of fighting them over there so we don’t have to over here. And then there’s the fact that NATO have drip-fed their arms to Ukraine rather than ever offer them in numbers to give them a decisive edge (even if that were possible) – oh and the Discord leaks that showed they knew the summer offensive was doomed months before it began. ). Yes we’ll never know for sure that a grinding, slow defeat was planned, but the evidence is pretty over whelming.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

And the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I don’t think anyone was suggesting that Johnson had sunk the Istanbul talks on his own initiative, were they?
I assumed it was taken for granted that he was sent to deliver a message that had originated in Washington – you wouldn’t send a man of Biden’s age to a war zone, after all.
Johnson might also have been the only person who was simultaneously senior enough to deliver the message and also daft enough to think that Ukraine could possibly win the war – even with US support.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

I am only quoting the article here, and recent ones in the Spectator and WaPo. The article above offers no caveats, it simply and plainly states Boris blocked the agreement when as you rightly say he was no more than a messenger on behalf of others who blocked the agreement. It’s a bit like writing my postie raised my energy prices because he delivered their letter informing me: not accurate, not helpful.

Last edited 7 months ago by Nell Clover
George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Well quite

Andrew Cox
Andrew Cox
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Fazi doesn’t simply state that Johnson blocked the Istanbul agreement. He writes, ‘the deal was allegedly blocked by Boris Johnson and representatives of the American State Department and the Pentagon’.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

Oh yes. Boris was acting as a pawn for USA. But he took the money out of OUR Treasury,the tight fisted bunch.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I’d go so far as arguing that the entire Biden administration is run through the Pentagon. The tail is very much wagging the dog at this point. The administration has quietly continued Trump’s economic nationalism but picked right up where Obama left off in meddling in foreign affairs around the world. The administration’s actions are those of a regime engaged in the beginnings of a Cold War. The Ukraine conflict has already accomplished its purpose. It broke Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, forcing the Europeans to rely on American LNG and oil from the Middle East shipped through areas effectively controlled by the US Navy. It has also expanded NATO to encompass almost all of Europe and bled Russia of military resources. As the war becomes a domestic political liability, I expect the administration to push for a deal that looks a lot like what the Russians initially asked for, Ukrainian neutrality and regional autonomy for Luhansk and Donetsk. Zelensky will either cooperate or be ousted in favor of someone who will. Biden will hold up the deal just in time for the 2024 election and try to spin it as ‘see I brought us peace’, which most Americans will accept because most of us don’t know or care what happens elsewhere in the world so long as we’re not bothered about it. Ukrainians will probably feel betrayed by the US, but the administration never cared about Ukraine anyway. That’s how proxy conflicts work. Engage the enemy through expendable pawns, inflicting losses on a real foe while a patsy absorbs the damage for you. Is it morally questionable? Absolutely. Is it good strategy? Absolutely. Geopolitics is not a game for the morally upright or the overly sentimental.

Last edited 7 months ago by Steve Jolly
Mrs R
Mrs R
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Covid proved was a very useful idiot
indeed Johnson could be. Being desperate for a few brownie points made him extremely easy to exploit.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Mrs R

“Useful idiot”. That’s an interesting term. Maybe he should have “done his own research”.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

It wasn’t Johnson’s words that pulled it off. It was the £15million bung he schlepped there for theif Zelenskys bank account. He took the £15million out of his personal piggy bank or as we call it,The Treasury.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
7 months ago

What a mess. Thousands of young soldiers have been sacrificed because Biden wanted a proxy war and convinced Zelenskyy not to negotiate a peace deal. Now the west is bored with the whole thing and is slowly withdrawing financial support.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Why should Zelenskyy have negotiated a peace deal? All Ukraine wanted was to be in NATO (for reasons which must now seem obvious). What business is it of Russia’s what international organisations Ukraine joins?

D Walsh
D Walsh
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

He should have negotiated a peace deal to avoid a war he could never win

The longer the war goes on, the worse it will be for the Ukraine

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

He could have won if the West had supported him properly (ie. with missiles that could strike INTO Russia).

P Branagan
P Branagan
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The Ukrainians had loads of missiles that could reach Russia – as they have a common border of several hundred kms.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

I was thinking more of missiles that could hit Moscow.

Vlad Seva
Vlad Seva
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

this is a crazy argument. Missiles hitting Moscow would allow Putin to send to Ukraine not 500,000 but 2 million, and occupy Kiev. Or Putin could have used WMD. But of course, the sensible compromise of the Minsk agreement looks too boring for you from a comfort of your living room.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Vlad Seva

Ok, so it’s fine for Russian missiles to hit Kiev, but not for Ukrainian missiles to hit Moscow? I fail to see the logic in that. At the very least, Ukraine should have the means to rain missiles down on Russian military and administrators in any part of Crimea.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

I can’t believe the depths of your stupidity. Tell me you haven’t bred yet,only please don’t.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yeah,let’s have world war 3,after all those lucky East Enders had such a great time in World War Two doing the Lambeth Walk with the Queen Elizabeth while cheerily declaring “we can take it”. Oh,such fun.

C Spencer
C Spencer
6 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Why are you pretending to be English? Your sentence construction gives you away.

L Brady
L Brady
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

And that peace deal being “give us all your land and resources “. Slava Ukraine.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

Nah,theyve been long sold to USA,this war war just supposed be a cover story for the take up.

Jim C
Jim C
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

You’re conflating ownership of the land, with which government gets to raise taxes from the people who own it. Tell me exactly what difference it makes to the average Ukrainian citizen whether they’re skimmed by Kyev or Moscow? Both are utterly corrupt, but at least the latter isn’t brainwashing your kids in school to hate your Russian neighbours.

The US spent billions (5, according to Nuland in 2014) fostering Ukrainian ethnosupremacism to turn Ukraine into a thorn in Russia’s side.

Mearsheimer warned what would happen if the West kept leading Ukraine down the “primrose path” – Ukraine would get wrecked.

And here we are, hundreds of billions of dollars transferred to the MIC, Europe facing industrial collapse, and hundreds of thousands dead.

Well done, neocons.

Bo Komonytsky
Bo Komonytsky
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

You’re not a “useful idiot”; you’re just a plain, old Russia supporting idiot!

Malcolm Robbins
Malcolm Robbins
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The answer to this is obvious, but completely overlooked by MSM because it suits the narrative. The answer is the balance of power and nuclear deterrence – you know that thing called Mutually Assured Destruction and teh ability to respond to first strike? It’s been the underpinning of the US versus Soviet Union/Russia for about 70 years now. And the trouble with Ukraine becoming part of NATO is, if/when nuclear missiles were installed near Russia’s border that’d leave less than 10 minutes for Russia to detect, verify and then decide to respond – too short; therefore avoid at all costs. Incidentally this is also why Russia could not (afford to) lose and given it’s strategic imperative, much greater population and economic base this was the inevitable outcome well known BEFORE Feb 2022. If you doubt watch to John Mearsheimer’s presentation in 2015 (yes 8 years ago) that predicted exactly this.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

I understand why Russia wouldn’t want NATO nukes right next to its border. I imagine it is the same reason the US didn’t want Russian nukes in Cuba in 1962. It may not be necessary to actually put them there on this occasion, but the ability to do so is a powerful bargaining tool.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

It is also precisely why the USSR didn’t want them in Turkey in 1962 thus provoking the so called Cuban Missile Crisis.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

As I understand it, the US no longer has “short range” nukes. It may be time for them to develop some.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Russia isn’t going to change into a peace-loving democracy any time soon. It makes sense for the West to take appropriate precautions.

Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
7 months ago

NATO has been on Russia’s border since Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania joined in 2004. Now Finland as well.

Last edited 7 months ago by Steve Chapman
Sean McGabriel
Sean McGabriel
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yes, just as I’m sure the USA would have no problem if Canada or Mexico joined a military alliance which would install Russian troops and missiles on their respective territories..

L Brady
L Brady
7 months ago
Reply to  Sean McGabriel

All you paid trolls and Putin supporters are missing the most important point here. It’s not what US wants or what Russia wants it’s what Ukrainians want. And they want to be part of the CIVILISED DEMOCRATIC West.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

Absolutely! It’s a no-brainer that Ukraine would want to turn to the West! One look at what lies to the East would convince them of the merits of that course of action!

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

What you mean beautiful unvandalised metro stations full of breathtaking art,theatres packed with ordinary working people watching ballet and classical music and clean cities free of garbage and detritus. Yeah,how much better to sit in shop doorways surrounded by filth,eat cheap junk food served by sweaty dirty people and puke outside a pub banging out a noise that sounds more like psychological torture than “music” . And be constantly told your duty to society is to “consume”. If they do ever get what they want,they won’t want it.

Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
7 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Words fail me.

Katherin MacCuish
Katherin MacCuish
7 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

You’ve clearly never been to a big Russian industrialised city.

Vlad Seva
Vlad Seva
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

so when are you going to the front lines exactly?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Vlad Seva

Not entirely sure they have a need for overweight 60+ year olds in the front lines. I see my role more as rallying support for Ukraine here, as well as giving grief to any Russians who have the temerity to be in this country (Australia in my case).

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

Paid,by who.? I ain’t seen a penny of money. What ukranians want. They want dodgy deals and black market money. That’s the sort of people they are,a nation of spivs and gold diggers.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

All Cuba wanted was for the US to stop meddling in its domestic affairs. But the US somehow felt that stationing Soviet missiles so close to US territory was very much their business.
We might wish it were otherwise but great powers routinely interfere in the affairs of their weaker neighbours.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

Cuba was communist though. There’s no overlooking that.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Because Ukraine can’t defeat Russia on its own and America does not sustain open ended conflicts (see Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, etc.). Zelensky had to realize that American support for a conflict could not be sustained beyond a couple of years given the realities of domestic politics here, or he was receiving terrible advice. He gambled that he could use western weapons and regain enough lost territory quickly enough to break the Russian’s will to continue the conflict. He lost that gamble. Ukraine had to win quickly or not at all. Since ‘quickly’ has failed, ‘not at all’ is on the table and the time has come to cut whatever deal can be made before Russia decides maybe it’s worth waiting out the Americans to take the whole pie once the weapon shipments stop.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Afghanistan might not have been an “open ended” conflict, but the US was there for an extremely long time. Anyway, they had “boots on the ground” there. I am not suggesting they do that here. Rather, I say they should fund and arm those who are prepared to do the fighting. A better example might have been the US’s initial Afghanistan adventure, where they armed and funded those fighting the Russian occupation of that country. In that example, Russia’s military was ground down, and ultimately was forced to withdraw. I would be the first to admit that some bad things happened downstream of that, but at least the Russians got a fair bit of grief.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

I agree. Funding the Ukraine conflict is sound strategy from the point of view of US geopolitical, strategic, and even economic interests. I don’t think it was a bad decision by the Biden administration. Strategically speaking, there’s nothing particularly wrong with continuing it, but the US is a democratic state, and public opinion is what it is. You’re correct that is a much lower cost conflict than Iraq or Afghanistan, but most Americans don’t appreciate such subtleties, they just see another ‘forever war’. If the past several decades have taught us nothing else it’s that it’s harder to sustain political support for war than to actually fight one. Nobody should be failing to take public sentiment into account over the shorter and longer term when it comes to war fighting.

The failure of this summer’s counteroffensive turns this into a war of attrition that Ukraine is unlikely to win even with continued American support. The best that can be accomplished is a protracted stalemate, and while that’s all well and good for America’s strategic interests, the political cost of the conflict will only grow and it is an election year. Biden will probably find some way to get Ukraine funding for 2024, but there will come a point sometime after when it’s politically impossible. From the perspective of Zelensky and Ukraine, the best strategy is to cut a deal now before the situation gets worse. I expect the Biden administration realizes that at this point and will nudge them in that direction, both for strategic reasons and for their own political survival.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

In international politics and in our own personal lives it’s never other peoples business but thats never stopped neighbouring countries,foreign powers,your neighbours or even your friends sticky beaking and interfering and making it their business.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It is delusional to think ‘peace’ was actually on offer from Russia.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago

Based on…

You might be right. But would a bad peace have been worse than half a million casualities and the annexation of 20% of the country?

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

A “bad peace” as you call it would mean the rest of the world being at the whim of Putin and every other two-bit little dictator who fancied chancing their arm for a bit of lebensruam ….. He CANNOT be allowed to gain territory through naked aggression.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

You do realise that the deal that the UK/US encouraged the Ukrainans to abandon did not concede territory to Putin. It simply required Ukraine to agree not to join NATO (which it could not have done prior to the invasion anyway because its borders were in dispute).
Today, however, Russia is in control of around 20% of Ukraine and doesn’t look likely to relinquish it. How is that (plus half a million casualties) better than what was on offer in Istanbul?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

It is better because Russia has suffered large numbers of casualties too. That and the fact that a significant portion of its tank arsenal now comprises burnt out hulks constrains Russia’s ability to prosecute its next military “adventure”.

B Moore
B Moore
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Russia’s armaments industry is currently producing 10x the artillery shells than the whole of the West combined. Plus they have a strong new ally in Iran, who have also developed their arms industry, drones being one example, to an alarming degree. And Putin had found new markets in India and China for Russian gas, paid for in RMB and rupees.
An attempt at a peace deal might have worked, and didn’t preclude Ukraine fighting anyway if it fell through.
I feel for the Ukranian people, I really do. But this is a disaster, that may have happened anyway, but now we’ll never know.

Vlad Seva
Vlad Seva
7 months ago
Reply to  B Moore

that is exactly right. But not crumbling in the first weeks of the war and by showing it could get help from the West Ukraine would have deter Russia from any offensive in the future. but now the opposite is true, Putin knows that West wants out of this war. Moreover, he has the modernized and the rebuilt military . He may stop for a few months, and then resume an offensive.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Vlad Seva

What is your basis for saying that the Russian military has been modernised and rebuilt? All that has happened is that it has reverted to the attritional warfare that has served it so well for the last 100 years.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  B Moore

I don’t doubt that they are producing lots of artillery shells, and to an extent, that suits their preferred mode of attritional warfare. However, the Ukraine War has taught the world that Russia cannot competently build tanks. I think the last good one they built was the T34 back in WW2.

Cameron Sawyer
Cameron Sawyer
7 months ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

What do you mean “CANNOT”? He’s of a different opinion and without NATO boots on the ground it looks like he’ll have his way. Are you willing to go to war to prove your point or just cheer on the Ukrainians as they die to the last man?

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
7 months ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

“Naked aggression” … I believe they’re clothed, Sam. Though Zelensky, before the war, performed some semi-naked two-bit skits. Not, I rush to add, that I’m not as red-blooded and absolutely in favour of millions of families facing the agony of losing husbands, fathers, sons, mothers, uncles, aunts and so on, as the next red-blooded man who wishes to seize the opportunity to feel Churchillian, even if all of this is very WWI.

jane baker
jane baker
7 months ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

I’m in Great Britain. We are just across the north sea from Russia. I’m sure that if Mr Putin wanted to megalomanically invade us and take over our territory he’d have no need to laboriously work his way through Europe. The way things are here now he could just send a battalion over in a leaky boat and land on Bridlington beach.

Steve Chapman
Steve Chapman
7 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Have you looked at a map Jane?

B Moore
B Moore
7 months ago

Could have been tried. Nothing to stop them fighting if Russia broke the deal.
As the Metallica line goes “To secure peace is to prepare for war”

L Brady
L Brady
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Oh the FAKE pretence to care for Ukrainians. Do you not realise that Ukraine despises Russia and will never accept being colonised by them.
If Ukraine lose this war, then it is estimated by Russia that 2 million Ukrainians will end up dying before becoming “compliant “.

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

Then what a shame it is that the result of this war will be exactly that. Russia annexing at least 20% of Ukraine

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

Who is …..IT ?
would be helpful to know otherwise this estimation is no more than hogwash estimation

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  L Brady

To be fair, there is no shortage of people who despise Russia.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Biden didn’t want a proxy war. It was thrust upon him.

Jeff James
Jeff James
7 months ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

Oooh puulease, the US so, so wanted this disgusting Proxy War. What they failed to realise is that they’re not fighting savages in a cave but a modern army with a powerful industrial base and some of the best weapons innovators anywhere. They deserve their wages. Biden deserves the opprobrium.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff James

A “modern army”? Russian weapons and tactics haven’t changed much since the Battle of Stalingrad, and even then, they placed a lot of reliance on “General Winter” to do the heavy lifting.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeff James

You seriously think the us wanted this war? Looks to me like they stumbled into it, and like a drunk with a horse shoe it didn’t turn horrible fast because the people of Ukraine paid the price. Nothing more and nothing less.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

No comments means there are no arguments to show that the US wanted this war.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The only “peace” deal acceptable to Putin was the annexation of Ukraine.

Burke S.
Burke S.
7 months ago

More than even the failure of “the counter-offensive” offensive, the larger strategic defeat may be Ukraines inability in the US to separate itself from our partisan politics. Biden has used the Ukrainian cause as part of his campaign against “those who threaten democracy”— by which he primarily means Trump, not Putin. And everyone in the US knows it, and it is through that partisan prism that most Americans view the conflict (which, of course, has been repeated over the centuries between these peoples).

I have great sympathy for Ukraine in this regard. I also have enormous sympathy for my fellow conservative citizens loath to fund another far off blood feud while being lectured that it’s really a war against our values by Progress Inc.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Burke S.

It is easy to tell Trump and Putin apart. One is somewhat shorter, and speaks Russian.

Last edited 7 months ago by Martin M
Chris Keating
Chris Keating
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Yeah one is smart and the other one is an American bullshit artist’

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

I would be the first to concede that another difference is that Putin can remain focussed on a task for an extended period of time.

Jeff James
Jeff James
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The deep irony that Trump is one of the few American politicians that rails against the Forever Wars. Who would have thought that HE might be the best chance for peace. It goes to show how deep American politicians are in the pocket of the MIC. God help you if Nikki Hayley somehow managed to get in. It’ll be back-to-back war.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Oh….please people……why vote down a good punt ??? Have people lost their sense of humour on UnHerd ??’

Grant
Grant
7 months ago

David Sacks has been calling these truths for some time also.
The fact a politically incompetent and buffoon like Boris Johnson was ultimately responsible for the breakdown in the Istanbul agreements highlights everything that’s broken politically in the west.
Couple that with America’s military industrial complex motivations and you one of the greatest financial grifts of public funds in modern times happening under our noses.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
7 months ago
Reply to  Grant

Nah, it’s not really about the profit. The people prattling on about that “rules based world order” garbage really believe it even if they are complete hypocrites about it. The best explanation of it was given by N.S. Lyons in this very publication. It is worth a revisit right about now.
https://unherd.com/2023/01/why-america-will-never-give-up-on-war/

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Lyons’ theory isn’t remotely in conflict the the standard Military Industrial Complex idea. It’s more of a riff on it and you can combine the two.
As Chomsky said to Andrew Marr. “I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I’m saying is if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”
The great majority of powerful politicians are drawn from a pool of people who believe certain things. If you agree, you go somewhere, if not, you don’t. The mystery isn’t how to explain that this is so, the mystery is how people who don’t seem to believe those things are converted so quickly. Keir Starmer’s beliefs certainly look pretty different now to when he was first elected, so do Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s. Corbyn’s look the same and look what happened to him.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard
7 months ago
Reply to  Grant

Yeah, no, sorry: you can’t hang this one on Johnson. See above.

tom j
tom j
7 months ago
Reply to  Grant

I love these mad sweeping statements as if the author is some sort of strategic analyst rather than just some guy with a keyboard.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
7 months ago
Reply to  tom j

Fazi got wrecked for his monumentally stupid “western values” post on X. I’d have thought he’d keep his opinions about pretty much everything to himself out of sheer embarrassment.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

He co-wrote an excellent book on COVID.

J Bryant
J Bryant
7 months ago

An interesting and informative article. Of course, I have to take it with a pinch of salt. Earlier this year, no less an authority than Zelenskyy himself provided a list of publications allegedly spreading “disinformation” which included Unherd.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Ronald Reagan was US President in my young adulthood. I recall him describing Russia (then the USSR) as the “Evil Empire”. It still is. I remain shocked that a significant proportion of the US Right seem to support Putin.

D Walsh
D Walsh
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Russia is NOT the USSR. The Russians are not spreading a weirdo ideology around the World, but the US is. The US is the evil empire now

Last edited 7 months ago by D Walsh
Tim Dilke
Tim Dilke
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

‘Russia is NOT the USSR’. Have you ever opened an history book or an atlas? Russkiy mir has not changed from Tsarist, through Stalinist to Putinist times. The ‘weirdo ideology’ emanating from Moscow is no different from that which comes from Washington or which came from London during our ‘glorious’ empire period. I just prefer to live in our rather more tolerant, open minded, vaguely democratic world.

Last edited 7 months ago by Tim Dilke
Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Tim Dilke

I have recently had occasion to consider how many good leaders Russia has had since the days of Ivan the Terrible (I have chosen that start point because he was the first ruler of a unified Russia rather than because he himself was “good”). There are arguments to be made for Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, but the only one I think the term really applies to is Gorbachev.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Russia haven’t been dedicated to “spreading ideology” for some time now. Since the days of Stalin, Russia has just been a “Gangster State”. Putin is merely the latest gangster.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
7 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Really?! I would love to know who the others are.

Last edited 7 months ago by Anna Bramwell
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago

It always appeared to me that Zelensky was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was under enormous pressure from his American and European allies to push on with the counteroffensive at the beginning when all the new equipment was arriving, with many berating him for taking too long to start the attack.
Now it has been a failure those same allies are criticising him for being too gung ho and not listening to his generals who were advocating a more defensive strategy. Ultimately he’ll likely pay the price politically for the failure to split the Russian lines

Last edited 7 months ago by Billy Bob
Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago

The key is to see events as part of Cold War II which will be played increasingly by Cold War rules. The West’s overall mission is – just like last time – to contain the main threat without triggering a global war. The only difference is that this time the main threat is China not Russia. In this context, the following clear headed if callous conclusions may emerge in the Pentagon and related agencies.

1/ The West needed to demonstrate collective determination in resisting Putin’s invasion. It is not necessary, however, to regain every square foot of Ukrainian territory. A stalemate followed by partition was an acceptable solution in various localities in Cold War I e.g. Korea.

2/ Ukraine should not be allowed to become a distraction from the main challenge which is China. An even longer Ukrainian war is unhelpful.

3/ There is an inherent risk of regional and proxy wars escalating. All other things being equal, there should always be a preference for shutting them down if acceptable terms are available.

4/ Domestic politics reinforce this conclusion.The US electorate rarely sustains its righteous enthusiasm for a war for more than eighteen months.

5/ The Ukrainian war has revealed the West needs to restructure its arms industry so that it can produce far greater volumes of munitions for longer wars. A pause to rectify this would be advantageous.

I have no special insight into Zelenskyy but the Americans have a long history of refusing to cut a deal when they are ahead then bullying, replacing or worse allied leaders when the going gets tough e.g. Diem. I would not like to be in Zelenskyy’s shoes. Getting replaced by say Zaluzhny would count as getting off lightly by historical standards.

How Putin plays it is another matter. He regularly confounds the predictions of knowledgeable observers. But, at a minimum, he must be tempted to bank his winnings and wait for a better opportunity.

Last edited 7 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I certainly agree that the West as a whole must increase military production. Shortages of munitions brought about by a war which is confined to one mid-sized country is frankly embarrassing. I also agree that China is the bigger threat than Russia in the short term. However, China’s military adventurism will involve an invasion across a body of water, which is an intrinsically harder task than what Russia faced in its invasion of Ukraine. However, I am not sure that China is the bigger long term threat. Nobody lives for ever, and one day, both Putin and Xi will be gone. I think there is a reasonable prospect of Xi being replaced by somebody wiser and less hawkish, whereas I have no confidence that this will be able to be said of Putin’s replacement. Sadly, I think Russia will be “the Enemy” during the lifetimes of anyone reading this.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

I think Russia is the short-term threat because Putin is mortal, allegedly sick, while the CCP sees itself as eternal in leading a multipolar order in the very long term. The Russian authoritarian edifice will temporarily collapse and transform itself into something a least a little different upon Putin’s death or exile.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

When Xi goes, the CCP will appoint another of its senior members to be the leader, just has it has always done since the days following Mao. The main difference between Xi and his predecessors is that he has got one term more than any of them, and has “stacked” senior positions with his followers. I expect that this will reverse somewhat when he goes. Putin, on the other hand, doesn’t really head a political party as such. He is more like a Mob Boss. When he goes, it is difficult to predict what will ensue.

P Branagan
P Branagan
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The greatest threat to civilisation and human decency comes from the West.
How much evidence is required before it is clear that Western Civilization is empty of integrity, judgment, reason, morality, empathy, compassion, self-awareness, truth, empty of everything that Western Civilization once respected?

All that is left of the West is insouciance and unrestrained evil.”

~Dr Paul Craig Roberts, former Undersecretary Of Treasury, Reagan Administration

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

Nonsense. Such generalisations are deeply unhelpful, as well as being unhistorical. The West has been involved in conflicts (for various reasons) since the fall of the Roman Empire, many of which required ignorance of those traits you wish to credit it with. Renaissance and Enlightenment values emerged from those conflicts, not apart from them. Those values are still very much in evidence, not least on these pages, except from those who wish to disparage for the sake of it and therefore become part of the problem rather than the solution.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  P Branagan

The West is at least democratic.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

A good synopsis of the current state of play, but can ‘we’ ultimately avoid a war with China, and in fact do ‘we’ really want to?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago

The point I was trying to make is that one needs to cut through the idealistic cant to the realpolitik logic beneath.

“We” avoided global war in Cold War I so I do not see war with China as inevitable in Cold War II. I certainly think it would be undesirable.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I would have thought the difference was that the Soviet Union did NOT want a war because it wasn’t stupid enough to believe its own simply ludicrous propaganda.

China on the other seems to sincerely believe that historically it is now ‘their turn’.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago

I am not sure either the USSR or PRC actively want(ed) a war though both believe(d) that “history was on their side”. I still think the key difference – I think this came up before – was that the Politburo could afford to back down during the Cuban missile crisis but Xi could not in some modern day equivalent. Perhaps Chinese patriotism is a less forgiving taskmaster than international Marxism-Leninism was?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

The Politburo ONLY backed down as you put it, AFTER JFK agreed to withdraw the Jupiters from Turkey.

I would have thought that Chinese patriotism/arrogance easily trumps the rather parvenu cult of Marxist-Leninism, as you so appositely suggest.

If we are correct then it shall be war.

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

f**k the West. The rest of the world is sick of your bullshit. Why do you assume the right to lecture everyone else as to how they should live? The West pillaged the planet for 500 years and left mayhem and vast poverty in its wake. Enough is enough.
You should be ashamed and have the grace to stand aside as others try to fix things up.
Human Rights? Look at Israel.
Freedom? The US has the biggest prison population on the planet.
Get over yourselves.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

If you read what I wrote I think you will find I was forecasting how the Pentagon and other US agencies will see the world and implying that they would come round to a deal – if one is available – on the Ukraine. It was not an assessment of the West’s contribution to the last 500 years of global history or an attempt to lecture anyone. That said, I doubt the West will win this new Cold War unless it learns to be more persuasive and less arrogant and prone to lecturing. My belief is that the side which wins most friends in the Middle East and Southern Asia in particular is likely to prevail; this reality should encourage more moderate western rhetoric than the sort that has clearly alienated you – even if it has not prevented you commenting on a website dedicated to western values.

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Sorry Alex, I might have misread your contribution. I saw it as another in a long line of justifications of western colonialism and plunder.
I doubt that a deal is available as the Russians have been lied to so often that there is no longer any trust so they will keep pushing until they have what suits them regardless.
I care little for the rhetoric, I look at deeds and with the US they never match and are usually oppposite.The US is not looking for friends merely vassals.

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

The West doesn’t have any values. It has rhetoric that masks it’s gross cynicism, so I don’t have a problem being critical of the hypocrisy. If the words were matched by the deeds we wouldn’t be in the space we are currently.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

Steady on aren’t you getting a little carried away there?

“Western colonialism and plunder”? What do think the rest were doing. Islam for example, raping, pillaging and plundering across the whole of India for centuries. The Ottoman Turk, sodomising virtually everything that moved in the Peloponnesus and elsewhere. The Aztecs ‘flaying alive’ on industrial scale when Cortez turns up, and finally the Mongolian hordes and their Chinese cousins, to name but a few.

Such activity is NOT exclusive to the West, although arguably we have been the best at it. Perhaps AI will sort this out.

Last edited 7 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Andrew E Walker
Andrew E Walker
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

“I saw it as another in a long line of justifications of western colonialism and plunder.”
Your implication is false. Colonialism and plunder are world-wide phenomena which pre-date the western varieties.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

I like it… 🙂

can't buy my vote
can't buy my vote
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

500 years? You must be pining for the dark ages and the constant wars in the British Isles, Europe, Russia, Turkey, Arabia… not to mention the slave trade and pandemics. Yes, the pinnacle of civilization, when life had little value and upward mobility impossible.

Last edited 7 months ago by can't buy my vote
Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

The West has democracy and the Rule of Law. Not much evidence of that in Russia (or indeed China, for that matter).

George Venning
George Venning
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

There’s a good deal of truth in all of this. But it isn’t the only truth.
It is also true that the Ukraine conflict – and now the Palestine conflict too – have further eroded US prestige and standing in the eyes of vast swathes of the world. That was stupid and unnecessary.
And, whilst Europe has shown surprising levels of unity, it has also revealed itself to be uniformly irrellevant in military terms.
That may be a disaster in an actual conflict with China. But I can’t help thinking that, to the extent that China represents a military threat at all, it is primarily a response to US belligerence.
I sometimes wonder how the world would look if, somehow, the US imploded and we were left with China and the EU as the world’s major economic rivals. Would that conflict be military at all?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

“If the US imploded … ?” It is an interesting scenario. As is the opposite “if China imploded … ?” Both are possible. I agree that there are plausible alternatives to the “Cold War II” outlook. Perhaps our two main conclusions should be

a) it is going to get bumpy on almost any scenario

b) we should hope that the final outcome will be a multipolar world presided over by say the top 5 powers collectively and neither the US or China unilaterally.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I have at least some hope that India will massively arm itself, and be a counterbalance to China. After all, there is no love lost between the countries if the skirmishes on their frontier are any guide.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  George Venning

If that happened, China would invade Taiwan in a heartbeat.

A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago

I agree with the late Professor Stephen Cohen, that Zelensky has been doomed since he caved to the far-right in and around 2019. To be fair to him, he really needed support from the US & the West were he to stand up to them (they publically threatened his life and went as far as to ransack his offices).  Likewise Mearsheimer regarding the outcome of the war.

Since then he’s been a dead-man walking. I think his most likely end will be in some kind of apparent revenge assassination – probably a poisoning that will of course be pinned on Putin by the West safe in the knowledge that if they can get away with their preposterous Skripal and Navalny GRU fairy-tales, they can get away with anything.  

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Go on then – who really poisoned Skripal & why?

A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

I don’t know, but I do know that to believe the British Government’s story you need to believe all of these things: 

1.      That a fit woman in her 30s and a diabetic, heavy drinking man in his 60s got a dose of a deadly nerve agent on their fingers from a door-handle, but remained well and fit for 4 hours before falling ill so rapidly and simultaneously that neither could raise the alarm for the other.  They were well enough to go for a walk, feed some ducks, have a few pints & an Italian lunch before falling prey at the same time to this delayed action agent. No one has explained how the physiology of this OP nerve agent works – no one has actually bothered to ask – if you can find anyone who has I’d be very grateful.
2.      That it was just by complete random chance that the first medic at the scene of their collapse (on a bench in a park) happened to be Col. Alison McCourt, the most senior nurse in the entire, British army (yes you read that right) who was on a shopping trip with her daughter in Salisbury (she doesn’t live in Salisbury by the way). 
3.      That somehow the nerve agent on the door handle managed to so badly contaminate the roof of the Skripal’s house that it had to be removed some weeks later.
4.      That the door handle nerve agent only affected PC Bailey, but none other of the many people seen entering & leaving the house in the days following the alleged poisoning – some of them videoed actually using the doorhandle without gloves. 
5.      That a sample taken by the OPCW from a swab on the door handle days after the event was pure and contained no contaminants, despite being exposed to the air for at least 48 hours. 
6.      That despite all the many CCTV cameras around Salisbury, including one pointing right at the bench when they were found  – all of which were working throughout that day – the UK authorities do not know where the Skripals or their alleged poisoners went for most of the day. 
7.      That it isn’t at all suspicious that no one has heard from either of the Skripals since, except for one strange video statement from Yulia and a couple of phone calls – not even their fami
I could go on, but I think that’s enough for now – but I would add that the enquiry into the death of Dawn Sturgess is underway? The Lawyers for her family have already made several complaints regarding the lack of evidence they’ve been given so far.  

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

I agree, Americans never landed on the moon

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

If anyone ever asks me to define the term “conspiracy theory”, I’ll point them to your post.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

One suspects he has plenty more.

Peter Rechniewski
Peter Rechniewski
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Note you still haven’t told us why!

Last edited 7 months ago by Peter Rechniewski
A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

Plenty more of the implausible aspects of the Skripal case here – collated by a Salisbury resident who actually bothered to investigate.

https://www.theblogmire.com/the-salisbury-poisonings-two-years-on-a-riddle-wrapped-in-a-cover-up-inside-a-hoax/

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Farrell

Why do you see a problem where everything is obvious? It looks like you dropped your keys while leaving the house, and rushed to break into the neighbor’s garage, believing that the keys were there

Patrick Buckridge
Patrick Buckridge
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Colonel Douglas McGregor, ex-Marine and former military adviser in the Trump administration, has made nearly all these points over the last 18 months. He’s all over YouTube. Why is there no acknowledgement of McGregor’s work in the article? I can’t believe it’s just ignorance.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago

“former military adviser in the Trump administration” are probably the words that provide the solution to that conundrum, and thus answer your very apposite question.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

Good point. Perhaps we could ask Rudi Giuliani what he thinks about it all.

Last edited 7 months ago by Martin M
A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago

I’ve followed the Colonel from the outset & he’s mostly been right (but a bit too prone to make ‘big arrow’ type prognostication). He’s not the only one to correctly predict the outcome. Many in the US have found themselves on the roster of interviewees on Judge Napoletano’s Judging Freedom show/podcast. Check them all out if you haven’t already – especially Alastair Crooke – an ex UK diplomat who worked for many years in the Middle East & is offering great insights there right now.

Peter Rechniewski
Peter Rechniewski
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

I’ve followed the colonel from the outset as well and he’s mostly been wrong. Line up his YouTube videos chronologically and see how many times he tells us that Ukraine will be finished in a few days or at most a fortnight or three weeks? Or that Ukraine has lost 50, 90, 125, 175, thousand men (and this was by early 2023). Or that Russia withdrew from north of Kyiv in as part of a grand strategy. You find him credible?

If you believe this source as credible you have a problem.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Dear A D Kent, I must admit that as an expert on Ukrainian affairs you are at the current level of Harvard. Not bad

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Is that praise or an insult?
It is rather hard to tell these days.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

Insult
Some here, for the most part, are talking absolute nonsense about how the USA and Britain created this war, although all its Western participants only followed in the wake of events.
Others say that Western intelligence agencies created elaborate conspiracies to blame Putin for the poisoning of some Russians in the West – this is just drunken delirium.
Still others are confident that Zaluzhny’s article is a call for negotiations, and dear Fazi asserts with aplomb that Aristovich was an adviser to the president

Last edited 7 months ago by El Uro
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
7 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Thank you.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

Last edited 7 months ago by El Uro
El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

PS.
Putin and his command have a long history of poisoning their enemies and the pattern of these latest crimes in Britain repeats all their previous crimes.
Zelenskyy’s officials said that Aristovich never was an adviser to the president and Aristovich himself confirmed that without any pressure.
UPD. Just to clear things up:
I have 14 years of experience living in Moscow, 15 years of living experience in Mariupol and 20 years of living experience in Israel.
So when local “experts” explain what they think the motives of Russia and Ukraine are, especially when they start citing their friends in Salisbury, it makes me laugh nervously and get wildly irritated.
Anticipating my reaction, I usually do not get into arguments with authors and commentators.
To my regret, now I couldn’t restrain myself
`

Last edited 7 months ago by El Uro
A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Thanks for the insult. Re the ‘elaborate conspiracies’ created by the West re the Salisbury Poisonings – what that event proved is that they really don’t need to have to be that elaborate. All they need to do is blame Russia and the media does the rest because Putin.

Read my post above – the Uk story relies on such an amazing series of bizarre coincidences – yet no one in the West has questioned it. It could be a strange MI5 set-upk, it could be a Russian Mafia/underground job, it could be a freak accident, it could be drug abuse and yes, it could be Putin & the GRU, but literally no one in the Western press questioned the stories from Theresa May & especially Bozo Johnson. I have friends in Salisbury who immediately noted the things didn’t add up – thtat the alleged rounte taken by the assassins didn’t make any sense – but no one ever bothered to follow this up. If you can find anyone, anywhere who has explained how the Novichok did what it did to the Skripals I’d be very grateful – no one ever has.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Reading what you wrote I understand the level of intellect your friends in Salisbury have

A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Thanks El Even though I’m a completely unrepentant supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and massive sceptic of any claims made by the West on anything – i’m way too un-woke to be granted anything ever from Harvard or any elite US institution.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
7 months ago

Hundreds of thousands young men dead and countless billions wasted on weapons and a country in ruins thanks to American stupidity and Zelenskyy’s stubbornness. Zelenskyy and Biden have earned a special place in hell. Johnson was just the court jester.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

Russia is blameless for these deaths is it?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Good point. I don’t recall Ukraine invading Russian territory.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
7 months ago

Some cynical geopolitics being played by the US State Department here, reflecting Biden’s longstanding interest (or interests) in the Ukraine. Both should be held to account for exploiting nationalist elements in Ukrainian politics.
The Republicans have to make this case comprehensively, that the Ukraine was urged to pursue a hopeless military cause rather than take their advantage having defeated the Russian offensive from Belarus in spring 2022.
Why? To keep their country as a buffer zone in this construction of a new Eastern Bloc because war on this scale is crucial to corporate interests in the defence realm, and eventually for security and reconstruction.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
7 months ago

Just like Afghanistan the West leapt in
Albeit not head first
And any with any sense of military strategy can quickly work out as to exactly how this was going to pan out after $ Billions thrown down the black hole
All Ukraine and the West had to do and had 14 yrs to do so was to sign for Ukrainian neutrality and No NATO
Something that surely have to be done soon
Most forgot the very simple principle that it’s actual Boots on the ground backed up with conventual logistics of resupply of personnel and ammunition
In overwhelming force
Putin knew from day one this to be the case
Read his Autobiography and you quickly
Get the measure of him , a ruthless but patient truly a highly skilled Hunter/ Killer
Who always gets his prey
Game,Set and Match to Putin

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

At the very least, the West should give Ukraine an unlimited supply of Storm Shadow and similar missiles, so that every Russian in Crimea and the Donbas goes to bed every night in fear that one of them will come flying in through their window.

Andrew E Walker
Andrew E Walker
7 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Kindly explain why Russia has the right to dictate with what Ukraine, a sovereign nation, wishes to align itself.

can't buy my vote
can't buy my vote
7 months ago

So how did this all start? Zelenskyy wanted to join NATO and Biden encouraged him. Putin, tired of NATO’s eastern expansion, sought regime change in Ukraine. Looks like Putin will get what he wanted after all.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

This all started in 2014, when Zelenskyy was nothing in politics and Obama was the President of the United States of America.
What a surprise!

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

My recollection is that Putin didn’t want an expansion of NATO. Finland is in, Sweden is likely to be in soon, and there is still a possibility that Ukraine will be in at some stage. Looks like Putin won’t get what he wanted after all.

Poppy Gordon
Poppy Gordon
7 months ago

“We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Zelenskyy recently ruled out holding elections, originally scheduled for next March, citing problems of security and funding.”

Isn’t that convenient. WTH?
And funding? Ummmmm how much has the US sent this man?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  Poppy Gordon

Churchill did the same, what are you implying?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
7 months ago

Zelenskyy is clearly in an unenviable position. There was no way the Ukrainians were ever going to prevail over Russia, just as there was no way the South was going to prevail over the North in the US Civil war. The simple fact is that Russia is much larger in terms of population and can produce all the arms that she needs. What is likely to happen now, if peace negotiations don’t start soon, is that Western Ukraine collapses as Russia moves westward in the aftermath of Ukraine’s failed counter-offensive which was doomed to failure from the start since it lacked any element of surprise.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Well, everybody thought that Russia would win in the first week of the war, but then they discovered that the Russian army was corrupt and incompetent, and that its tanks had a tendency to cook their crews and throw their turrets 50 metres away when hit by shoulder mounted munitions. I guess when all is said and done, Ukraine can be said to have done quite well.

si mclardy
si mclardy
7 months ago

I wonder if my water department would mind if I put yellow duct tape around the blue fire hydrants? This was done at the start of the war but I noticed they have carefully and painstakingly removed the yellow stripe. What a scam. I hope biden is exposed for the fraud that he is.

Kerry Davie
Kerry Davie
7 months ago
Reply to  si mclardy

Your hope has already been answered, in the affirmative.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
7 months ago

Neither Ukraine nor Russia are strong enough to win or weak enough to lose. This war has dragged on for 10 years now and seems likely to drag on for 10 more. Stalemate.
We can do better than that. Vladimir Putin is not a stupid man, nor is Volodymyr Zelensky. A competent US president would have stepped in long ago as an honest broker to do a deal. Time to get serious along the lines of the Minsk accords and the Istanbul negotiations.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

If there is a “deal” to be done, it must include Ukraine joining NATO. Russia can’t be trusted now, and won’t be able to be trusted any time in the foreseeable future.

Jackson Ramseur
Jackson Ramseur
7 months ago

Stunning: international proxy and wartime president nationalizes country and suspends elections to “support the war effort”

Ron Kean
Ron Kean
7 months ago

So the United States pushed for continuation at one point. The author neglects to mention the possibility of people in high office in the United States may be getting a cut. It seems to be increasingly understood in the United States what Europeans have believed for a longer time that the gravy train is over.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
7 months ago

« IT » is estimated……etc etc
Who is IT ? Would be helpful to know.

Simon Adams
Simon Adams
7 months ago

Of course the people in Russia that criticise Putin just disappear- forever. From some of the comments here it appears there are now a sizeable portion of people in the west who seem to think that is a valid approach… even better than having people complaining about you and undermining you. The narrative on the left long disintegrated into meaningless nihilism, and now the right is apparently for the strong man approach that usually ends in totalitarianism.

Even the article pushes a narrative where the decades long expansionism and brutality of Russia should go unchecked. We’re fast becoming pawns of Russia and China who think only of national interest, whilst us democracies debate whether we should support the propaganda they use to justify their self interested actions, and very rarely our own national interests.

G K
G K
7 months ago

Russia was absolutely not trustworthy in Istanbul. Zelenskyy correctly understood that Ukraine’s neutrality was needed only to ensure future aggression. Russia was still too confident at that point, so it would have been nothing but regrouping. On the other side now it’s much better and relatively more reliable negotiation position after Russia sufficiently bleeded and Putins desperate to finish this crazy business before his reelection

Last edited 7 months ago by G K
Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  G K

Russia is absolutely not trustworthy ever.

David Lynn
David Lynn
7 months ago

Wars begin on miscalculations, russia assumed a show of force was all that was necessary an U would not fight. The west assumed it could bring Russia to heel by initial resistance and economic methods. Both wrong. Time to stop this.danger at this point is Russia’s position continues to improve.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  David Lynn

The problem was that the West funded some “initial resistance” against Russia, but that funding was half-baked.

Bruce Haycock
Bruce Haycock
7 months ago

I prefer the attitude and responses of Russia’s neighbours and near neighbours; Poland, Baltic states, Scandinavian states.
They are the ones who get the realpolitik of Russian aggression and the degree to which it should go rewarded or otherwise

Andy Iddon
Andy Iddon
7 months ago

This whole thing is corrupt. No sides are good.

Last edited 7 months ago by Andy Iddon
Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Andy Iddon

Russia is a million times worse than Ukraine on any metric.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
7 months ago

Well anyone who thought Ukraine had a leg in this race must have some mental deficiency, quite a few it seems. This was a financial offshoring for the west to remove money from USA, so the globalists could cripple and in-debt Ukraine and build it back as smart cities with fully integrated slave system, digital ids and currency. It’s all just a joke at this stage, and the so called intellectuals just parroting main stream media! Anyone got any critical thinking left?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

I have some critical thinking left, but funnily enough, it doesn’t lead me to the conclusion that the whole Ukraine war was engineered to produce a “fully integrated slave system”.

Elena R.
Elena R.
7 months ago

The fact that the article is signed by Mr Fazi does not surprise me. Neither does the reponse of its readers. No wonder that, since more than a year, one has not heard here from (the excellent) Mr Murray who once pointed out that the ‘guillible right has fallen for putin’. The latter must be rubbing his hands.
I guess it would be pointless to ask the audience what they think about the ‘authoritarian grip’ by Churchill during the WWII, and how popular the idea of negotiating a peace with Germany was/would have been that time. Like, at a price of ceding a few UK territories. With an argument that, ‘the longer the war is, the worse it will be’ (quope from Mr Walsh) for the people, well, of the UK.
I have been long wondering how much this (freedom-loving) audience would appreciate being moved under someone’s administration where they would be constrained to learning a falsified history, chanting songs to the glory of the new motherland and spying on their neighbours, inter alia. Btw, I am Russian, from St Pet.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
7 months ago

I wouldn’t trust Thomas Fazi as far as I could kick him ….

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

Right now with this president two carrier strike groups are unable to fix Houthi problem, but the failure of the Ukrainian counteroffensive is causing a backlash among his Western backers, as they realise that Ukraine is unlikely to improve its position on the battlefield.
Surprise, surprise, West has no balls!

Last edited 7 months ago by El Uro
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago

It is misleading to claim that Zelensky’s objective was total military vicrory over Russia. That sounds as if he wanted to invade and conquer Russia. His objective was and is to expel an army that invaded sovereign Ukraine territory in an attempt to annexe the entire country. Putin’s objective was to make Ukraine either part of Russia or at least a buffer against NATO. It now looks as if Ukraine is losing the support of western nations as the war drags on into a stalemate that favours Russia.

El Uro
El Uro
7 months ago

Dear Fazi, did you know that “negotiating a ceasefire agreement with Putin” is the same as demanding that Israel agree to peace with Hamas.
Although the grown men from the UN have been trying to achieve exactly this for decades and experience has proven their unimaginable cretinism, you can join their company.

Edward Seymour
Edward Seymour
7 months ago

Is it possible that Ukraine was given just enough aid and support to keep it grinding Russia down in a proxy war? A war designed for Ukraine not to win but for Russia to be bled and to have the incompetence and technical backwardness of its military exposed. At very little expense to the US in terms of the US military budget, Russia has been hit with sanctions and proven to be zero threat to NATO. Sets things up nicely for conflict with China.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Edward Seymour

Good point, but if that is indeed the case, surely it makes sense to keep that going. I mean, Russia can be ground down further, surely?

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
7 months ago

Haven’t bothered to read the article as UnHerd’s geopolitical coverage is uniformly rubbish and the comments even worse. If the writers on other issues were even 1% as bad I’d cancel my subscription in a jiffy.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

Standard Fazi fare. Peace-loving Russia and cuddly Vlad were ready to invade and annex only 99% of Ukraine, till the evil West led by Boris Johnson (!) told the Ukrainians to fight them off. It’s the capitalist imperialist colonist racist warmongering white western hegemony wot’s behind all the world’s problems, innit!?!?!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

And you are one of the “rubbish” comments?

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

The West did Ukraine no favours by supplying weapons of the drip feed early on. They should have given Ukraine everything they asked for as soon as was reasonably practicable. The fact is that even if some sort of “peace deal” is negotiated, Russia simply cannot be trusted to stick to it. As soon as Putin thinks is is to his advantage to do so, he will either invade Ukraine again, or possibly invade some other country (although the latter has been made harder by the recent accession of Finland to NATO). If Ukraine is to be forced into a “peace deal”, a condition of that deal MUST be that it is admitted to NATO. It is the only thing that might curb Putin’s expansionist aims.

Steve White
Steve White
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Your record of being so wrong about everything should bring about a more humble and contrite demeanor.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Wrong about EVERYTHING? That’s a big call!

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Certain though you sound, perhaps it’s premature to be writing the definitive history and judgement on this.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

How it unfolds remains to be seen, but I personally wish Ukraine the best, and Russia the worst.

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve White

Dead right Steve but don’t hold your breath.
You’ll be called a Putin bot. It has played out precisely as anyone with half a brain and a modicum circumspection would have predicted. Ukraine were never going to win and the fantasy of fighting on and “improving their bargaining position” has shown to be just that. Did no-one ever ask “what if this is as good as it gets”?
In December 2021 the Russians asked for peace and a comprehensive European security pact with Ukraine neutrality and NATO and the US laughed at them.
They are not laughing now.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

The war didn’t play out as people expected. Pretty much everyone predicted it to be over in the first week. What ever happens, Ukraine has destroyed a lot of Russian military equipment, and killed a lot of Russian soldiers. Russia has accordingly been significantly weakened, and everyone now knows that the Russian Army is far from invincible.

Andrew E Walker
Andrew E Walker
7 months ago
Reply to  Chris Keating

“In December 2021 the Russians asked for peace and a comprehensive European security pact with Ukraine neutrality”
What right has Russia to require Ukrainian neutrality?

Sarolta Rónai
Sarolta Rónai
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

You totally misunderstand the situation. The US expressly does not want Ukraine in NATO, despite its declarations to the contrary in the past. Talking about Ukraine’s NATO membership was just a tool to provocate Russia to start its invasion. NATO would gain nothing by Ukraine’s membership, only that the risk of a direct NATO-Russia conflict (a 3rd world war, basically) would increase enormously which not even the Washington neocons want. That’s why Ukraine’s role is so tragic: they were promised NATO membership for their sacrifices, but nobody in NATO ever seriously thought they would indeed be admitted.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarolta Rónai

The idea that NATO wanted Russia to invade is a totally unfounded propaganda lie.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarolta Rónai

NATO was founded for the purpose of counterbalancing what was then the Soviet Bloc, which was perceived as the enemy of the Free West. The fact is that Russia is still the enemy of the Free West, something that the Ukraine war is causing people to realise. Germany for one must be regretting making itself so dependent on Russian gas, and there are other nations who are in the same boat. Whatever happens in the Ukraine War, the Free West owes Ukraine a debt of gratitude in taking the fight to Russia. Russia will never be able to be trusted (not in this century anyway), and NATO must do what it can to keep it on a “short leash”.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

“Free West”? People in the UK are arrested and jailed for making someone “uncomfortable” on the socials.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago

Britain is a democracy (unlike Russia).

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  Sarolta Rónai

Pathetic. You’re just making this up.
There was no serious discussion about Ukraine joining NATO before Russia invaded. If you bother to go back and check the record, you’ll see it is the exact opposite – Putin made a series of demands to NATO – including winding down support for Poland. These were never acceptable and presumably devised by Putin on exactly that basis so that he could justify invading Ukraine.
And then recall Putin’s own reasons for invading Ukraine (this is all on public record). He claimed that Ukraine is historically Russian and not a real or separate country from Russia. Also that it needed to be “de-n***fied” (whatever that means). Those were the primary reasons he gave for his “special military operation”.
Either Putin was lying then or you are mistaken now. Or more likely both.
Try engaging with the facts.

A D Kent
A D Kent
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Since 2014 the Ukraine armed forces were being trained and advised by NATO, were being armed with weapons that allowed greater inter-operability with them and despite plenty of opportunities to do so neither they nor NATO would rule out their membership. Al the time they continued to shell the Donbas and increased this massively in the days before the invasion. All of that is in the public record too.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Yet those are not the reasons Putin stated for his “special military operation” are they ?
Nor should Russia have a veto on what independent countries like Poland, Estonia, Finland or Ukraine can or cannot do and which organisations they may or may not join. Any more than the UK has a veto over French policy. Or you feel able to tell your neighbour who they may or may not invite round because their visitors might upset you. It’s nonsense. No country bordering Russia can take its security for granted and needs to take whatever steps needed to protect its security. As Russia’s long history demonstrates.
You also imply that Russia’s occupation of the Donbas has some legal standing. It does not.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
7 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

You mean since Russia invaded another sovereign country?

Richard Powell
Richard Powell
7 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

It’s depressing how the sensible comments on Ukraine are always voted down.

Martin M
Martin M
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

I appreciate that UnHerd readership does “lean Right”, and that nowadays, those who lean Right have a tendency to support Putin. I for my part find that depressing. It wouldn’t have been so in Reagan’s day.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

It would seem that the voting system is all screwed up so don’t trust that it’s accurate.