Is Zaluzhny Getting Ready To Take Down Zelensky?

President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly called General Valeriy Zaluzhny, the leader of the Ukrainian armed forces, to a conference to fire him. As a result, Zaluzhny may be getting ready to take down Zelensky.

Is Zaluzhny Getting Ready To Take Down Zelensky? 1

The civil-military relations crisis that Ukraine is currently experiencing will have a significant influence on how it handles the ongoing conflict with Russia.

On Monday, January 29, 2024, President Volodymyr Zelensky allegedly called General Valerie Zaluzhny, the leader of the Ukrainian armed forces, to a conference and told him that he was being relieved of his duties. Reports that have surfaced in Western media claim that Zaluzhny declined to resign. On Friday, February 2, 2024, there were a lot of reports circulating that suggested General Zaluzhny was about to be fired, but it’s unclear exactly what his situation is.

One of the core tenets of a democratic society is that of a civil-military relationship based on the straightforward idea that democratically elected civilian leadership is the ultimate authority on all matters, including military matters, and that civilian authority retains supreme authority in the event of disputes between the civil and military leadership, is seriously undermined by the rift between Zelensky and Zaluzhny.

During a briefing, a spokeswoman for Pentagon Major General Patrick Ryder said that they have run ‘out of money’ for Ukraine.

General Zaluzhny has opened a Pandora’s box if the reports of his apparent refusal to follow the lawful orders of his civilian commander-in-chief are accurate. If this issue is not resolved, it may quickly bring down Ukraine’s civilian-controlled government and pave the way for the establishment of a military junta or one that is subject to the military’s will. Neither is encouraging for the idea that Ukraine operates as a democracy similar to that of its allies in Europe and the United States, nor is it encouraging for the possibility of stable administration for Ukraine at a time when it is confronted with never-before-seen obstacles in its foreign policy, military, and economy.

There are countless instances of civil-military disputes during wartime throughout history. Two of the best examples may be found in American history: the arguments between Douglas MacArthur and Harry Truman during the Korean War, and the division between George McClellan and Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. But in both instances, the military authority cooperated with the demands of the civilian authority to quit.

It seems that Zaluzhny would not back down, raising the problem of military disobedience to civil authorities to new heights.

The intricate process of managing civil-military relations involves striking a balance between the military’s recommendations to its civilian overlords and the civilian leadership’s real control over military matters. Rifts are not just to be expected, but a reality that needs to be foreseen and safeguards put in place to prevent them from escalating into crises, given the difference between fact-based military reality and the simplified and frequently political fiction that civilian leadership accepts. A major issue in the civil-military interaction is the management of information and agenda control. The military must always remember that for the civil-military relationship to succeed, the military cannot have an agenda that differs from that of its civilian leadership, even though disagreements over military matters can and will arise between military leaders and their civilian masters. Additionally, the military shouldn’t use the media as a means of advancing its agenda because it mostly controls the flow of information on military affairs to the general public.

Regarding the Zelensky-Zaluzhny split, it appears from the record that Zaluzhny has been involved in activities for some time that indicate he has an agenda that not only differs from his commander-in-chief’s but is also intentionally intended to be in opposition to him. This agenda portrays Zaluzhny as Zelensky’s political rival. Once more, the histories of civil-military ties in democracies demonstrate that such measures are not unprecedented. Take the cases of George McClellan and Douglas MacArthur. Nevertheless, in both cases, the military leaders obeyed orders to resign and persisted in their opposition to politics in the public sphere without the intervention of a military that was obligated to remain loyal to its civilian leadership.

But Zaluzhny has refused to resign, bringing his disagreements with Zelensky into a political sphere that, should he continue as a military leader, will be tainted by his existence.

Signs were pointing to this way for the Zelensky-Zaluzhny split. In an interview with The Economist from November 2023, Zaluzhny publicly questioned Zelensky’s assessment of the situation in the war with Russia, comparing it to a deadlock that implied the 2023 Ukrainian counteroffensive had failed. The first public rift between the two resulted from Zelensky rejecting Zaluzhny’s account of events out of concern for keeping the trust of his European and American backers. This also gave rise to rumors regarding Zaluzhny’s potential for political ascent.

In keeping with his strategy of portraying a rift with his president, Zaluzhny wrote an essay for CNN on February 1, 2024, in which he criticized Zelensky’s mobilization strategy and asserted his authority as the only military expert when it came to equipping the Ukrainian military for the upcoming phase of the war with Russia.

Andriy Stempitsky, a founding member of the neo-Nazi Right Sector’s* paramilitary forces (which were recently reorganized into the 67thBrigade of the Ukrainian Army), recently shared a photo of himself on social media with General Zaluzhny, a Right Sector flag, and Stepan Bandera’s portrait hanging on the wall behind them. The Right Sector’s leader, Dmitri Yarosh, once referred to Zelensky as an “inexperienced politician” who would “hang on some tree on Khreshchatyk [the main street of Kiev] if he betrays Ukraine and those people who died in the [Maidan] Revolution and the War [in the Donbas].” Zelensky’s relationship with the Right Sector has not been pleasant.

The message had a clear meaning: Zaluzhny would carry out the Right Sector’s threat to hang Zelensky as a traitor if Zelensky carried out his plan to usurp Zaluzhny’s position of authority.

This is the current situation in a country that the West as a whole has been characterizing as a model democracy. The strained civil-military relations between President Zelensky and General Zaluzhny have brought to light the harsh truth that Ukraine is not, and has never been, a democracy in the Western sense. Instead, it is a country where weakly elected leaders function under the shadow of neo-Nazi organizations that threaten the president’s life itself if he steers away from their ideologically base positions.

Everyone with a stake in the resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict should be concerned about Zaluzhny’s overt alignment with the Right Sector in their disagreements with Zelensky. This further reinforces Russia’s accusation that Ukraine is a country under the control of forces whose political ideology dates back to the Nazi era. Zelensky exercised this power in a way that attempted to conceal the Right Sector’s involvement. A Russian victory that includes the kind of de-Nazification promised by the Russian leadership would be necessary to resolve Ukraine’s future issues, as indicated by Zaluzhny’s explicit connection with the Right Sector and his rejection of Zelensky.

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