GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Ukraine needs to transfer tactical initiative into strategic gains – Quickly!

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The land campaign continues to move slowly and last week’s key observations are related to the strategic campaign and how it is developing.  Over the last week, the land campaign progressed slowly Ukraine continuing to advance consistently but making incremental gains. Off the battlefield though there are larger forces moving that are likely to influence the campaign.  Last week’s peace talks in Saudi Arabia are a very important development. Throughout the war attempts have been made to bring the war to a negotiated conclusion, most recently in Denmark in June.

What makes last week’s talks different and important to watch is that the conference is driven from outside NATO.  Held in Saudi Arabia, and supported by China the conference represents a subtle change in international geo-politics.  The first point to note is that the peace conference took place outside Europe and involved representatives of 40 nations; including large non-European powerbrokers like Brazil, India, South Africa and China. Essentially, this conference indicates a push from China to develop its position as leader of the ‘Global South,’ the group of countries many of which are from the Southern Hemisphere that have chosen not to align themselves with NATO in the war.  The power of the Global South is rising and will impact profoundly on global politics, possibly evolving into a new anti-American block or in a more positive way as an independent voice for countries that traditionally have not been drivers of international discussions.  This conference is worth noting because it may be a historic first intervention in global politics by this group.  A group with a level of influence over Russia that NATO and the United States will never be able to match.   

The Global South’s refusal to condemn the invasion or to take a moral position on the war is interesting, it represents a long-existing world view that challenges the United States’s military activity. Many countries around the world are troubled by America’s global military interventions and see United States condemnation of Russia’s activities as hypocritical, considering that nation’s list of recent invasions including Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The point is not the legitimacy or otherwise of American military interventions, instead the issue is one of perception because the nations of the Global South perceive the United States and its European allies as hypocritical and are therefore unwilling to get involved; on either side. Most importantly, the larger members of the Global South now have the economic and military power not to need too. We are witnessing history as the nations of the Global South start to develop confident and independent positions in the world.  

The United States, Canada and other NATO powers attended the conference but the countries leading the discussion are China and Saudi Arabia.   This conference did not achieve a huge amount but represents the start of a process that although likely to be long; probably provides the best chance of reaching a negotiated settlement.  If a position can be agreed that China, India and the United States can all support, Russia’s days are numbered.  The Ukrainians have probably ‘done the maths’ and understand this too so are likely to commit to the process, especially since they are now under a new strategic threat.

Strange as it may seem the United States, the world’s largest liberal democracy’s presidential election is currently developing as a ‘two horse race’ between two strange choices, one of whom Joe Biden has proven to be a capable and sensible leader, but will be well into his eighties if he is elected.  The other Donald Trump, who is almost as old is also currently being indicted for insurrection, corruption and a variety of other offenses.  The United States presidential election has a dangerous farcical nature that if it was not so important would be funny.  However, it is not humorous, Trump’s history includes threatening to withhold military aid to bully Ukraine’s President Zelensky for domestic political purposes, a cosy relationship with Vladimir Putin, indictment for failing to protect state secrets and many public statements about withdrawing United States aid to Ukraine.

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In Ukraine there must be considerable concern about what 2024 will mean for the war and in Moscow Putin must be rubbing his hands together in glee at the thought of Trump being elected.  However, the sad part of this farce is that it impacts on the lives of many people caught up in war. Soldiers dying on the frontline, the civilian casualties of artillery, drone and cruise missile strikes on cities, the families left grieving and across the globe there are hungry people who can’t get Ukrainian grain or who struggle to survive the inflation caused by the war.  The uncertainty of the United States presidential election next year provides Putin with hope, that if he can hold on and Trump is elected, he can keep what he stole.  Further, he can claim a victory and retain his personal power within Russia. 

It is a very difficult situation, and the only way around it is for Ukraine to transfer its tactical initiative into strategic initiative.  Essentially, the war on the ground is being driven at Ukraine’s pace. Ukraine can choose where and how often it strikes and is driving the tempo of the campaign. However, at this stage it is not doing enough to change the strategic initiative, Putin can wait he is not threatened yet. Although Ukrainian forces are moving forwards a politically embarrassing defeat is not currently imminent.  Last week there were minimal Ukrainian advances on the three main axes of advance: 

  • The area around Bakhmut.
  • Ukraine’s advance from near Orikhiv towards Tokmak; and perhaps further toward Melitopol. 
  • The Velyka Novosilka salient.

Throughout the week intense fighting continued around Bakhmut as Ukraine tries to seize the villages of Klishchiivka, Andrivka and Kurdyumivka that sit on an important ridgeline that if captured will provide a route to advance north-east. A manoeuvre that would allow Ukraine to cut the main supply road into Bakhmut, making resistance less tenable.  Ukraine has not been able to capture this ridgeline yet, and until it does its southern envelopment is stuck. Its attempt to envelop Bakhmut from the north looks like it has culminated, this axis of advance has not progressed in weeks.  The situation in Bakhmut is not surprising, Russia’s best soldiers, the paratroopers of the VDV are holding this sector of the frontline.  

In the south, Ukraine made progress last week.  The advance toward Tokmak that started from near Orikhiv continues to move forwards slowly with Ukraine entering the village of Robotyne about 10km from their start line in the last couple of days.  Two weeks ago, Ukrainian forces attacked Robotyne and were pushed back by Russian counter attacks, so last week’s progress is important.  However, this success is contrasted with a set back as Russian counter attacks put pressure on the advance’s left flank recapturing the defensive trenches Ukraine was reported to have captured the previous week.  In my opinion, this area will remain relatively static next week. 

Meanwhile, further east on the Velyka Novosilka salient, Ukraine is making more progress and used the capture of Staromaiorske to veer left and capture the village of Urozhaine about 2km to the south east.  When Urozhaine is secure a range of possibilities open for Ukraine, 10km south-east across flat, relatively undefended ground is the village of Kermenchyk. The right or western flank of an advance to Kermenchyk is protected by the Mokri Yaly River and the Russian units defending this area are not well-entrenched.   Based on open-source information there appears to be an opportunity for Ukraine to capture Kermenchyck, and develop a larger offensive operation possibly pushing towards Mariupol or Yalta and is an area to keep watching.

The wild card next week will be what happens on the Dnipro River, Ukraine has spent the last couple of weeks raiding across the river and may be in possession of territory on its eastern bank.  However, the situation is very unclear and reporting contradictory.   Generally, reporting places a lodgement of Ukrainian forces near the village of Kozachi Laheri about 30km downstream of the Nova Kakhovka Dam.  Ukraine’s intentions are not clear, my assessment is that a large-scale offensive across the Dnipro is very unlikely, even though this is an area in which Russia’s defences are weak they will still be enough to effectively oppose any crossing of the Dnipro in force.  This operation is obviously going to draw Russian forces from the battle in Zaporrizhia south, so may be part of a raiding campaign designed to stretch the defending force and some commentators think that this lodgement could be used to push south and attack the town of Oleshky.  

However, my assessment is that Ukraine’s objective is larger because any force located Kozachi Laheri dominates the M14 that runs east parallel with the Dnipro River, terminating at Melitopol.  This road is one of the main supply routes from Crimea to Russia’s Zaporizhian frontline. A lodgement near Kozachi Laheri combined with bombing attacks on the Kerch Bridge, the Armiansk Junction and Chongar Bridge could severely interdict Russian supply lines.  It is likely that operations in this area contribute to the overall ‘stretch, starve, strike’ strategy, aiming to make the Russians divert forces from the Zaporizhian frontline or risk being starved of ammunition and food.  

In summary, this week demonstrates the relationship between strategy and tactics. Strategically, Ukraine is facing a dire threat in the possible re-election of Trump in 2024, a situation that gives Putin the upper hand.  This situation incentivises Putin to hang on, to keep fighting and to try and wait out the war betting on Trump’s re-election and United States support for Ukraine drying up.  The Jeddah peace talks provide Ukraine with a strategic opportunity that may mitigate this threat and are also important because we are starting to see members of the Global South take a confident leadership role in world affairs, one that could change the strategic dynamics very rapidly because a deal struck in this forum would make Putin’s war much less sustainable.

Essentially, although Ukraine is not taking a great deal of ground from Russia it still has the tactical initiative, but its strategic position is threatened. A threat that necessitates quickly transferring tactical initiative into battlefield gains to ensure that; either Ukraine in the best possible bargaining position during peace negotiations or that it achieves a large victory that damages Putin and changes Russia’s political dynamics. Ukraine’s time to capture the strategic initiative is limited, in October the rain starts so expect to see action on the frontline in the next six weeks, or if things have already ‘tipped’ and Ukraine has culminated expect to see an increase in other operations, for instance attacks on Russian territory or more naval activity.  

 

 

Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer and TDBs military blogger

34 COMMENTS

  1. The Peace Summit was a DUD! A complete FAILURE & Diplomatic Disaster! It was a way for the Saudi’s & everyone else to appease the stupid Americans & get them off their backs while giving the appearance of doing something but in reality, achieving nothing! The Chinese & Global South Nations were there not in support of Ukraine but Russia! How can you have a Peace Summit without Russia, the main other participant in this Conflict? And who the hell would accept any Terms negotiated by the US who aren’t good faith actors, look at the JCPOA deals & Minsk agreements that they sabotaged & discarded? And Zelensky’s ludicrous demands for Russia’s capitulation, Putin’s arrest & a return to the 1991 Borders with reparations is patently absurd, the Loser of this War, Ukraine, doesn’t get to dictate the Terms of its surrender? So Russia will dictate their Terms on the Battlefield & they will stipulate the conditions of Ukraine’s surrender not the other way round! Another major Diplomatic failure by the United States of Assholes & another sign of their waning influence & of a dying US Empire & American Hegemony!

  2. Try opening both eyes Ben.
    Ukraine is getting flogged and running out of everything.
    Biden is as bad,as corrupt as Trump and an international..laughing stock as is his V.P.

  3. “Ukraine needs to transfer tactical initiative into strategic gains – Quickly!” BEN MORGAN

    An all in, high stakes strategy, by necessity entailing big losses in men and material, against a superior military force is courting disaster.

    Ukraine is the underdog fighting a vastly superior military force.

    Set piece battles are (almost) always going to be won by the bigger army.

    In the Vietnam war set piece battles between the NVA and US forces were few and far between, those that did occur like the Tet Offensive ended in US victory.

    For the Vietnamese facing a vastly superior military force, unconventional, (gorilla) warfare fought by non-NVA partisans gave better results.

    Indeed even in Ukraine partisans behind the enemy’s lines have played a major role in weakening Russian forces leading to their defeat.

    My opinion: Instead of pushing forward with their counteroffensive. (Which by all accounts, appears to be failing). Ukraine needs to hold their lines, preserve their forces, keep their gains, to concentrate on unconventional war against Russia. The US were defeated by this kind of warfare. The Russians will be too. Russia can never win against this kind of popular people’s war.

    • Newsflash, Pat. “There are no Charlies in the Trees” in Donbass. The Russians are only going where they are wanted. Donbass wanted independence from the Russophobic putsch regime, Russia tried to get them Federal autonomy, but that wasn’t good enough for the Banderist fascists. Now they are all Russian. There is no French Resistance” in “occupied” Ukraine. They were already largely Russian culturally, and now they are by nationality too. And the Kiev regime is stuck with buyers regret for buying into US promises, as had every proxy force the hegemon has tried to cook up ever.

      • Despite all evidence to the contrary, Paul stays on script.

        “The Russians are only going where they are wanted.” PAUL

    • Yes Pat. Ukraine has to wait until they can get some sort of parity with their Air Force. And stupid old Biden has to give Ukraine ATACMS so they can pulverise the Russian artillery. There will be no progress until F-16s and the like are provided.

      • I suspect that the real reason that the US is reluctant to supply F16s is that they want the world to keep the illusion that they are an effective weapon against a modern millitary power’s anti aircraft systems and against Russia’s airforce. Supplying them to Ukraine will demolish that illusion just as the ground based machinery supplies have been exposed in their vulnerability to a serious adversary..
        Interesting that the Brit’s Chalanger tanks have not been allowed to be tested in action. The same reasoning I don’t doubt.
        D J S

        • Weird explanation there Dave.

          Another day another weird pro-war rationalisation from David Stone. Still doggedly plugging Putin’s propaganda lie that Russia is fighting a war with the US and NATO, instead of fighting to conquer Ukraine.

          Hey Dave, Instead of some long winded, “I suspect” (I made up), lame excuse. Have you considered Occam’s razor?

          The simplest explanation is usually the right one.

          The Russian Federation is a corrupt predatory expansionist kleptocracy.

          It’s OK. No need to thank me.

          • You haven’t figured this out yet Pat. All of the wunderwaffen crap supplied to Ukraine, destroyed by the Russians needs to be replaced. At a hefty price tag to Raytheon, Lockheed etc. Big dollar orders, big profits. The US MIC will fight til the last Ukrainian who can handle their overpriced underperforming weapons dies. Then they will attempt to get the Poles to do the same. Dollars drive this Pat.

            • You just talk clapped out cliches NJ – reflecting the state of your brain! ‘Fighting to the last Ukrainian’ is an insult to all Ukrainians! As if the Ukrainians had no agency!

  4. One hundred and 6 years ago the tribes of Europe (undoubtedly the most nasty and troublesome people to have ever existed) were bogged down in the misery of trench warfare. Now, on the other side of that God forsaken continent brave old men far away from the dangerous bits feed another generation of young men into the grinder. Perhaps intelligence is an evolutionary dead end after all.

  5. “Even through this is an area in which Russian forces are weak they will still be enough to effectively be able to oppose the crossing of the Dnipro in force”
    More doublespeak from Ben. To summarize Ben’s expert opinion, Russian forces are “Weak’ to such an extent they will be effectively able to repel a major assault by Ukraine.

  6. A couple of months ago I said I could not tell who to believe, nor who would prevail… I seem to remember many gung-ho commenters telling us Russian conscripts were crap with no moral; Russian equipment was all old cold-war outmoded crap; Russian leadership was incompetent and corrupt; top Western weapons were coming that would demolish the inferior Russian stuff; Ukraine had better morale as well as justice on their side, etc, etc.

    Even Ben is now making me think I was right not to rush in and believe one-eyed spin.

    Sorry tedheath etc.

  7. I think it’s time to stop pretending that this is anything but what it is.. The latest example of rank stupidity, and hubris from our would be “rulers of the world”, who have shown nothing more than the same bloody minded brutality that the European colonisers inflicted on all those sovereign countries around the world.. If Ukraine was going to win this “war” they would have shown a lot more positive results by now..
    Instead, we are being fed a constant diet of triumphalism that amounts to utter self delusion, and anyone who dares to point out this obvious fact is harassed and pilloried by those who pretend to know better…
    Just cut the crap.. This was the war that the USA has been wanting for decades, and being the twisted shits they are, they show a total lack of evidence that the learnt a damn thing from the Vietnam clusterfuck… So now we can look forward to WW3 purely because we are too stupid and immature to behave as we should in a “civilised” society… So we stand on our hind legs and cheer ourselves for being so clever as to be able to destroy ourselves, and everything else alongside us… Even the Americans are looking sideways at their own government over this debacle… Of course NZers are too stupid and narrow to grasp reality… Why else would they cheer when their own leaders rob them blind? (as long as it’s a govt made up of colonial descendants/dregs that is)… NZ truly has earned the “golden donkeys tail” that is awarded to the thickest race on the planet.. The Irish are wishing us a long reign, and we’re looking likely to grant that wish…

    • Yep.
      The question that is beginning to rot out into the open is “is the ukraine regime really worth supporting”?
      Zelensky will be helicoptered by chopper or necktie, and a conciliatory leader in place within the year.

  8. The pace of the Ukrainian army in the South is picking up, I am pretty sure they will make the sea by winter.
    They now have cluster shells the USA has millions of them last made 2016 and as they are coming up timex they will coming across the Atlantic by the shipload. These shells are a game changer and I hope Ukraine makes everyone count. I wonder if I could get naming rights on one like I did for 50 usd on a 152mm shell with “take that you russian c****ts ted heath Motueka”

  9. Ben, you ignore the fact that Putin is coming up for ‘re-election’ in March 2024 – long before the US election. There may be a move to replace Putin. Who can guess what is happening in the Kremlin? Putin will have to do a lot of bowing and scraping to be selected I predict. I don’t believe his selection is a foregone conclusion. We live in hope.

  10. “Ukraine needs to transfer tactical initiative into strategic gains – Quickly!” BEN MORGAN

    An all in high stakes strategy, by necessity entailing big losses in men and material, against a superior military force is courting disaster.
    Ukraine is the underdog fighting a vastly superior military force.
    Set piece battles are (almost) always going to be won by the bigger army.
    In the Vietnam war set piece battles between the NVA and US forces were few and far between, those that did occur like the Tet Offensive ended in US victory.
    For the Vietnamese facing a vastly superior military force, unconventional, (gorilla) warfare fought by non-NVA partisans gave better results.
    Indeed even in Ukraine partisans behind the enemy’s lines have played a major role in weakening Russian forces leading to their defeat.

    Instead of pushing onward with their counteroffensive. (Which by all accounts, appears to be failing). Ukraine needs to hold their lines, preserve their forces and keep their gains, to concentrate on unconventional war against Russia. The US were defeated by this kind of warfare. The Russians will be too. Russia can never win against this kind of popular people’s war.

  11. A comment at https://www.moonofalabama.org/2023/08/ukraine-open-thread-2023-193/comments/page/2/#comments

    Kubler-Ross five stages
    DENIAL — Ukraine is winning and will win, wonder weapons
    ANGER — Putin is a monster, atrocity stories

    And now we reach
    BARGAINING
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/16/nato-official-suggests-ukraine-could-give-up-territory-in-exchange-for-membership
    Posted by: Patrick Armstrong | Aug 16 2023 12:20 utc | 182
    .

    The 4th stage is depression, the 5th acceptance.

      • Still in DENIAL of the facts Ovod?
        Hohols have a disposition to fall back on – zrada. They should associate it with neocons.

        https://theukrainetoday.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/understanding-zrada/
        UNDERSTANDING ZRADA
        November 10, 2015
        Sohryu_L
        Trying to explain ZRADA to Western observers is difficult. It is much like how explaining sovok to Western observers is difficult; this is not a coincidence, mind you, because both sovok and ZRADA have a lot in common.

        Sovok, Russian for ‘dustpan’, is more than a pejorative name for the Soviet Union; much rather, it is a complex social phenomenon that stems from the realities Soviet citizens were forced to live in – namely, the reality of a state capitalist machine that does not care about you in the slightest. A core tenet of sovok is that, since the state does not care about you, you’re not particularly obliged to care about the state in turn. At the same time, the state is obliged to provide you with your basic necessities (Soviet Union had a full employment policy in place). If you get them, it’s not enough, because the state owes you more; if you don’t, well, what did you expect, it’s the state, it doesn’t care about you!

        Nowhere it is mentioned that a sovok has to owe something to the state. After all, the state is an inexorable, uncaring system that gives too little. And if it gives so little, how can it expect much in return?

        Moreover, since the state doesn’t give a sovok enough, a sovok always seeks to better himself at the state’s expense. The popular maxim in the 1970s Soviet Union is roughly as follows:

        “From factory, take home every single nail
        You are the boss ’round here, not guest or slave!”

        This was by no means limited to nails: everyone brought home anything they could, connected with their trade. My family is no less guilty of this: my grandmother worked in a canteen for Communist Party bigwigs. Needless to say, fancy food was always on the table. Stuff like caviar wasn’t easy to get by in the Soviet Union.

        Add the guaranteed full employment and wages, supplement with permanent shortages of essential goods, and you’ll have the picture of a textbook sovok. A sovok‘s mindset can be summarized as thus: he fears the state, he doesn’t trust the state, yet he is firmly convinced the state owes him everything, while he doesn’t owe the state anything; and whenever the state fails to provide what a sovok wants, he feels free to reimburse himself at the state’s expense. It is, in essence, a twisted mixture of paternalism and parasitism, born out from Soviet Union’s era of stagnation, which has neatly survived the Perestroika, the collapse of the Soviet Union and Russia’s soaring oil prices. It is ubiquitous not only in Russia, but in its closest neighbors – particularly Belarus and Ukraine.

        How is sovok related to ZRADA, though? Here’s how: ZRADA is born of a similar reality – an enormous and uncaring state towering over your daily life. Many Ukrainians are also of a sovok mindset, and conversely sovok acquired the telltale characteristics of ZRADA. A sovok fears and hates the state, the government, the system; he distrusts them, yet he feels entitled to the various services the state is obliged to provide. With one distinction.

        A sovok doesn’t get what he feels the state owes him (i.e. everything), shrugs and says “Told you so, you can’t trust the establishment to give what it owes us”. A ZRADA person, however, considers the same to be no less short of a betrayal.

        Indeed, ‘zrada’ means ‘betrayal’ in Ukrainian. And where the sovok simply hates and mistrusts, ZRADA sees betrayal.

        Both will eagerly start crying about how the state owes them right the next instant. But where a sovok shrugs and goes on with his (varyingly miserable) life, a ZRADA person considers himself betrayed.

        This goes beyond material wants. Both a sovok and a ZRADA person hate and distrust the state. But a ZRADA person doesn’t simply hate and distrust. He sees betrayal. Whenever something goes wrong, no matter what, the people responsible must be the worst kind of traitor. A sovok perceives the establishment as an inexorable, uncaring machine. A ZRADA person perceives the establishment as a conspiracy of traitors.

        The reasons for this are readily apparent in Ukrainian history. Indeed, most of Ukraine’s history, from the Cossack days to the present, is permeated by ZRADA so much one can smell its adrenaline-rich aroma, and hear a thousand manly Cossack voices shouting “ZRADA!!!” at the top of their lungs before falling silent.

        The chief reason is that Ukrainians never had their own statehood for much of their recorded history. Modern Ukraine was constantly ruled by, fought over or vied for by one foreign power or another, with its population afforded little say in how they were ruled. In essence, Ukrainians were ruled by a government which, while not necessarily malevolent, they perceived as alien and hostile.

        The other reason is what some people might have called ‘rugged individualism’. The name ‘Ukraine’ by itself may be translated as ‘borderland’ or ‘frontier’; because that is what Ukraine invariably was. Modern Central Ukraine was the southern frontier of both the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Russian Empire. Even West Ukraine, now considered the most Westernalized part of Ukraine, was an easternmost frontier of either Austria-Hungary or Poland again. Life on the frontier is hardly easy; the wide expanse of the Dnieper steppes or the rugged conditions of the Carpathian mountains also meant life on the frontier was sparse. With an uncaring foreign power sitting on them, people became inclined to fending for themselves any way they could; and while a peasant had few such opportunities, there were other, considerably freer social classes who could pursue greater ambition.

        The celebrated Zaporizzhian Cossacks started out as private armies for ambitious nobles, then in service to Poland. The celebrated Zaporizzhian Sich often fell prey to the individual ambition of Cossack commanders; one may say the democratic decision-making process of the Sich rose out of the necessity to balance this individual ambitions. In the end, individual ambition was what sparked Hetman Khmelnitsky’s rebellion and the creation of the Hetmanate. Ambition was what drove the Hetmanate into civil war after Khmelnitsky’s death. And, in the end, ambition was what broke the Cossackdom, as Cossack chiefs decided their ambition was best furthered by serving Russia. The Sich was tolerated until Russia’s southern border expanded to the Pontic steppe and the Crimea; after that, the last remnants of the old Cossack systems were swept away.

        Personal ambition is probably what explains a large number of Ukrainians among Polish and Russian nobility. Many registered Cossack chiefs were granted noble status, and most of Hetmanate’s power structure enjoyed one, too. Even after the Hetmanate’s autonomies were revoked by the imperial government, the scions of these Ukrainian nobles went on to serve the Russian Empire. Ultimately, they would lead it to some of its greatest triumphs.

        Personal ambition and infighting was what failed Ukraine’s first bid for independence, and it is what has been failing it, time and again, until now. Personal gain is judged against the common good, and the common good loses in the end. And when common good lost, Ukraine ultimately lost time and again.

        This is something that might give a chap a complex. For centuries, ordinary Ukrainians viewed themselves as unjustly oppressed by a foreign power, and saw every single bid for their independence fail due to someone’s unchecked ambitions. When given the chance, these ordinary Ukrainians would similarly follow the urge to look out for themselves, as opposed to a common good, thus causing these nation-building attempts to fail time and again. The end result left Ukrainians with a naturally-ingrained paranoia to go hand in hand with their rugged individualism. And with every single failure, this paranoia drove them to chalk these failures not to their own misdeeds or faults, but rather to someone else’s doings. To traitors, sellouts and conspirators.

        The end result was ZRADA.

        Life after the Soviet Union infused Ukrainians with a similar sovok mindset. This mindset then intertwined with the genetic memory of past failures and futile resistance, thus creating the modern brand of ZRADA. To a ZRADA person, everything goes wrong, and everything that does go wrong is the result of someone else’s working to that end – in short, traitors and sellouts. At the same time, the ZRADA person seeks to further his own ends, and sees himself as entitled to them. When he doesn’t get them, it is someone else selling him down the river. In short, it is ZRADA.

        A more traditional variant of ZRADA wants nothing more but to have nothing to do with the establishment; however, the establishment, being an alien and uncaring system, would have none of that. A successful modern-day Ukrainian self-made man is someone who loudly says he doesn’t need government or the state, yet starts pitching fits when the state starts dabbling in his business. He then usually gives bribes and, right afterwards, pitches another fit at how the traitors in the government and the security services and the tax office and whoever else robbed him of his hard-earned money. It is never his fault, it is someone else’s fault. And this someone else is definitely a traitor and a sellout!

        Of course, even these rugged Ukrainian individualists feel they are entitled to low taxes, low household gas prices, good infrastructure and ultimately a pension. Whenever they don’t get any of this, it constitutes betrayal; yet they never once stop to consider that to be entitled to something, they have to give something in return.

        Thus sovok, a phenomenon born out of a Soviet citizen’s daily experience with the Soviet system, entwines with ZRADA, a phenomenon born out of a Ukrainian’s strive for personal gain at the expense of the common good. Both these phenomena are ultimately united by their inherent infantilism: where a sovok feels entitled, a ZRADA person constantly shifts the blame, both without any logical reason.

        Naturally, ZRADA, stemming from unchecked personal ambition, goes hand in hand with politics, and as Ukrainian politicians share the same mindset as ordinary Ukrainians do, it inevitably leads to ZRADA. Government does something? ZRADA! Government doesn’t do anything? ZRADA! Exchange rate goes up? ZRADA! Exchange rate goes down? ZRADA! Whenever something happens, someone feels it’s wrong; and rather than employ logical thinking and get to the bottom of the matter, this someone arbitrarily decides some perceived traitors and sellouts are to blame. ZRADA!

        In post-Maidan Ukraine, ZRADA has been particularly proliferated – so much, in fact, that national discourse nowadays is an endless cycle of one ZRADA or other. The reason here is that Ukrainians, by and large, were shocked by the events of the revolution (a bloody revolution is something this country hadn’t seen in a lifetime), Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war – and they didn’t get over this shock. Naturally, their first knee-jerk reaction is to blame someone else. Contrary to what some may believe, modern ZRADA didn’t start with Poroshenko and his chocolate factory. Ukrainian national paranoia reigned supreme during Maidan – everyone feared that Maidan would be crushed, that it would amount to nothing, that people would lose interest or that the then-opposition would sell Maidan down the river. Naturally, this led to ZRADA. When Yanukovych fled and the country found itself with Russian troops in the Crimea, Ukrainians knew someone was to blame. And they decided to blame someone else. And when the war started, it didn’t start out successful. Guess who was to blame?

        Naturally, certain interest groups started using this country-wide shock and paranoia to further their own personal gains – as it had happened countless times during Ukraine’s history. Military losses are used as proof to undermine the government (already not particularly trusted) for one reason or another. Competing political parties vying for power, subsidies, votes and Cabinet seats stir up ZRADA to further their ends. And the fact that Ukrainians were repeatedly cheated throughout their history does not help.

        Modern Ukrainian discourse cannot be understood without ZRADA; but what must be understood is that ZRADA is inherently illogical and emotional. It’s centuries of failures and a deeply-ingrained urge to look out for one’s own self speaking out, amplified by the shock and the difficulties of times Ukrainians find themselves in.

        Time and again, however, this very phenomenon paved the way to Ukraine’s many failures, directly causing ZRADA to flourish today. In the end of 2015, Ukraine once again stands on a threshold of a new cycle that so often repeated itself.

        A cycle that may yet be broken.

        • My God, ZRADA
          Years in commerce taught me that nobody owes you a thing, you have to add your own value.
          The whole world Western seems to have gone down the road of “entitlement”. Certain fuckwits on this site don’t understand the contempt of others for academic bits of paper. It works like this. A degree holder comes to work for me and asks for exorbitant dollars. Their justification is time, effort and fees put into something indicative but not conclusive of ability. I’m expected to pay over the top and if they do not perform pay them for their mere presence. Ask for accountability and it’s not part of their equation. So when somebody flicks academic quals at me I have only one stance. Show me the output, the proof, the value. Give me value and reward follows, otherwise f**k off. It’s hard enough to feed your own without entitled brat parasites.

        • Well Putin is still a monster! We knew that Prigozhin was a dead man walking. The question was how not when! The silver lining is that Putin may be a dead man walking as well!

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