The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, published a column on Thursday, Feb. 1, on CNN's website.
In it, he shares his vision for a new strategy against Russia. Acknowledging Ukraine's disadvantage in weapons and manpower, he suggests focusing on boosting drone production and usage.
Zaluzhny's column surfaced amidst rumors of his possible resignation. On the evening of Jan. 29, anonymous Telegram channels, believed to have ties to the President's Office and Ukrainian lawmakers, spread information about his imminant dismissal.
By morning, major global media outlets were reporting on the potential resignation of the Commander-in-Chief.
A potential rift between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Zaluzhny has been circulating since the end of 2023, gaining steam when a column and interview were published by The Economist on Nov. 1, in which Zaluzhny said that in the Russo-Ukrainian War, both sides have “reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate.”
The unmanned weapons systems as a central driver of this war
As a major shift in tactics, Ukraine should focus on enhancing unmanned and advanced technology capabilities, Zaluzhny said. UAVs will not only boost combat effectiveness but also promote less contact warfare, ultimately reducing casualties.
"The remote control of these assets means fewer soldiers in harm’s way, thus reducing the level of human losses," Zaluzhny wrote.
Drones – especially considering Ukraine has no navy – can effectively take down both surface and sea targets, as well as coastal infrastructure.
They can cover almost the entire sea operations area with high efficiency and minimal risk to personnel.
"They provide real-time intelligence allowing the adjustment of fire around the clock, without pause – giving us the ability to deliver high-precision strikes against enemy targets in forward positions and in-depth," Zaluzhny wrote.
Among other benefits listed by Ukraine's commander-in-chief, UAVs can provide combat operations without relying too much on big military gear. Plus, they allow Ukraine to 'surprise' the adversary by launching sudden attacks on its infrastructure.
"We must contend with a reduction in military support from key allies"
Ukraine may need to adjust its military strategy because of a reduction in foreign aid, according to the army chief, as key allies in Kyiv are currently grappling over future support.
"Our partners" stocks of missiles, air defense interceptors and ammunition for artillery is becoming exhausted, due to the intensity of hostilities in Ukraine, but also from a global shortage of propellant charges," Zaluzhny wrote.
Despite international sanctions, Russia, with help from other countries, is still using its military industry to keep the fight going.
"The weakness of the international sanctions’ regime means Russia, in partnership with certain others, is still able to deploy its military-industrial complex in pursuit of a war of attrition against us."
Unpopular decisions required to boost the army's manpower
Zaluzhny also said Ukraine would not be able to boost its army's manpower unless lawmakers took "unpopular" measures to mobilize more men, a highly contentious issue in Ukraine.
"We must acknowledge the significant advantage enjoyed by the enemy in mobilizing human resources and how that compares with the inability of state institutions in Ukraine to improve the manpower levels of our armed forces without the use of unpopular measures," Zaluzhny pointed out.
The military has asked Zelensky to draft half a million more people to swap out long-serving exhausted soldiers and counter the 600,000 or so Russians deployed in Ukraine.
But in January, parliament refused to debate a controversial bill aimed at mobilising more troops, amid fierce criticism from the public and lawmakers.
"Finally, we remain hamstrung by the imperfections of the regulatory framework in our country, as well as the partial monopolization of the defense industry. These lead to production bottlenecks – in ammunition, for instance – which further deepen Ukraine’s dependence on its allies for supplies," Zaluzhny said.
Ukraine needs the "wholesale redesign of battlefield operations – and the abandoning of outdated, stereotypical thinking"
Ukraine's combat experience is special, the army chief said, but to win, Kyiv has to keep finding new ways and opportunities to get ahead of the enemy.
The top goal is to get good at using a complete set of reasonably priced, modern, and super effective unmanned and other tech systems.
"New operations might include digital field creation, radio-electronic environment control, or a combined operation using attack drones and cyber assets," Zaluzhny said.
"Crucially, the aim will not always be solely combat in focus. It might seek to reduce the economic capabilities of the enemy, or to isolate, or wear him down. Attack operations can have psychological objectives," he added.
Ukraine and its allies think they can set up this system in five months. During that time, they need to build the right structures, set up infrastructure and logistics, fill positions, provide training, and work out a plan for how things should be done.
Three areas to focus on in 2024
According to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in 2024, the main efforts should be focused on:
- Creating a system to provide our armed forces with high-tech assets.
- Introducing a new philosophy of training and warfare which takes account of restrictions in assets and how they can be deployed.
- And mastering new combat capabilities as soon as possible.Read Valery Zaluzhny’s full essay here.
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