What the TIME article means for Ukraine

Journalists record the consequences of the shelling of Kyiv by Russian occupiers
Journalists record the consequences of the shelling of Kyiv by Russian occupiers

The recent article in Time magazine about doubts in Ukraine was prepared in advance and was waiting to be published

The cluster of Ukrainian problems that many readers, especially foreign readers, probably first learned about from the TIME article, have long been known to Ukrainian experts, journalists, and volunteers – especially those who communicate directly and often with soldiers, help them on the front lines, and see it with their own eyes. They are not only aware of this, but for many months have been trying to draw attention to these problems to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, the official reaction has often been limited to accusing the authors of inflating, exaggerating, and inconsistency in their own point of view with the actual state of affairs and the One News Telethon.

Now, we have received yet another confirmation from TIME that the problems that a litany of problems can no longer be hidden, and second, the precious time to address them has been irrevocably lost. Thirdly, the list of these problems is long, ranging from issues with mobilization to our favorite topic of fighting corruption.

So when did that countdown of lost time begin?

The first signals that made us think about this appeared, if not in the middle of spring, then certainly in the first weeks of June. This was due to the expectation of a Ukrainian offensive. The objective reasons for the high expectations were based on the success of military operations in the fall of 2022, fueled by the optimism of official announcements and "expert forecasts." Constant reports about the amount of aid, the results of the Ramstein, and the training of reserve assault brigades set the public up for the inevitable success of the expected offensive.

This boomerang can hit the one who launches it

One of the determining factors (not the only one) for the start of the offensive was favorable weather conditions. In late April and early May, when the last moisture from the melting snow and rains had evaporated and the announced offensive had not yet begun, the first doubts about the real capabilities to ensure the operation's success crept in.

Against the backdrop of expectations and doubts, there were rather strange announcements, to put it mildly, about the most likely directions of the offensive, which contradicted the basics of military science, namely the requirement to hide one's intentions from the enemy as much as possible. In the first week of June, there were reports that the Russian defense (which some journalists and observers also laughed at) had indeed turned out to be a potent and virtually insurmountable obstacle to the tactics used in the first phase. This is also about the time factor. Our partners and I took too long to coordinate and arrange the necessary supplies, thus enabling the enemy to build the so-called Surovikin lines.

Now we are entering another dangerous period (and I'm afraid this is just the beginning) – the stage of finding the guilty. Ukrainian officials blame our Western partners, saying, "You see, if you had delivered everything to us on time..." Yes, they are essentially correct. It was not enough, and it was not on time. But trying to shift the primary responsibility onto our Western partners, who are not bound by any formal obligations, is not the most constructive approach. From time to time, it is helpful to recall the words of Ben Wallace, the former British Secretary of Defense, who said: “Actually, we should thank them for their help (before blaming them).” Let me repeat: in the absence of formal commitments, it is difficult to argue against accusations of non-compliance. Unfortunately, there is not even something like the Budapest Memorandum to appeal to.

The search for who to blame has begun inside the country. This is primarily, but not exclusively, about the investigation of "who betrayed the south of Ukraine," which is obviously the first large-scale attempt to shift the blame by the SBU. There was evidence that they were conducting interrogations, summoning people for questioning, distracting the military command, and creating a nervous atmosphere there. I'm not saying that this investigation is unnecessary, but it's definitely not the right time, especially if there are any signs of political interference.

The worst thing about this situation is that there are signs that some people (let's not point fingers) intend to shift the entire responsibility to the military. I assume that the military's decisions were flawed. But in the possible list of reasons for the temporary setbacks (and those responsible for them), the military – the military command, not to mention mid- and lower-level commanders or ordinary soldiers – should not be at the top. Attempts to shift all responsibility to the military are perilous. It is hazardous if the attempts are groundless. The boomerang can come back to the one who launches it. Opinion polls show a consistently high level of trust and support for our defenders by Ukrainian citizens.

The search for the guilty is caused, in my opinion, by the awakening of political instincts. If we now turn our attention to Israel, the same thing is happening there. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to keep his position and deflect the blow from himself, began to make such statements. This is the danger of these investigations – how not to turn on yourself. After all, democratic countries have civilian democratic control, meaning that the military is subordinate to civilian political leadership. Before blaming the military for anything, politicians should recall their own decisions about setting strategic priorities or the timeliness of the mobilization call. Netanyahu tried to blame the intelligence service and was immediately told that the intelligence service does not operate independently of the civilian political leadership. Neither do other power structures, be they intelligence services or the armed forces.

Why do politicians still try to act in this way? There is a term (not offensive) in English called a "political animal." It refers to the quality of real politicians to be guided by instincts and feelings to make quick decisions in critical situations. It's more of a compliment when people talk about a "political animal" because a high-level politician makes decisions with limited information and time to make those decisions, and thanks to these qualities, they escape tricky situations. But when his instincts fail him, it leads to a political collapse. In Netanyahu's case, his instincts worked correctly in the first days of the crisis, and we'll see where they lead him.

Returning to the impression of the TIME article, it's not that you know something new. It's a revelation to see this information in a foreign publication – a complete set of facts and hypotheses that have already been discussed and appeared in some places. That is, if such material appears in a respected foreign publication, it means that everything that they tried to hide eventually came out. The trouble is that if there are any exaggerations or distortions of facts, it's too late to convince anyone what is true and what is not. An article in such a respected publication can give rise to rather alarming expectations about the further development of the situation with support from our partners.

Usually, such critical materials do not appear simply because the author or a group of authors prepared, wrote, and edited, and now the article is ready for publication. The events described therein are not a report from last week. This article was prepared in advance and seems to have been waiting for its moment of publication. What is the reason for this? Most likely, this is due to the internal political events currently taking place in the United States. This group of authors may serve a particular group of policymakers. That is, this article provides quite a few arguments to defend their position on the issue of supporting (or not supporting) Ukraine.

The TIME article has already been published. For us, it is time to summarize the preliminary results of the summer and fall campaigns because we are facing a forced decrease in the intensity of hostilities, at least offensive ones, on the front line. That is, now is the time to make objective assessments and conclusions and possibly re-analyze the strategy, reviewing the next steps and plans of operations to achieve the strategic goals of the war. In general, one of the problems that, in my opinion, remains at the strategic level is the practice of making decisions without proper consideration of the strategic goals of the war or national interests. That is, any step, any decision, whether it is a military operation or changes to the law, should be checked for compliance with the main strategic goal.

We’re bringing the voice of Ukraine to the world. Support us with a one-time donation, or become a Patron!

Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine