There are two ways to interpret Zelensky’s decision to fire his Defense Minister: he’s either making a superficial change ahead of likely running for re-election sometime next spring in order to placate his increasingly fatigued and frustrated people, or the US is further consolidating its influence over him. In all likelihood, it’s probably a blend of both for the reasons that will be explained.
Zelensky confirmed long-running rumors on Sunday in his daily video address that he was planning to fire Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov, announcing that he’ll table this move later in the week and request that parliament approves State Property Fund chief Rustem Umerov in his place. This move comes after the New York Times (NYT) and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently cited unnamed US officials who claimed that the counteroffensive’s troubles are due to Kiev flat-out refusing to follow the Pentagon’s advice.
There are two ways to interpret Zelensky’s decision to fire his Defense Minister: he’s either making a superficial change ahead of likely running for re-election sometime next spring in order to placate his increasingly fatigued and frustrated people, or the US is further consolidating its influence over him. In all likelihood, it’s probably a blend of both for the reasons that will be explained, but first two additional contextual points will be shared to help the reader better understand the bigger picture.
The first is that rumors began swirling of incorrigible corruption within the Defense Ministry back in January, which served as the pretext for Zelensky to purge some of its officials during what was assessed at the time here to be a factional struggle taking place behind the scenes in Kiev. As for the second, the latest news comes just one day after Zelensky’s former patron Igor Kolomoysky was arrested by the SBU on corruption charges a few years after the US formally accused him of such crimes.
In hindsight, the first only imperfectly consolidated US influence over Zelensky seeing as how those two later fell out half a year later following the counteroffensive’s failure as was earlier explained. The second was analyzed here and concluded that it’s a timely self-interested ruse for managing Ukrainian-US perceptions ahead of Zelensky’s undeclared re-election campaign. Altogether, they suggest that Reznikov’s dismissal was due to a combination of both factors that’ll now be elaborated.
The example of Ukraine defying its American patron in spite of the tens of billions of dollars’ worth of multidimensional aid that it received from the latter prior to disastrously failing in its counteroffensive makes the US look incredibly weak in the eyes of the West. It therefore follows that they likely placed maximum pressure on Ukraine to at the very least make a superficial change to suggest that it’s finally listening to them, though this decision might actually be much more substantive than symbolic.
BNE IntelliNews reported that “On the same day Zelenskiy’s office issued an order that a raft of mild medical conditions would no longer count as grounds for military service exemptions, including tuberculosis, HIV infections, and mild mental illnesses among other conditions. Bankova also ordered all nurses, pharmacists, and other medical services personnel, mostly women, to register with the military authorities for possible active service.”
Preparing to throw more meat into the grinder with all that entails for growing Ukraine’s already large casualty count in this conflict contradicts what Zelensky himself in his latest TV interview that can be read here and was analyzed here. Of pertinence are the two parts where he defended his country’s conduct in the counteroffensive on the basis that it was aimed at minimizing casualties unlike what the NYT and WSJ recently reported regarding the US’ advice to ignore casualties in this campaign.
Removing Reznikov and replacing him with Umerov, coupled with increasing the conscription pool after having just gotten rid of all regional conscription officials who allegedly helped untold numbers of Ukrainians avoid their duty, therefore suggests that Kiev is finally about to follow America’s advice. If that’s the case, then the US’ liberal–globalist policymaking faction clearly envisages perpetuating the NATO-Russian proxy war beyond winter instead of resuming peace talks in the coming months.
This would represent a major power play against their pragmatic rivals who hope to gradually disengage from the conflict in as “face-saving” of a way as possible, perhaps by implementing some of Vivek Ramaswamy’s peace plan that was analyzed here, ahead of reinvigorating the US’ “Pivot to Asia”. President Xi’s decision to skip this weekend’s G20 Summit in India risks intensifying the Sino-US systemic rivalry as explained here and thus inadvertently resulting in America reprioritizing China’s containment.
Nevertheless, so long as the US is still actively trying to contain Russia via Ukraine per the liberal-globalist policymaking faction’s vision, it’s unable to effectively contain China. Whether rightly or wrongly, Zelensky convinced himself that it’s in his personal interests to go along with their plans in exchange for them supporting his impending re-election bid. The problem, however, is that those two’s joint desire to perpetuate the proxy war might fail even more disastrously than the counteroffensive.
Russia’s piecemeal advances over the summer in Kharkov Region and its reported military buildup since last year’s partial mobilization of experienced reservists hint that the Kremlin could be planning a major offensive by next spring in the event that the conflict isn’t frozen before then. In that scenario, Russia might achieve a breakthrough somewhere along the front, which could ruin Zelensky’s and/or Biden’s re-election prospects depending on when it occurs and its ultimate outcome.
Viewed from this perspective, Kiev’s military shake-up suggests that peace will remain a distant prospect due to Zelensky and his patrons’ desire to perpetuate the conflict instead of resuming peace talks by winter, unless of course a Russian military breakthrough ruins their plans. The other variable that could offset this trajectory is if a serious incident takes place in the Asia-Pacific to force the US to reprioritize China’s containment. Absent either of those two, the proxy war might become the next “forever war”.