Gen Valery Zaluzhny

Ukraine: The path to victory?

Zaluzhny’s recipe to break the logjam can work. The West needs to help make it happen

Paul Mason
11 min readNov 29, 2023

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When Ukrainian politicians meet their Western counterparts for the first time, they typically ask them: “Do you want Ukraine to win?”. To those on the receiving end, the question has seemed blunt. But in the aftermath of General Valery Zaluzhny’s 1st November essay and article in The Economist, it is not.

There is a growing and justified fear among observers of the conflict that the Biden administration’s war aim has become for Ukraine “not to lose”. Aided by Scholz’ reticence, and the Sunak government’s sudden loss of focus on Ukraine, this is rapidly solidifying into the default Western position.

That, presumably is why the US mission to NATO on 20 November tweeted that America is “focused on setting conditions for a just, durable, and sustainable peace”, adding

“We will continue to support them to be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table when the time comes.”

But as Francis Farrell writes, in the Kyiv Independent, “not losing” does not simply translate into freezing the conflict along its current front lines. It could easily translate into strategic defeat, both for Ukraine and the West.

There is no guarantee that any peace with Putin will be “durable and sustainable”, even in Ukraine were to accept the gross injustice of territorial losses in the Donbas and Crimea, which it might have to if negotiations were forced on it today.

The signals coming from Western governments have, understandably, caused dismay in Ukraine — above all among the men and women risking their lives in the battles around Avdiivka, Robotyne and the Kherson bridgehead.

So what we’ve reached is a junction point where Ukrainian operations and Western strategy have to align.

Zaluzhny’s Economist essay — which looks like a masterstroke of public diplomacy the more I observe Western reactions to it — needs to be matched by candour and energy on the Western side.

I continue to believe that, as Zaluzhny argues, there are military-technical solutions that can break the log-jam — but only if matched by actions at the…

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Paul Mason

Journalist, writer and film-maker. Author of How To Stop Fascism.