Ukraine: How Can Battlefield ‘Stalemate’ be overcome?

The situation in Ukraine seems to have reached a stalemate, as Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia’s aggression is not progressing. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian military need to calmly analyze the current situation and rethink their strategy.

The Ukrainian military launched a counteroffensive in June this year, but Russia still occupies about 17% of Ukrainian territory. This is almost the same as the figure before the counteroffensive began, and Ukraine has not produced any results in regaining territory.

The counteroffensive has focused on the southern Zaporizhzhia region. The aim is to cut off the supply route between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine and to gain a foothold to retake Crimea. However, the advance is being blocked by trenches and minefields set up by the Russian military.

In the eastern Donetsk region, Russia launched an offensive with human wave tactics without regard for casualties among its own soldiers, putting Ukraine on the defensive.

Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, head of Ukraine’s armed forces, stated that the war had reached a “stalemate,” and expressed a sense of urgency over Russia gaining an advantage in the prolonged battle. He also expressed his awareness that the weapons currently supplied by Western nations are not sufficient to defeat Russia.

On the other hand, Zelenskyy responded by emphasizing that the war is not in a stalemate, in an effort to deny the general’s remark. Zelenskyy is probably wary of the spread of “Ukraine fatigue” in public opinion, mainly in Western countries. This is the phenomenon of people wondering how much longer they will have to continue supporting Ukraine.

Zelenskyy’s position of trying to appeal to the international community about Ukraine’s prospects for victory is understandable. However, it is also true that the situation on the front lines is becoming increasingly difficult. It is undesirable to have a situation in which discord with the military appears to have been exposed.

The president and senior military officers need to deepen communications so as not to cause a decline in the morale of the Ukrainian military.

They also must work to address corruption, a longstanding issue in Ukraine.

The defense minister and deputy defense ministers have already been removed from their posts after irregularities were uncovered involving their alleged involvement in the procurement of food, winter clothing and other supplies for the military at far above market prices. Two high-ranking officials in charge of cyber defense were also dismissed for allegedly padding software contracts.

The systematic practice of draft dodging has also been uncovered in various parts of the country, in which bribes are given to responsible persons in the military to evade conscription.

The eradication of corruption is essential for Ukraine to retain the trust and support of the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries. This will also help strengthen the leadership of the Zelenskyy administration and promote the unity of the people. Zelenskyy’s leadership ability is now being put to the test.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 24, 2023)