by Austin Bay
July 21, 2022
The Ukrainian army's battlefield courage, backed by the Ukrainian people's determination to resist Russia's invasion, is without doubt the most significant global strategic surprise since 9/11's terror attacks.
As the war enters its sixth month, Ukraine continues to demonstrate a small nation with military aptitude, economic vigor and moral strength can thwart a 21st century great power. Read "moral" as meaning will, determination, morale and political commitment.
The planet's most surprised individual must be Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. In late February, Putin believed his "special operation" combining commandos and heavy armored forces would quickly shatter the Ukrainian people's will to resist. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would flee or be assassinated. Russia would annex Ukraine.
Vlad's dream became a Russian nightmare with a body count. Ukraine resisted the February blitz. Russian commandos died, its tank columns stalled then burned.
Zelenskyy emerged as an inspiring leader and his country remains a fiercely united nation.
He intends to keep Ukraine united.
Today Russia and Ukraine fight a brutal war of attrition, with the military, economic and moral-political dimensions all critical.
On July 17 Zelenskyy attacked on a moral-political front. During a televised address, Zelenskyy fired two of his chief security advisers, prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova and domestic security chief Ivan Bakanov.
According to an AFP report, Zelenskyy informed the Ukrainian people that "650 cases of suspected treason and aiding and abetting Russia" are under investigation. Some 60 cases involve Ukrainian officials who remain in Russian occupied territory and are "working against our state... Such a great number of crimes against the foundations of national security, and the connections established between Ukrainian law enforcement officials and Russian special services, pose very serious questions to the relevant leaders (of agencies)," Zelenskyy said.
I read "connections" as referring to the fact many older individuals in Ukraine's security services attended Soviet-era KGB intelligence schools. They have Russian friends.
Why fire Venediktova and Bakanov? Zelenskyy didn't accuse them of treason, however he indicated they haven't aggressively pursued traitors in sensitive security positions. "Actions and any inaction of each official in the security sector and in law enforcement agencies will be evaluated," Zelenskyy said.
The New York Times later reported a Zelenskyy adviser said Venediktova and Bakanov had failed to remove "collaborators" from their agencies. Another official indicated Zelenskyy was particularly concerned with infiltration in Bakanov's domestic security agency, the SBU.
I'll wager there are Russians in sensitive Kremlin positions who oppose Putin's war and have provided their Ukrainian friends with useful intelligence. Those tips may have helped Ukraine prepare for the Russian commando and airborne strikes in the war's early hours. That's a guess.
The U.S. and other free nations are finally providing Ukraine with the ammunition, missile and artillery systems to counter Russia's strategy of artillery obliteration.
But Ukraine still has the weaker hand. Zelenskyy has evidence Russian agents and Ukrainian traitors are undermining Ukraine's military effectiveness and sapping its will the resist. He's chosen to go outside of the security services and appeal to the Ukrainian people for support -- asking for their trust, moral and political support.
He's warning that where Russian tanks failed, internal subversion could succeed.