State of the Union: Has Zelensky lost control of his country to his intelligence community?
Over the weekend, the Russians declared they’d taken the city of Bakhmut. For the last nine months, Bakhmut has seen some of the war’s most brutal fighting, including heavy artillery bombardments, trench warfare, and human wave attacks. Though the city has little strategic value—even less so now due to its destruction—the battle of Bakhmut has come to represent the respective sides’ tolerance for pain and their commitment to the objective.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zenelsky attended the G-7 summit in Japan. His address to the G-7 countries, delivered less than twenty-four hours after Russia’s announcement, likened the destruction in Bakhmut to the destruction caused by the atom bomb in Hiroshima at the end of World War II. "You have to understand that there is nothing, they destroyed everything," the Ukrainian president stated. "For today Bakhmut is only in our hearts."
Zelensky pulled the summit's heartstrings. The United States pulled out its wallet. President Joe Biden announced that America, which has directed about $100 billion to supporting Ukraine (though not all has been dispensed yet), would be sending an additional $375 million in weapons and military supplies, including armored vehicles. Even more consequential was Biden’s open embrace of F-16 jet transfer programs from other nations in the region to Ukraine, under the condition that Ukraine would not use the American-made planes to strike targets within Russia’s territory.
But there’s no guarantee Ukraine will live up to their end of the bargain. On Monday, Russia claimed that Ukrainian units and Ukrainian-associated fighters had crossed into the Belgorod region to the north and northeast of Kharkiv. The Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense claimed the troops forcing their way into Russia are composed of volunteer Russian citizens who work with the agency.
The extent of their foray into Russian territory remains unknown. Videos posted to social media supposedly from the Belgorod invasion depict troops moving with armored vehicles, which some social media users claim are American International MaxxPro armored vehicles and humvees. In one video, a soldier says, “Russia will soon be free.”
“We expect that such actions will become more frequent,” as the war continues, HUR spokesman Andriy Chernyak claimed. While the HUR has identified the Ukrainian-affiliate primarily responsible for the incursion into Russian territory, and that the purpose of the operation was to create a buffer-zone around Ukraine’s borders, Zelensky adviser Mykhailo Podolya denied Ukraine’s involvement in the effort.
Get weekly emails in your inbox
Which is it? That Ukraine's HUR directed these soldiers in this operation, or that Kiev had nothing to do with it? And if Kiev had nothing to do with it, how did these soldiers apparently come into possession of American-made equipment?
Furthermore, the recent Discord Leaks revealed that the United States has had to convince the HUR not to strike targets deep within Russia, including Moscow, on multiple occasions. The leaked U.S. intelligence documents also claimed that the HUR planned to strike the Wagner group in Mali. Zelenksy also claimed ignorance to some of these plans. Has Zelensky lost control of his country to his intelligence community? Has he been reduced to fundraiser-in-chief?
The U.S. justified giving weapons to Ukraine because they were winning. Now, we’re giving them weapons because they are losing (though no one dares to admit that). The more likely reality, however, is that there is no rationale for our continued support for Ukraine. As one civilian analyst who works with the Pentagon told Harper's, quoting military and intelligence officers he worked with: “‘Damn, I never thought out what we’re doing to Russia.’”