“Where are the experts from those months?” I ask myself, observing the latest reports from Ukraine.
Let me remind you – without naming names, as I already have enough enemies – about the propaganda that prevailed in Poland and which was ubiquitous in our media after February 2022.
First of all, we were led to believe that Ukraine would crush a powerless and stupidly managed Russia at any moment. The Russians did not know how to fight, widespread desertion was rampant in their ranks, their rockets would not work, their tanks were falling apart, and their best weapons were made out of converted refrigerators or lawnmowers. Demoralization was rampant in the army, and Putin was in a state of chronic mortal illness, dying again and again. In addition, the fear of a military coup being prepared behind his back was constantly haunting him.
American and British generals, from whom the Polish experts took most of their wisdom like parrots, predicted the imminent capture of Crimea, the total encirclement of the Russian troops, and a great victory.
They offered Poland the status of a great power and the position of a major player in the East. We were to be a hub for America, a key partner, its most important ally that was going to replace Germany in this role in the blink of an eye.
The analysts’ visions did not end there. The boldest talked about an emerging great Polish-Ukrainian alliance. Some even hinted at a new form of joint statehood, a confederation of both nations, which would reverse the historical curse of the 18th century and make Poland a world power.
Ukraine did not need to be held accountable for the Volhynian genocide, because it had already spilled enough blood in defending us from the eastern hordes. On the contrary, Kyiv appeared as a defender of the West, as well as a democratic state, and its leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, was received like a guru, a sage, a hero beyond reproach by Polish leaders, with President Andrzej Duda at the forefront. There was no end to the hugs, praise, and smiles.
This was how things went until a few months ago.
In the meantime, it turned out that all these stories were worth nothing. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars and euros and huge military assistance from the NATO countries, the Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valery Zaluzhny, acknowledged this recently. In The Economist, General Zaluzhny stated that “we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate.” It would take a massive technological leap to break this deadlock, he also said according to The Economist, but “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough.” Zaluzhny also admitted that the speculation that was rampant before Ukraine’s counteroffensive about the possibility of taking back Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, was mistaken.
These sober remarks drew the ire of President Zelensky, who responded that “if there is no victory, there will be no country.” Zelensky’s entourage has claimed that Zaluzhny’s statements serve Russia’s interests. The general’s personal aide then died under rather mysterious circumstances a few days later. Shortly thereafter, President Zelensky dismissed another general, Viktor Khorenko, from his post as commander of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces.
All this taken together indicates that there is a growing internal conflict.
We can add to this the words of Zelensky’s former advisor, Oleksii Arestovych, who now refers to the current president as a dictator and criticizes further military action. In fact, President Zelensky announced that due to the war with Russia, the 2024 presidential elections in Ukraine will not be held. He has also been doing things that it is hard not to consider as violations of basic rights and freedoms, such as the harassment and now the banning of the Church that recognizes Moscow’s canonical sovereignty.
What is happening is exactly what could have been assumed, if only one had kept all of his or her senses and had not succumbed to the propaganda pipe dreams readily served up by Western lobbyists.
The outbreak of conflict in the Middle East has caused US attention to turn toward that region. It is also clear that the Americans themselves are tired of supporting Kyiv, as is evidenced by the rise in support for Donald Trump, the main opponent of Joe Biden’s Ukraine policy. The Americans have grown bored with Ukraine. The costs of aiding Ukraine have risen, and the announced collapse of Russia has failed to materialize. If there is a coup somewhere, it will be in Kyiv rather than Moscow. Worse still, after an initial period of weakness and chaos, Russia has regained the initiative and is now more dangerous than at the beginning of the conflict.
In March and April of 2022, a truce favorable to Ukraine could still have been concluded. Only then, according to former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, were the talks broken off by the West. The Americans and the British urged Ukraine to continue the war, promising that they would crush Russia. As was to be expected, the Polish experts echoed them.
Today, we can see how big a mistake that was. The enormous human cost born by Ukraine may never bring the desired outcomes. Ukraine might not only lose some territory, but could also plunge into chaos.
This article was first published in Polish as the editor-in-chief’s column in the Do Rzeczy weekly.