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WP reveals ups and downs in relations between top US and Ukrainian generals

Sunday, 8 October 2023, 10:55
WP reveals ups and downs in relations between top US and Ukrainian generals

The media has described relations between Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and US General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which has developed into a friendly one during their work together.

Source: Washington Post

Details: Shortly after the start of Russia’s invasion, Zaluzhnyi discussed his country's struggle for survival with Milley. And, as Zaluzhnyi said, Ukraine had only a few operational aircraft and urgently needed help from the West.


At the end of the conversation, Zaluzhnyi said that he "felt like I was talking to myself". He completely stopped communicating with Milley for a week.

Quote from Zaluzhnyi: "Frankly speaking, due to my youth and stupidity, I admit that it was my mistake. It was actually a disaster."

More details: The Washington Post notes that this began a "crucial and complicated relationship" between the two military commanders, who eventually became personally close.

Zaluzhnyi, who had been in Ukraine's top position for less than a year at the time of Russia’s full-scale invasion, said he came to rely on Milley for strategy and to get the weapons he believed Ukrainian troops needed.

Quote from the Washington Post: "But the relationship, like the larger wartime ties between Washington and Kyiv, remained charged. 

While US officials vowed to continue supplying arms and intelligence to keep Russia at bay, they sometimes chafed at Ukraine’s demands for more, and faster, deliveries. And while the Ukrainians were grateful for US aid, they bristled at requests that they limit strikes on Russian territory."

More details: The Washington Post says that for 19 months, Zaluzhnyi and Milley spent hours discussing developments on the battlefield in regular phone calls.

Milley's resignation on 30 September marked the end of working relations that Zaluzhnyi called "critical to Ukraine's battlefield successes".

It is also noted that Milley's regular jabs at Zaluzhnyi's age became an inside joke, a sign of the comfort the Ukrainian general began to feel around Milley.

Milley brushed off the differences in their views, as the journalists say. "He is a human being," he recollected in a recent interview with The Post. "His country has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of Russian troops. … His back is up against the wall. The level of pressure is intense. The fact that somebody gets a little angry and mad, absolutely normal. And I understood that. I’m 5,000 miles away."

Quote from the Washington Post: "The generals, of course, have an interest in masking disagreements between them, or their governments. 

Still, the dealings between Milley and Zaluzhnyi echoed the sometimes chummy and sometimes strained ties between top military officials at consequential moments.

They would speak through an interpreter on a secure line, generally with each call structured in the same way. 

Zaluzhnyi gave Milley his assessment of what was happening on the battlefield. Milley answered with U.S. intelligence on the same. Then, they would shift to resources: What did Ukraine need for the next 30, 60, or 90 days? How could Washington help?

There were still disputes. ‘I always argue with him,’ Zaluzhny said — but those disagreements were buffered by mutual respect.

In one conversation shortly before Putin’s invasion, Milley deviated from the professional to the personal. He asked Zaluzhnyi where his family would be while Zaluzhnyi commanded Ukraine’s forces against what officials feared would be a massive attack?

Zaluzhnyi replied that his wife, Olena, and children would remain in Kyiv. One of his two daughters, trained in medicine, would be treating the wounded; the other would be serving in the military. ‘We will fight and die in Kyiv, if necessary,’ Zaluzhnyi told him.

‘That's when I said, ‘Wow,’’ Milley said. ‘These guys are serious guys. And he's just representative of the Ukrainian people in my mind. And he's totally committed to defending his country.’"

More details: The journalists also recollected the first personal meeting between Zaluzhnyi and Milley on the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier this year.

They spent several hours studying maps depicting the battlefield and discussing Zaluzhnyi's counteroffensive plans.

The meeting was professional and productive, but a few months later Zaluzhnyi regretted that it was so formal.

Quote from Zaluzhnyi: "I realize now that he’s not going to be here anytime soon. That man deserved that I should have done something differently. 

We could have met as good friends. After the official part, we could have just had a normal conversation."

More details: Zaluzhnyi said he hoped for a more informal meeting later.

He said that Milley had invited him to visit him after the war and offered to help the Ukrainian general get an honorary degree from the US Military Academy.

Zaluzhnyi promised Milley that the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine would install a bust of him on its territory as a token of gratitude.

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