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General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons and mil.gov.ua
Commander in Chief
“Zaluzhnyi has emerged as the military mind his country needed,” -U.S. General Mark Milley.
I just found out that Ukrainian General Valerii Zaluzhnyi (Валерій Федорович Залужнийwill) will be featured on the cover of the October 16th double issue of Time magazine, so I figured now would be a great opportunity to see what they have to say about him. After all, he is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and has been so since July of 2021. Besides, our Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff has great stuff to say about him. And last May, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world; so let’s look and see what this man is all about.
🇺🇦General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on the cover of the TIME magazine. pic.twitter.com/jBotAtOPnU
I could go over his entire resume, but that isn’t necessary. Suffice it to say that the General has held just about every leadership position possible in the Ukrainian military and did so with distinction. In the summer of 2014, Zaluzhyni was assigned to eastern Ukraine, where he served as deputy commander of Sector C in Debaltseve during the War in Donbas. In time he had led almost all of the military groups in that region.
President Zelensky picked the combat veteran as Commander in Chief of his armed forces long before Putin ordered Russian troops across the border. About two weeks into the war, the President promoted then Lieutenant General Zaluzhnyi to the rank of General, the highest possible rank in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. One of his first actions as Commander in Chief was to make a statement that his priory was to abandon all Soviet standards and align more closely with NATO. He has said he wants to eliminate “Soviet thinking” once and for all.
Shortly after assuming command, he made a speech to his subordinate commanders and all of the armed forces of Ukraine; he said,
“The overall course of reforming Ukraine’s Armed Forces in line with NATO principles and standards remains irreversible. And the key here is the principles – Changes must take place primarily in the worldview and attitude towards people. I would like you to turn your face to the people, to your subordinates. My attitude towards people has not changed throughout my service.”
By all accounts, the General is a grounded, regular type of guy. Time reports that his go-to civilian “uniform” is a t-shirt and shorts when not in his military uniform. I can totally relate. They said that when he first got the news that Zelensky wanted him as the head of the armed forces, he responded by saying, “What do you mean?” and that he felt like he had just been punched in the gut. He’s relatable.
Being relatable certainly does not mean that he is not a hardened warrior; he is. Recently, he commented that his military would “destroy all those who come to Ukraine with weapons,” putting Moscow on alert that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens are ready to defend their country, their property, their family, and the future of their nation.
A Move From Soviet Doctrine
General Zaluzhnyi made a major advance for his fighting forces when he decided to toss out the old Soviet-era doctrine (still used by Russian troops) and allow junior leaders to make decisions in the field. That may be par for the course for Western military forces but not for former Soviet-bloc countries. Allowing junior leader in the field to make their own decisions enables the fighting force to react more quickly to the ever-changing dynamics of the modern battlefield. This gives the Ukrainians flexibility their enemy does not have. It also tends to keep their senior leadership alive longer to do the strategic planning they have been trained to do. As a result, scores of senior Russian military leaders have been killed on the battlefield in places they most likely did not have to be.
There are, of course, other high-ranking Ukrainian officers responsible for their recent successes in retaking Ukrainian territory sending Russians fleeing back home to their country. For example, General Oleksandr Syrskyi is the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces and played a major role in the success of the counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine. He was also crucial in defending the capital and the retreat of the Russians away from that city.
President Zelensky has become the face of the nation, but General Zaluzhnyi has increasingly become the face of the Ukrainian military.
You know you’ve hit the big time in pop culture when your face is on both the cover of Time magazine AND available on an iPhone case being sold on Amazon. And the best part…it is printed in the USA.
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