HomeNewsAgainst All Odds: Ukraine’s Novice Army Chief Braces for Stalwart Showdown with Russia

Against All Odds: Ukraine’s Novice Army Chief Braces for Stalwart Showdown with Russia

Being appointed the chief of any country’s defense force is no small task. The situation becomes even more challenging when that country is locked in conflict with one of the world’s most powerful militaries — Russia. On January 28, 2021, Lt. Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi took on one of the most daunting roles in the world as he was officiated as the new chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He inherits a military that, despite a significant overhaul in the years since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, remains outmanned and outgunned by its expansive eastern neighbour.

The Ukrainian army has shown resiliency and determination since Russia first intervened. Still, Zaluzhnyi is faced with a unique set of challenges to bring the fight to Russia effectively.

Firstly, he has a daunting challenge of maintaining the morale of the troops, who have been engaged in the eastern region’s protracted battles. The troops constantly see their comrades fall, and that can reduce the overall morale and willingness to fight. Zaluzhnyi has to ensure that the soldiers’ mental well-being is in check and that they are always ready to confront the enemy. Moreover, he must foster a sense of unity and continue to evoke a sense of national pride and feeling of duty towards the motherland in the soldiers.

Secondly, Lt. Gen. Zaluzhnyi faces the uphill task of modernizing the Ukrainian military. Over the years, lack of investment and corruption scandals have severely impacted the armed forces’ capabilities. The Ukrainian army is currently operating with Cold War-era weapons, which are no match for Russia’s modern equipment. Consequently, Zaluzhnyi has to ensure adequate equipment for the troops, facilitate the procurement of modern weapons, and push for adopting advanced military technologies.

Training is another area where the new army chief will need to focus. The Ukrainian army has been forced to adapt to fighting a hybrid war that involves standard military tactics, guerrilla warfare, and cyber warfare. Zaluzhnyi, therefore, needs to ensure that the soldiers have received comprehensive training covering all aspects of modern warfare to be ready for any situation.

Navigating international politics and winning external support will be another crucial task for Zaluzhnyi. Ukraine is heavily reliant on backing from Western countries like the United States and the members of the European Union. Zaluzhnyi must, therefore, continue to drum up international support to ensure that Ukraine continues to receive military and financial aid to strengthen its defense capabilities.

Finally, the fight isn’t restricted to the battlefield. Russia continues to wage a psychological war, causing the Ukrainians to live in perennial anxiety and fear. The disinformation campaigns run by Russia have polarized Ukrainian society, and addressing this will be on Lt. Gen. Zaluzhnyi’s task list.

In the face of such extraordinary challenges, Lt. Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi does not have the luxury of a slow start. He needs to hit the ground running. The challenges are many, but never before in its independent history has Ukraine’s military had such a battle-tested, hardened force. It’s now on their new leader to mold these fighters into an army that can take on one of the world’s most potent militaries. Despite being outmanned and outgunned, the Ukrainian spirit remains unbroken, and under Zaluzhnyi, it just might find its way to even the odds.

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