President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Thursday that he would replace his top general, Valery Zaluzhny, with Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky.
David Silbey is an associate professor of history at Cornell University where he specializes in military history, defense policy and battlefield analysis. He says that Zaluzhny appears to be taking the fall for recent failures and circumstances outside of Zelensky’s control.
“Generals in war are like managers in baseball: often blamed for things out of their control. Zaluzhny seems to be taking the fall for the failure of Ukraine’s fall offensive and Russia’s retaking of the military initiative. But that shift had much more to do with the conditions of the war itself, looking much like the stagnant stalemate of World War I than the kind of free-flowing maneuver war the United States had trained Ukrainian forces in.
“The heavy casualties that went along with the trench war has sapped Ukraine of troops and the political infighting in the United States is threatening material support for the Ukrainian war effort. Zelensky can’t control any of that, but he can control who commands Ukraine forces, and so he fired Zaluzhny. It’s a sign of desperation more than calculation.”