The Ukraine War’s ‘Cronkite Moment’

If you haven’t read it yet, this week’s TIME magazine cover story on Zelensky is extraordinary. It confirms almost everything that critics of the war have been saying, starting with the fact that it is unwinnable for Ukraine.

Moreover, it goes further in describing Zelensky as “delusional” for his failure to recognize battlefield realities and his unwillingness to consider peace negotiations with Russia.

Most remarkably, the sources for the article are Zelensky’s own aides and advisers. In other words, the “Putin talking points” are coming from inside the house.

The author Simon Shuster (@shustry) previously wrote the article naming Zelensky TIME’s “Person of the Year” for 2022, so it cannot be said that he has not portrayed Zelensky favorably in the past. Presumably this is why he was granted such privileged access to Zelensky’s inner circle.

Ostensibly the article portrays Zelensky as a heroic figure forced to go it alone as times get tough and Western allies start to “abandon” him. But the truth leaks out as Zelensky’s aides pour forth a torrent of complaints and inconvenient truths. These include:

1) Ukraine’s war aims are unrealistic. Kyiv has long maintained that its definition of victory, namely the retaking of all Ukrainian territory including Crimea, is achievable with Western arms and money. After a disastrous summer counteroffensive, Zelensky’s advisers have reconsidered. Yet Zelensky’s belief in ultimate victory over Russia has only “hardened into a form that worries some of his advisors.” Shuster describes Zelensky’s faith as “immovable, verging on the messianic.” One of Zelensky’s closest aides tells Shuster that, “He is delusional. We’re out of options. We’re not winning. But try telling him that.”

2) Staggering casualties have decimated the Ukrainian army. Ukraine has refused to disclose casualty counts throughout the war, dismissing as Russian propaganda the increasingly-credible reports of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian casualties. But another close aide to Zelensky tells Shuster that casualties are so horrific that “even if the U.S. and its allies come through with all the weapons they have pledged, ‘we don’t have the men to use them.’” Shuster reports that “In some branches of the military, the shortage of personnel has become even more dire than the deficit in arms and ammunition.” According to the article, the average age of a currently-serving Ukrainian soldier is 43 and getting older all the time. The youth have already been sacrificed.

3) Morale is collapsing. Within the officer ranks, there is growing dissension bordering on mutiny. One close Zelensky aide complained to Shuster that some front-line commanders have begun refusing orders to advance even when they come directly from the office of the President. In many cases, orders are refused because they are deemed impossible.

4) Corruption is uncontrollable. It has long been taboo in Western media to suggest that Ukraine’s government is shot through with corruption. Yet a top presidential advisor admitted as much to Shuster once his audio recorder had been shut off: “People are stealing like there is no tomorrow.”

After Walter Cronkite returned from his fact-finding mission to Vietnam in 1968, he concluded that the war was unwinnable. He ended his famous broadcast to the American people with this exhortation:

“it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”

Now that the truth is clear and undeniable, will we take Cronkite’s advice with regard to this war? Will we seek to negotiate an honorable peace and save the Ukrainian people from further needless slaughter? Or will we remain trapped in Zelensky’s bunker of “delusion” — psychologically if not physically — waiting for the inevitable end?

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About David Sacks

David Sacks is an entrepreneur in San Francisco and writes at sacks.substack.com. The article first appeared on X and is republished with his permission.

Photo: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky gestures as he gives a press conference with Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (not pictured) in Brussels on October 11, 2023. President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukraine's allies to step up weapons supplies to help his country survive through the winter, on his first visit to the NATO military alliance's headquarters during his visit to Belgium. (Photo by YVES HERMAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by YVES HERMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)