The Ukrainian army is still in existence over a year after the war between Russia and Ukraine. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Military Forces, has received much credit for that achievement.
He had pondered pursuing a career in comedy.
In order to prepare for the battle he had anticipated several years prior, Zaluzhnyi has spent the last few years reorganizing the Ukrainian military. In the Zhytomyr Oblast, in the settlement of Novohrad-Volynskyi, Zaluzhnyi was born in 1973. In the early stages of the war, the region was subjected to heavy Russian fire.
Zaluzhnyi thought about becoming a comedian but ultimately chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the military.
When the Soviet Union fell apart in the early 1990s, Zaluzhnyi enrolled at the Army School of the Odessa Military Academy. A few years later, he enrolled at the Kyiv Defense Academy, where he graduated in 2007 with honors.
Zaluzhnyi quickly advanced through the ranks between 2007 and 2013, holding a number of military positions, including that of commander of a motorized brigade.
He graduated from the National University Ostroh Institute with a Master’s in International Relations in 2020. He also took part in a lot of NATO training sessions outside of Ukraine.
He’s done something on the battlefield, he’s in charge of the army, he’s returning to school, he’s been promoted, and he’s doing a little bit of everything, as you can see. Research associate Marina Miron works at Kings College London’s Department of Defense Studies.
Zaluzhnyi, who oversees numerous Ukrainian military units there, considers Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 to be a turning point.
In order to shake off the outdated Soviet attitude and pave the way for fresh fighting tactics, Zaluzhnyi started implementing some tactical adjustments within the army when he was serving in Crimea.
The Donbass conflict, according to Miron, had a “major influence” on his leadership style.
Given how modern wars are fought, the Donbass conflict “formed his idea of basically developing this flexible organization within the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Miron added.
Zaluzhnyi once stated, “I read a lot of books, I received a gold medal from all the academies, I knew everything technically, but I didn’t realize what war actually means (until 2014)”.
But I, along with many like me, understand it very well in eight years of conflict, till 2022.
Zaluzhnyi never imagined he would hold such a high-level job, but in 2019, he was named commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces in the northern Chernihiv region.
Zaluzhnyi admitted to never having imagined himself as a senior commander during an interview with local media, although he had always dreamed of being a soldier.
“I received a promotion similar to a regular soldier. I was appointed, accepted the assignment, assumed my position, and was later offered and relocated “He told the press. “I never imagined that I would get to the position of general and hold such a high rank someday.”
Two years later, in July 2021, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine include the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Zaluzhnyi is in charge of the Armed Forces’ use, training, and combat readiness as commander in chief. Zaluzhnyi started working right away. He was ready to depart from Soviet military doctrine and start developing military plans resembling those of NATO or the United States.
Zaluzhnyi advocated for the Ukrainian military of the former Soviet Union to be reformed to adopt a more Western style where lower-ranking officers could take charge and invent. He rejects top-down, Soviet-style leadership in favor of small, scattered, independent entities.
Because you have to trust your commanders to make the right judgments, she continued, this “needs training, it requires trust, it requires command and leadership.” “.
Previously, Zaluzhnyi claimed that since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, he has been preparing for a war.
Zaluzhnyy stated to Ukrainian Radio Svoboda two months after receiving a promotion that he was making every effort to get the army ready for a “full-scale invasion” from Russia.
On February 24, 2022, less than a year later, Russia began a special military operation in Ukraine.
The highest ranking general in the US military, Mark Milley, told Time Magazine last year that “Zaluzhnyi has emerged as the military intellect his country needs.”
Milley continued, “His leadership allowed the Ukrainian armed forces to quickly respond to the Russians’ initiative on the battlefield.
The commander gave the Ukrainian Army $1 million in January 2023, the sum he had inherited. Zaluzhnyi received $1 million from Gregory Stepanets, a Ukrainian-American software engineer.
Admiring the opponent
Strangely, General Valery Gerasimov of the Russian Military Forces, who was fighting on the other side, was previously cited by Zaluzhnyi as one of his heroes.
“Gerasimov taught me a lot. I have read all of his writings. He was the smartest man I had ever met, and I had high expectations for him “Zaluzhnyi told journalists.
“I grew up with Soviet military philosophy, and I still believe that the science of war is totally in Russia,” he stated, noting that he maintains books compiled by Gerasimov in his office.
It’s important to note that Gerasimov, whom he admires, is currently playing a similar role on the opposite side while Zaluzhnyi is currently supporting Ukraine.
According to commanders contacted by Radio Donbass, Zaluzhnyi was a “open-minded” leader who recognized the issues facing soldiers and younger officers and was not averse to implementing significant reforms.
I believe that Zaluzhnyi is more well-liked since he exhibits a human side and doesn’t strive to assert his dominance. He must be aware of where to impose it. But he never oversteps his authority.
Zaluzhnyi gained a lot of popularity among Ukrainians thanks to his success in the country, earning him the moniker “unbreakable iron.”
According to local media, the irony of his moniker is that “his leadership style is very, very different from this iron fist.”
Zaluzhnyi tries to avoid the spotlight despite his fame. He largely ignored requests for interviews and confined his public remarks to his Facebook page.
Moreover, Zaluzhnyi has no political objectives and likes his job in the military.
“Zaluzhnyi appears a little unusual in that he isn’t seeking publicity or trying to enter politics,”
Zelenskyy will not soon choose a new military commander “because a large number of individuals support, like, and pay attention to Zaluzhnyi. Moreover, especially at this time, his replacement. This carries a significant danger.”