Deciphering Ukraine’s Destabilising “Deep State” Dynamics

Deciphering Ukraine’s Destabilising “Deep State” Dynamics

By Andrew Korybko

The Ukrainian regime’s stability is being tested like never before because its “deep state” dynamics haven’t ever been this dangerous nor destabilizing. Anti-Zelensky elements are arguably colluding with one of the US’ “deep state” factions (though it presently remains unclear which one), his secret police are split into at least two fiercely competing factions, and his military intelligence is now emerging as a separate pole of power amidst all of this.


Decisively Shifting The “Official Narrative”

Dramatic events over the past week leave no doubt that Zelensky’s former advisor Alexei Arestovich was telling the truth when he warned a few days back that serious infighting is afflicting his country’s leadership. American and Polish officials joined forces to decisively shift the “official narrative” about the conflict from one of Kiev’s “inevitable victory” to warning about its likely loss. CNN then jumped on the bandwagon, after which the Daily Mail, the “Kyiv Independent”, and state-run US media did too.

Poland Sets Narrative Events Into Motion

In the order that everything rapidly unfolded, Arestovich revealed earlier this month that the Dnipropetrovsk/Dnipro tragedy was caused by Kiev shooting down a Russian missile that then crashed into an apartment, after which he was forced to resign. The day before he left, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned while on a trip in Berlin last Monday that Kiev might lose its conflict against Russia. Two days later, Polish President Andrzej Duda told Davos that Ukraine might not survive.

That exact same day, CNN published a piece that built upon those top Polish officials’ new narrative about the Ukrainian Conflict to claim that it’s now at a “tipping point” whereby Kiev will either continue having a chance at victory or likely be defeated depending on what soon happens. The same day as CNN’s article, Chief of Staff of the Polish Armed Forces Rajmund Andrzejczak told publicly financed media in his country that the Russian military still remains very formidable.

The US & Ukrainian Factions Follow Up

Duda, CNN, and Andrzejczak thus dealt a heavy blow to the “official narrative” on the exact same day, which was followed by another triple blow on Friday. An unnamed US official told the media that Kiev should reconsider the wisdom of wasting so many resources on Artyomovsk/”Bakhmut”, an unnamed German official said that Kiev is losing a “triple-digit number of soldiers” a day in that battle, and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said that Kiev can’t beat Russia till 2024 at the earliest.

As it turned out, that was also the same day that Arestovich told an interviewer that Kiev is unlikely to win, Duda’s warning about Ukraine’s survival being at stake should be taken very seriously, and that these two scenarios are partially due to the serious infighting afflicting his regime. Two days later on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the “Kyiv Independent”, and US state-run “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty” (RFERL) all contributed to this newfound narrative about the Ukrainian Conflict.

The Immediate Run-Up To Zelensky’s Purge

The first revealed that the “Foreign Legion’s” spokeswoman is blackmailing top military brass (with it being implied that she’s thus far been protected by some forces within the security services while others in the SBU are reportedly also investigating her for being a “Russian agent”), the second shattered taboos in the way that it attacked Zelensky’s team as well as the military’s command and control around Artyomovsk, and the third was literally unprecedented in the manner that will now be explained.

State-run RFERL platformed Kiev’s incumbent military intelligence chief who accused the SBU of assassinating a Ukrainian “hero” last March and implied that this was carried out by Russian agents within its ranks who he confirmed are still employed by the secret police. Two days later on Tuesday, so a full eight days since Morawiecki began the trend of decisively shifting the “official narrative” about this proxy war, Zelensky declared a far-reaching reshuffling that de facto amounts to a purge.

Newfound Friction Between Zelensky & The West

At this point on 24 January and in light of the dramatic developments over the past week, some insight can be discerned about the destabilizing dynamics within Ukraine’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”). First, there’s no doubt that American and Polish officials agreed to decisively shift the “official narrative” about this proxy war despite Zelensky’s desire to continue clinging to his claims up until now that Kiev’s victory is supposedly “inevitable”.

This suggests that there’s some serious friction between them and him with respect to his patrons wanting to recalibrate the narrative closer to reality in the face of prior claims being indisputably discredited by objective facts while their proxy stubbornly insists on keeping up the charade. It seems as though they felt uncomfortable with Zelensky’s ridiculous rhetoric and increasingly aggressive public demands to do more for his side since they make the US-led West’s Golden Billion look very bad.

Reasons To Recalibrate The “Official Narrative”

To explain, average folks across that de facto New Cold War bloc began realizing that there’s a clear disconnect between what they’re being told by their officials and what’s really happening, especially after top Ukrainian and former US officials like Minister of Defence Alexei Reznikov and former Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned that the $100 billion that Kiev’s been given thus far isn’t anywhere near enough for it to defeat Russia on the battlefield.

With Republicans taking control of the House last November and rumours swirling that they might impose limits to the amount of American military aid given to Ukraine in the coming future instead of giving it the blank check that the previously Democrat-run House did, it therefore makes sense that elements within the US’ own “deep state” decided to shift the “official narrative”. Some want to fearmonger so as to force the Republicans to reconsider while others want a “face-saving” exit strategy.

The US’ Two Relevant “Deep State” Factions

Regarding the first, those are the typical warmongers who want the Ukrainian Conflict to turn into another so-called “forever war” from which they’ll profit through their investments in the military-industrial complex (MIC), while the latter are cognizant of the MIC’s serious limitations and realize that indefinitely perpetuating this proxy war increases the chances that their side might ultimately lose. The common ground between these factions is their opposition to Zelensky clinging to the prior narrative.

Each has their own reasons for pressuring him to recalibrate it closer to reality, but therein lies the second dynamic to be discussed in the present piece with respect to why he’s so fiercely resisted doing so and thus caught himself in a trap of his own making. Zelensky’s domestic legitimacy is predicated upon tangibly fulfilling his promise to restore Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders, yet even Milley himself publicly admitted that this is impossible until at least next year at the earliest, if at all.

Zelensky’s Narrative-Political Trap Of His Own Making

If the Ukrainian leader walks back his maximalist stance towards resolving the conflict by signalling that this almost certainly won’t ever happen, then he risks the public souring on him and thus facilitating a power grab by some of his rivals in the Ukrainian “deep state”. About them, this regime has always been divided since the US-backed coup in 2014 that installed them in power following the spree of urban terrorism popularly known as “EuroMaidan”.

Backstabbing, connivances, and other myriad forms of intrigue have characterized Ukraine’s “deep state” dynamics since then but were publicly smoothed over somewhat following the start of Russia’s special operation 11 months ago. They were never truly resolved though and actually continued worsening behind the scenes as proven by the incumbent military intelligence chief telling US state-run media that the SBU assassinated one of his top men just days into the conflict’s latest phase.

Collusion Between The Western & Ukrainian “Deep State” Factions

It was within this larger context and the more recent one of Zelensky’s foreign patrons getting angry at his stubborn refusal to recalibrate the “official narrative” upon which his domestic legitimacy depends that these two forces – Western officials and Zelensky’s “deep state” rivals – started colluding. This directly resulted in the third dynamic of the past week whereby some of his rivals started increasingly confirming the existence of serious infighting within their regime.

The first to do so was Arestovich, following which a faction that’s presumably linked to the SBU shared secret recordings of the “Foreign Legion’s” spokeswoman with the Daily Mail after she bragged about blackmailing the military’s top brass. The latter perfectly coincided with the “Kyiv Independent” shattering taboos in the way that it attacked Zelensky’s team as well as the military’s command and control, which also occurred on the exact same day as the military intel chief’s interview with RFERL.

Arestovich’s & Ponomarenko’s Curious Cases

Arestovich hasn’t been killed for what he did, at least not yet, which is surprising since the SBU is known to eliminate all dissidents within their crumbling former Soviet Republic. This observation in turn strongly suggests that at least a faction within their ranks is protecting him, with it remaining unclear whether they and/or he are/is coordinating his activities with either or both of the US’ two factions that have recently ramped up the pressure on Zelensky.

The lead set by Arestovich was shortly thereafter followed by the “Kyiv Independent’s” shattering of existing taboos connected to the extent to which Ukrainian outlets are allowed to attack Zelensky, his team, and the military’s command and control. Just like with him, neither their writer Ilya Ponomarenko nor that outlet as a whole were harassed or worse by the SBU, at least not yet, thus leading observers to suspect that at least one of that secret police’s factions supports their attacks against those three.

SBU Factional Divisions Over The “Foreign Legion”

Whether the same faction or another one, there’s little doubt that some SBU faction was the one that passed along those secret recordings of the “Foreign Legion’s” spokeswoman where she bragged about blackmailing top military brass. Her curious case, and the fact that she’s still alive, suggests that she – just like Arestovich and Ponomarenko – also enjoys the patronage of an SBU faction. Thus far, it should be clear that there are at least two or more SBU factions that are fiercely competing against each other.

Then came the military intel chief’s public accusation that the SBU killed one of his top men, a so-called “hero” of Ukraine, last March. Importantly, this scandalous claim was platformed by the US’ state-run RFERL, thereby suggesting a connection between one of the two previously discussed American “deep state” factions and a separate Ukrainian “deep state” one represented by military intelligence. He himself obviously has a bone to pick with an unclear SBU faction, thus further complicating dynamics.

The Interior Minister’s Suspicious Helicopter Death

On the topic of “deep state” assassinations, observers shouldn’t forget the suspicious death of Interior Minister Denis Monastrysky last Wednesday, which was coincidentally the same day as Duda told Davos that Ukraine might not survive (and likely completely independent of that event). He and his team were killed after their helicopter crashed right outside Kiev in what many speculate wasn’t a mechanical-technical accident but a successful assassination by a “deep state” faction that shot them down.

Zelensky seems to have been close to Monastrysky after showing what seemed to a lot of observers to appear to be sincere sadness at his passing when he and his wife paid their respects during that official’s funeral over the weekend. With one senior official likely killed as a result of these increasingly dangerous “deep state” dynamics and the military intel chief now publicly accusing the secret police (or at least a faction therein) of killing one a Ukrainian “hero” last year, everything is clearly heating up.

Zelensky’s Purge & What Might Come Next

It’s against this backdrop that the fourth “deep state” dynamic just started after Zelensky began a de facto far-reaching purge of ministry, regional, and security officials on Tuesday less than a week since Monastrysky’s helicopter crash and just eight days after Morawiecki initiated the sequence of events that went against the Ukrainian leader’s political interests. The fifth dynamic will thus likely be that he either consolidates power to continue the conflict, or fails, is deposed, and peace talks might resume, which depends on if the pragmatic US “deep state” faction wins out over the warmongering one.

In any case, the Ukrainian regime’s stability is being tested like never before because its “deep state” dynamics haven’t ever been this dangerous nor destabilizing. Anti-Zelensky elements are arguably colluding with one of the US’ “deep state” factions (though it presently remains unclear which one), his secret police are split into at least two fiercely competing factions, and his military intelligence is now emerging as a separate pole of power as all of this is happening.

Analytical Disclaimer For Overimaginative Readers

Amidst this drama, it’s also impossible to know which Ukrainian factions might also be colluding with British, Polish, and/or Russian intelligence, the scenario of which can’t be discounted since it should be taken for granted that those foreign spy agencies are also seeking to exploit these dynamics. What all of this goes to show is that there’s a major “deep state” war taking place in Kiev right now that’s involving its host’s various factions as well as those of the top foreign stakeholders in this proxy war.

So as not to have any of the insight shared in this analysis misunderstood by overimaginative readers, everything might ultimately calm down and no further infighting might break out in the public if Zelensky consolidates his power in the near future with the support of the US’ “deep state” warmongering faction. That hasn’t yet happened and this week will prove pivotal for his future, hence why he just ordered his de facto far-reaching purge, so it’s not possible to make any further predictions.

Concluding Thoughts

Nevertheless, the purpose of this piece was to decipher Ukraine’s “deep state” dynamics, not forecast the way(s) in which they’ll unfold. That goal has arguably been accomplished since no objective observer can now deny the existence of infighting within the regime after all that’s been proven to have transpired from the past week. Hopefully the paradigm of analysis introduced in this piece will be built upon by others to produce accurate follow-ups to the power struggle that’s now actively unfolding.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.


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Categories: Analysis, Geopolitics, International Affairs

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