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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first characterized the Ukrainian crisis as a NATO “proxy war” against Russia in April 2022. The US and its allies vocally rejected the characterization. But a series of Pentagon leaks, combined with statements made by Ukrainian officials themselves, have served to confirm the validity of Lavrov’s assessment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s top advisor has confirmed that a “secret meeting” recently took place between Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, other Ukrainian generals, and NATO top brass on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
“There are a lot of meetings like that,” presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said in an interview with Ukrainian television on Saturday. “Actually, Zaluzhnyi actively communicates with representatives of the ministries of defense and general staffs of our partners almost every day.”
“The General Staff is constantly making adjustments, depending on what is happening on the front line,” Podolyak added. “Obviously, these adjustments are always being discussed with our partners in order to actualize the deliveries” of additional weapons, including long-range missiles, armored vehicles, and air defense systems.
The Zelensky aide also revealed that the NATO defense officials Zaluzhnyi most often communicates with are the Americans and the British, since “they know and understand better than others what is happening at the front.”
Podolyak’s remarks confirm recent reports in US and UK media that the Ukrainian top commander and other Ukrainian top brass had met with Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Christopher Cavoli, and British Chief of Defense Staff Tony Radakin to push for a change in strategy in Ukraine’s faltering counteroffensive. Zaluzhnyi was said to have verbally agreed with the “advice” of his NATO counterparts.
The Biden administration, the US’ European allies, and Western media have adamantly refused to call the Ukraine conflict a “proxy war” between NATO and Russia, claiming the West’s only role is to “support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country,” and that calling the crisis a proxy war “denies Ukraine agency.”
However, the extent of NATO support, including nearly $100 billion in military equipment, intelligence, and other aid, combined with the April 2022 US/UK move to sabotage Russian-Ukrainian peace talks, Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin’s admission that Washington’s goal in Ukraine was to “weaken” Russia, and NATO’s longstanding efforts to incorporate Kiev into the Western military bloc, suggest otherwise.
In January, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov openly admitted that by fighting Russia, Ukraine was “carrying out NATO’s mission,” which was to “eliminate” the so-called Russian “threat” to the alliance. “They aren’t shedding their blood. We’re shedding ours. That’s why they’re required to supply us with weapons,” Reznikov said at the time.
Earlier this year, a trove of secret documents on the Pentagon’s assessment of the Ukrainian crisis served to further confirm Russia’s “proxy war” characterization of events, with some NATO powers revealed to have sent dozens of special forces “boots on the ground” to the conflict zone.