Ukraine is on the verge of losing Bakhmut
Western sources are now advising Kyiv to strategically withdraw
The battle for Bakhmut has been long and arduous, with both sides suffering a heavy human toll. Throughout this period Russian forces, spearheaded by the Wagner organisation, have made incremental gains, but since the fall of Soledar they have been moving much faster. Now Ukraine’s position in and around the city is rapidly deteriorating, as Russia seeks to encircle the strategically important town. The Americans are now believed to be advising Kyiv to withdraw from the city to preserve soldiers and equipment.
These recommendations are based on a stream of bleak reports coming out of the city: for instance, last week Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) told Der Spiegel that Ukraine is losing hundreds of soldiers per day.
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Given that thousands of fighters are being trained in Europe, the rationale is for Kyiv to protect what’s left of its forces in Ukraine at a safe distance from Russian positions. In turn, they can develop an armoured core and prepare for an offensive to try and punch through Russian defences, as they’ve done previously in Kharkiv.
Reuters describes how one official said the “belief in Washington is that Ukraine has spent considerable resources defending the city of Bakhmut but that there is a high possibility that the Russians will eventually push the Ukrainians out of that town.” Moreover, a senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration claimed Kyiv’s disproportionate focus on the city is hindering its efforts elsewhere.
The Institute for the Study of War provided an alternate perspective, describing Kyiv’s Bakhmut approach as “a strategically sound effort despite its costs” since Ukraine would pay “a significant price for giving it up”. The next day, the ISW asserted that the high casualty rate associated with defending the city comes with “opportunity costs related to potential Ukrainian counter-offensive operations elsewhere”. Similarly, the Washington Post recently argued that “Kyiv must balance its defence of the city, weighted with symbolism, with preparations for a counteroffensive”.
To improve Ukraine’s prospects, the West is sending enormous amounts of weapons, armour and tanks to Ukraine. This is in part spurred by the war’s shift back in Russia’s favour, which has stabilised its lines, hardened its defences by building massive trench/barrier networks, and regained forward momentum in several areas along the frontline.
To give some examples, Russia has recently initiated offensive efforts in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, moved on to Vuhledar, partially surrounded Avdiivka, taken Klishchiivka, captured a number of towns around Bakhmut, and looks to take Siversk further north. Yet Ukraine has reportedly also been pressing forth in some spots such as the Kreminna area, where its military has been active for weeks and Russia has launched new counter-attacks.
After scoring notable victories in Kharkiv and Kherson, Ukraine is once again on the back foot, and it is widely anticipated — though not certain — that Russia will conduct sizeable offensives in the coming weeks and months. To prevent the encirclement of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, to better defend against the developing onslaught and try and improve its ability to launch its own meaningful forward action to take back territory, Kyiv may have to finally cut the cord on Bakhmut.
Mr Webber makes the same conceptual error as many Western military commentators – military success is not measured in real estate, but in military effectiveness. Ukraine has been wasting men and resources in defending Bakhmut while all Russia had to do was lob shells into Bakhmut.
German “Durchhaltebefehle” fatally weakened the Wehrmacht. They’re doing the same for the Ukrainian army. Even if Ukraine gives up on Bakhmut now, the damage is done, and a handful of tanks sometime in the future won’t fix it.
I think you make a good point. It’s under appreciated that casualty ratios can go against the defender if the fire superiority of the attacker is high enough, and it’s 5-10 to 1 in Russia favour, from the estimates I’ve seen.
However, since Russia’s war aim now is to capture all the major settlements of the Donbas, every city which falls is one which Ukraine will have to take back at potential great cost, if they can at all, it makes sense to fight for these positions.
I have seen other claims from the Russian side that the casualty ratio is 1 to 1, its close to impossible to know the real numbers
Also it may be that the Russian artillery advantage has dropped back, but on the other hand their new (Penicillin) counter-artillery system might be making a big difference
The rate of Russian fire is about a third of what it was in the Sieverodonetsk battles.
“Taking back” is exactly the point – what with? The Ukrainians have burnt through two armies, now they’re asking for a third one.
Russia withdrew from Kharkov and Kherson to preserve its troops, and they may be the ones taking those back from a Ukraine that is out of soldiers, out of kit, and out of ammunition, because it was all smashed in Bakhmut.
I have no idea what “two armies” you are referring to.
The only army that we know of that was destroyed was trying to take Kyiv.
Google Big Serge Substack, you won’t agree with Big Serge, but he might be right IMO
= Russian deza.
Girkin is the only truthful commentator posting inside Russia:
He’s a lunatic Russian patriot, but actually knows more about this war than any other Russian.
Use Google translate and learn something.
I agree with you re Kherson. The Russian’s retreated in good order and appear to have inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers. However, these units were far from destroyed and appear to be refitting at present. As for Bakhmut, I think you over estimate the scale of the battle. Ukraine has close to a million men mobilised. They can afford the attrition. I don’t think it’s possible to tell at this point which way the conflict will go. The battles of Spring/Summer 23 will give us a clearer picture.
Sorry, you’re falling for the same logic as Falkenhayn at Verdun.
Attacking an enemy to bleed them dry didn’t go very well did it? Unless Russia has an army nobody has ever heard of on its eastern front, Russia will eventually suffer the same fate as the Kaiser’s western army in 1918.
The Russians have to launch ground assaults to draw Ukrainian fire. Most don’t make it back when they do. Destroying one’s own army to draw the enemy’s fire is rather dumb, to say the least. Not good for morale, if you plan to attack later.
And a million-man army that still hasn’t drawn on all its manpower is far from “bled dry.”
But pinning down an army so that it is not available for defending elsewhere worked in Kherson….
Except that Russia does not have another army that can attack elsewhere. It still needs to train up 150,000 clueless “mobiks.”
And giving them T-62s is going to be a problem.
It was in 1940 that Germany proved itself the victor of the battle of Verdun.
Indeed, but waiting 24 years to take Bakhmut may be difficult even for a dictatorship like Putin’s
And according to your twisted logic, in 1945 again the loser.
I truly hope that someone starts investigations into why we are involved in this fiasco. They have been lying about the narrative and state of things from the getgo. It’s the afghan papers all over again, and no one ever pays a price for their lies.
Pls simply state the “true” narrative then, and where you are getting it from.
Russia is the main threat to the west-Russia is incompetent and uses old equipment. Ukraine is a thriving democracy and will beat Russia back. Douglas MacGregor, John Mearsheimer, Condoleezza Rice, Robert Gates. But even without them; when MSM is in lockstep, your bull schidt ometer should start going off. Are you saying that we won in Afghanistan?
I’m saying that I’m not seeing any terrorist attacks from Afghanistan. That was actually the purpose of the war.
Nor do I see Russia winning any more territory in Donbas this century.
Sad, isn’t it?
‘hundreds of soldiers per day’
I suppose the question is: Then what? What will Ukraine do or advocate for when their military is reduced to near nothing?
They’ll advocate for more money. What else?
Like we did in WW2 from the USA when we were fighting a genocidal megalomaniac with almost no resources?
Or do you think we should have rolled over for Hitler too?
Then it’s Poland and the Baltic statelets turn, then we’ll see what NATOs made of.Or what we’ve been wasting billions on for decade after decade.
Imaginary digital Russian victories…
Perhaps you are not aware that about a million soldiers are in the Ukrainian army. The Russian is about half again as much.
Since the latter hasn’t taken more than a few square miles of territory in 6 months, we see pretty clearly which side is winning.
And if taking Soledar is “winning,” pls tell me what losing is.
More of the same low-resolution analysis and prognostication Mr Logan. Pan out a bit more: from trying to prevent Ukraine from joining (the great, trustworthy and peace-loving) NATO, and to stop the shelling of “its own” citizens in Donbass (don’t take my word: pls refer public OSCE reports, especially for the weeks leading up to the SMO) this has now escalated into a multi-plane hybrid conflict which is existential for Russia, but not for NATO.
Too many commenters here remain trapped in the belief that “war” is what the US/EU and NATO executed/perpetrated (showcased?) against small, defenseless nations. Rather, go see what von Clausewitz prescribes for executing proper strategic war (spoiler: “degrade the enemy until it has lost all means and will to fight again”). Sadly, the strategic reality is that the longer it takes more Ukrainians will die, but the weaker and more divided the aggressor nations behind Ukraine will become – economically, socially and politically. And the weaker the global USD-based system. And the stronger and more entwined the BRICS(+2)/EAEU/SCO cooperative axis. Reframed: the faster the shift towards true global multi-polarity. Which is not good for the West and its self-serving hegemonic approach. And, it can be argued, is going to lead to more instability and war. Which is not good for anyone.
Whatever the case, this now as irreversible as it has become necessary. Historians…should any survive…will write of how the “moral West”, led by an unhinged, ahistorical US Neocon cabal – and here I paraphrase legendary Israeli diplomat Ebba Eban (speaking about Yassir Arafat) – “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Sit back and watch. And (try) to read more.
Thanks for avoiding the main point about Ukraine’s million-man army, its new tanks, and the likely introduction of F-16s.
But true, Modi will soon be sending a division to Donbas. South Africa at least a corps.
The MSM are silent about it, so it must be true!
But sadly, a South Africa and Brazil in political chaos, an India plagued by poverty and overpopulation, a China dealing with the twin evils of covid and a precipitously declining population actually ARE the very best partners for a Russia that can’t even take Bakhmut.
It must be horrible to realize there won’t be a unified Russian state in a few years.
And that the US and Europe will dominate for the rest of this century.
Is that you, Cookie ?
That’s what Americans isolationists said about the U.K. in WW2. Why help Britain when they were clearly a beaten force? Good job they did, eh?
Most sources I’ve read constantly referred to Bakhmut as strategically irrelevant, but with symbolic value for Russia to get a victory.
Why the sudden change to strategically important? Because it has roads that lead elsewhere?
I think it was always strategically relevant. They say Bakhmut is on high ground, so artillery placed there can fire down on the surroundings. Looking at a map, it seems to be the last big town on the road to Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, the taking of which have been key objectives of the Russians since early on in the invasion.
I think the importance of Bakhmut has been talked-down by pro-Western journalists for a long time now. The intentions have been noble, just as the cause of Ukraine is noble. But it’s not really journalism to do this. It’s activism.
I agree with your larger point (about Bakhmuts relevance and the media downplaying it), but lying/propagandizing is not noble, it’s just brainwashing.
What I find particularly distasteful is that when the media are against a war they cite their unswerving dedication to the truth as justification to report a warts and all depiction of it. Think Vietnam or the second Iraq war. But when they support a war, what is essentially propaganda, is justified as a noble lie for the greater good.
There will be no interviews with terrified young boys hunkered down in foxholes waiting to be ordered to charge to their deaths. That much reality might weaken our resolve. Besides, those boys are someone else’s kids, not ours. Their lives mean nothing more to us than the pawns on the chess board.
Pls tell me of a war where it was any different.
The Caucasus perhaps, or Georgia?
All is saved, Mr Zelinsky is now demanding fighter jets and long range missiles. One of his guys even demands submarines, Slavi Ukrainia!
The damage possible from the air is no small thing. But Ukraine lacks that air capability.
A few fast frigates with ASW capabilities would quickly deter Russian subs from sitting there lobbing missiles at civilians.
The Russians’ retreats from Kharkhiv and Kherson are part of how/why they’ve been able to stabilize things; their lines are much shorter now.
I foresee a good chance of a grinding stalemate.
Interesting article on how academics who constantly berate the west for its imperialism and colonialism (some of whom also weirdly blame the west on this forum for the Ukraine war) have failed to recognise Russia as an imperial project for the last hundred years:
And then an interesting analysis by Andrew Neil explaining how the balance of power in Europe is shifting eastwards, to our advantage:
The article simply ignores the main factor:
Bakhmut has well-built defences. If the Ukrainians leave, they will just lose more troops fighting in less well-entrenched positions.
Bakhmut is part of the defensive line constructed since 2014, and which has held mostly until now.
Second guessing an army that has so far performed brilliantly since 24 Feb is probably a fools’ errand.
And most Ukrainian grunts still want to kill Orks. If you wonder why, just look at Putin’s attempts today to freeze their people back home.
Spot on. I’ve far more faith in the strategists actually fighting this war than in those ‘western sources’ cosily pronouncing from their armchairs.
I think no one realizes the significance of the Abrams and Leopards.
When used in mass, and accompanied by infantry in armored vehicles like Bradleys, there is little any Russian force could do to slow them down. A large-scale armour attack demoralizes any enemy, and it can’t be defeated by a few drones or anti-tank weapons (the Russians have nothing like the Lancet, for example). The Russian air force has been notable by its absence.
BTW, Russia doesn’t have the T-90 in large scale production, only three have been seen so far in the war–a curious omission when Russia has been steadily driven back for five months. IOW, all they have now are inadequate Cold War machines.
Unless Russia can mount an offensive before March (the muddy season halts all movement March-April) they have already lost the initiative.
Hi again. If those tanks could break the lines that easily I doubt this would be happening:
They need to pound the rear echelons so when Ukraine penetrates the Russian defences there is no organised resistance.
Classic ‘all arms warfare’ the only worry is air superiority, which Russia could provide if it looks they might be going to be pushed back.
Ukraine is probably getting extra aircraft by look of it.
And it will force Russia to become even more of a war economy.
The main result of the war will be the de-industrialization and impoverishment of Russia.
Putin is already using convicts in his tank factories because of the labour shortage. There are shortages of skilled workers everywhere.
And once Russia switches to a full war economy, the rest of its economy will wither and then collapse.
Amazing how a result that no one dreamed of in 2022 will determine Russia’s fate for the rest of the century.
I see. Interesting to know. What’s the North West Korea part mean?
So you think this a forgone thing, ukraine will drive russia out?
How long do you think it is likely to go on for then, and will nato get involved soon do you think?
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