Endgame for Ukraine in Bahkmut?
While Western pundits (I think shills is a more apt description) and media continue to insist that Ukraine is pounding the snot out of Russia, the facts on the ground in Soledar and Bahkmut tell a different story.
Before delving into the specifics of the Russian advance, let me highlight some buffoonery from Niall Ferguson, born in Scotland and living in the United States. Ferguson is a Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University:
US support for Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion has undoubtedly succeeded in weakening Putin’s regime. The Russian military has suffered disastrous losses of trained manpower and equipment. The Russian economy may not have contracted by as much as Washington hoped (a mere 3.4% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund), but Russian imports have crashed due to Western export controls. As Russia’s stock of imported component parts and machinery runs down, Russian industry will face deep disruptions, including in the defense and energy sectors.
Last year, Russia cut off gas exports to Europe that it cannot reroute, as there are no alternative pipelines. Putin thought the gas weapon would allow him to divide the West. So far, it has not worked. Russia also tried choking Black Sea grain exports. But that lever had little strategic value as the biggest losers of the blockade were poor African and Middle Eastern countries.
The net result of Putin’s war thus far has been to reduce Russia to something like an economic appendage of China, its biggest trading partner. And Western sanctions mean that what Russia exports to China is sold at a discount. . . .
The war therefore seems destined, like the Korean War in Cold War I, to drag on until a stalemate is reached, Putin dies and an armistice is agreed that draws a new border between Ukraine and Russia. The problem with protracted wars is that the US and European publics tend to get sick of them well before the enemy does.
Ferguson’s specious claim that Russia’s military “has suffered disastrous losses of trained manpower and equipment,” is more psychological projection. He is describing Ukraine, not Russia. Ukraine is so short of personnel that it is forcibly mobilizing 16 year old boys and 60 year old men. As I have written before, the last European leader to resort to such desperate recruitment was a guy in Berlin hiding in a bunker beneath the Reichstag while the Russian Army swarmed over Berlin.
Niall also is having a tough time grasping the fact that Russia is a modern industrial society and is producing technologically sophisticated weapons, planes, tanks and ships. Russia, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, does not depend on harvesting key rare earth minerals and metals from foreign countries. Russia has vast natural resources within its borders to meet its needs. One note of irony, the Brits tried and failed to launch a space satellite today:
Britain’s attempt to become the first European nation to launch satellites into space ended in bitter disappointment early on Tuesday when Virgin Orbit said its rocket had suffered an anomaly that prevented it from reaching orbit.
Britain does a face plant while Russia continues to provide the rockets and space craft that take U.S. astronauts (and others ) to and from the International Space Station. And Ferguson blindly insists that Russia’s economy is suffering.
After a couple of months of relentless grinding, Russia is on the brink of destroying the Ukrainian forces hanging on to Bahkmut and Soledar. CNN, in a shocker, reported on the unfolding disaster today in Soledar and Bahkmut:
A Ukrainian soldier fighting in the eastern town of Soledar told CNN that the situation is “critical” and the death toll is now so high that “no one counts the dead”.
The soldier is from the 46th air mobile brigade, which is leading Ukraine’s fight to hold onto Soledar in the face of a massive assault from Russian troops and Wagner mercenaries. . . .
He described a dynamic battlefield where buildings change hands daily and units can’t keep track of the escalating death toll. “No one will tell you how many dead and wounded there are. Because no one knows for sure. Not a single person,” he said. “Not at the headquarters. Not anywhere. Positions are being taken and re-taken constantly. What was our house today, becomes Wagner’s the next day.”. . .
The soldier said that he believed Ukraine’s military leaders would eventually abandon the fight for Soledar and questioned why they hadn’t done this yet. “Everyone understands that the city will be abandoned. Everyone understands this,” he said. “I just want to understand what the point [in fighting house to house] is. Why die, if we are going to leave it anyway today or tomorrow?”
The creator of the Russian Wagner Group reported late on Tuesday (Ukraine time) that Soledar was surrounded and Ukrainian troops have been given an ultimatum to surrender:
Units of PMC “Wagner” took control of the entire territory of Soledar. In addition, a cauldron was formed in the center of the city, in which the remains of the UAF militants are located. According to Prigozhin, the number of prisoners will be announced tomorrow.
If this is true, this will be another critical milestone in Russia’s Special Military Operation to demilitarize Ukraine.
One of the Russian weapons wreaking havoc on the Ukrainian troops is the TOS 1A with thermobaric warheads. It is a terrifying, lethal weapon. Ukrainian troops hunkered down in trenches are not immune to its devastating effect.
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