Many western military analysts are saying that the costs associated with the six months of brutal, attrition-based combat to capture Bakhmut far outweigh any operational advantage Russia can obtain from taking it.
All the while, they do not reverse the equation and assert that the costs associated with holding the city far outweigh any operational advantage Ukraine can obtain from keeping it.
Furthermore, these same western analysts fail to mention that by taking Bakhmut Russia would cause great devastation to Ukraine’s supply lines and open a route for their forces to advance toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, strategically placed cities in Donetsk.
Referring to a map of Ukraine and studying Ukrainian troop movements, current and prior, Bakhmut’s strategic importance can clearly be seen. Even with ninety percent of its population displaced, the city’s strategic importance remains.
On my November 13th blog I stated that the Russian Kherson withdrawal was a strategic one. This has proven accurate as they have repurposed the forces that were defending the city and applied them in many critical areas, including Bakhmut.
It appears that Bakhmut will fall. The only question is when.
On my previous blog, I predicted that the main thrust of Russia’s impending major offensive would push toward a return to Kharkov. Their significant gains towards Lyman seem to support this idea. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the advances are to acquire more advantageous positions for further advancement.
The Russian Military’s use of Bakhmut to create a spin wheel maneuver to the north is a standard field operation to acquire or build momentum, and to destabilize an enemy’s line and flank.
God of War
For hundreds of years, including World War I and II, Russia has referred to artillery as The God of War. From the Katyusha Rocket Launcher System and the 305 mm howitzer M1939 (Br-18) of the 1940s, to the modern Koalitisiya-SV Howitzer and massive BM-30 Smerch of today, Russia relies heavily on artillery to destroy enemy forces.
The equilibrium of the war was slightly amended by the HIMARS, but since there were only sixteen of the launch systems sent to Ukraine, they are far outweighed by the voluminous artillery systems employed by Russia.
While NATO relies on more precise, thus more expensive, artillery systems, Russia is okay in using older guns and “dumb” artillery shells to accomplish their objective of absolutely obliterating whatever stands in front of their military forces. As for range, it’s possible that NATOs guns outrange Russian guns, however, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Russia is renowned in hiding their development process of weapons and munitions.
As of recent reports, HIMARS has not made a significant difference in the war, and its performance has been far lower than Ukraine had hoped for. As for Russian artillery performance, according to Ukrainian military sources, in Bakhmut Russia outguns Ukraine in artillery 10 to 1.
Side by side comparison shows that Russia outguns the US in artillery systems, and they’re ranked no. 1 in the world in this area.
SELF PROPELLED ARTILLERY: Russia=6574, US=1498
TOWED ARTILLERY: Russia=7571, US=1339
MOBILE ROCKET LAUNCHERS: Russia=3391, US=1366
I will continue to declare, without compunction, that the military equation in Ukraine is an unwinnable calculation for the western forces.
NATO and the US cannot win this war.
Photos: Jeff Kingma, Nico Smit