A favorite past time of arm chair generals is to look to history to find an explanation that puts a current battle into context. That is being done with the battle underway in Bakhmut. My belief is simple — history is irrelevant to what is going on in Bakhmut. The battle in Bakhmut will be decided by the country that has the best logistics, the most troops, the most fire power and the best leaders.
The Battle of Stalingrad is cited by retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis in his article, 1943 Stalingrad vs. 2023 Bakhmut: A Decisive Battle That Decides the Ukraine War? Here are the salient points from Col. Davis’ piece:
Like the city of Stalingrad during World War II, the town of Bakhmut is of moderate tactical significance, as it commands a number of important road junctions in the Donbas and its capture would put other Ukrainian positions at greater risk. Also like Stalingrad, the two sides have placed a great deal of emotional importance to holding or taking the city. The side that emerges from this fight victorious may well also set the stage for winning the war. . . .
Not to be deterred, in early February Prigozhin oddly challenged Zelensky to an aerial duel to settle matters. Meanwhile, on the battlefield both Zelensky’s troops and Prigozhin’s forces continued to pour in massive amounts of troops and reinforcements, each reportedly suffering egregious numbers of casualties. After appearing to be considering withdrawing from Bakhmut on March 3, Prigozhin that same day made a video publicly calling for Zelensky to withdraw. On Monday, Zelensky made his reply, saying he and his senior generals vowed “not to retreat” and in fact to further reinforce his defenders. . . .
It could be that like Germany in October 1942 came tantalizingly close to achieving their tactical objectives of reaching the Volga River – but failed – the months’ long Russian attack that has Prigozhin’s men literally a few kilometers from completing the ring surrounding Bakhmut (and sealing the fate of the 10,000 Ukrainian defenders), could likewise fail. If that happens, if Ukraine hangs on to the city, they could win a major tactical and psychological victory.
Not intending any disrespect to Col. Davis, but this is nonsense. For starters, the military units fighting under the command of the Russian General Staff are engaged along a 1000 mile front. The Russians are not just fighting in Bakhmut. It is Ukraine and the West that are touting Bakhmut as the decisive battle. But here is the reality — it is the Wagner Group that is carrying the weight of the battle in Bakhmut while Russia has at least 600,000 troops that it has not yet committed to the various fights along that 1000 mile front. Part of the reason that the West is fixated on Bakhmut is because the Wagner Group’s founder, Evgeny Prigozhin, is one hell of a troll. He is a one man information operation and has proven to be a savvy manipulator of the media.
The situation on the ground is pretty straightforward. The Wagner Group is advancing on all fronts around Bakhmut and has fire control of key roads the Ukrainians need for resupply. Warming temperatures are turning the fields to the west of Bakhmut into mud, making vehicle access or egress very difficult for Ukrainian forces. The Wagner Group, with massive support from the Russian Army’s logistics command, has a decided advantage in artillery, shells, rockets, Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, medical support, food, electronic warfare and man power.
Colonel Davis also is wrong about the level of casualties Ukraine is inflicting on the Russians. It is a simple math problem — Russia is firing at least 5 times the volume of artillery than Ukraine and Ukrainian forces hunkered down in Bakhmut. We do not live in a magic world where all shells fired by Ukraine cause casualties while Russian shells are ineffective. At a minimum, Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut are suffering at least five times the casualties relative to those of the Wagner Group. And yes, the fighters of the Wagner Group are being killed and wounded.
Here is a detailed summary of events in Bakhmut in the last 24 hours:
#Bakhmut Sector Northwest:
Wagner PMC assault squads broke through (https://t.me/milchronicles/1655) Ukrainian defences across fields south of Orekhovo-Vasilyevka after their first unsuccessful attempt to attack AFU positions near the village.
As Military Chronicles sources @milchronicles suggest, the settlement itself consists of four well-fortified strongholds. At the moment, a confident control over two has been established, the cleanup is underway on the third and fourth. Near the village cemetery, 30 people from the 30th Mechanized Brigade and 116th Territorial Defence Brigade of the AFU Have been killed.
The AFU is trying unsuccessfully to retake the lost territories. Ukrainian formations are suffering losses due to difficulties in evacuating the wounded, a lack of reconnaissance and logistics support and insufficient fire support. Mortar and artillery crews have been restricted in their consumption of ammunition.
Meanwhile, several attacks have already been carried out by the 1st Special Forces unit of the 71st Jager Brigade, supported by a tank platoon of the AFU’s 4th Tank Brigade. As a result of the battles, the Wagnerians destroyed two tanks, and the 71st Jager Brigade alone lost about 120 men killed and wounded in two days.
The Ukrainian formations have now retreated to the #Golubovka area, with the seriously wounded being transferred to #Slavyansk and #Liman. From #Minkovka, #Golubovka and #Privolye, the AFU are shelling the Wagnerian offensive areas with artillery and mortars.
Russian units have advanced slightly in the Budenov district south of #Bakhmut centre, improving their tactical position and levelling the front line.
#Bakhmut Sector Southwest:
Wagner PMC assault squads have approached close to the highway to #Konstantinovka. The attack on the AFU positions is taking place on the #Konstantinovka- #Krasnoye and #Krasnoye – #Bakhmut sections of the road. A mortar battery has been moved from #Slavyansk to #Konstantinovka to support the AFU.
Advancement in the northwest along the #Slavyansk route allows the buffer zone near #Bakhmut to expand and secure the flanks against counterstrikes by the AFU. In the #Slavyansk – #Kramatorsk agglomeration are are large reserves accumulated, which under certain circumstances can be thrown into battle (https://t.me/sitreports/5519) to restrain Russian fighters.
In addition, movement in this direction creates the prospect of a further offensive in two directions. To encircle the #Seversk agglomeration, which, together with the activation (https://t.me/sitreports/5684) of the 144th Motorized Rifle Division in the #Serebryanskoye forestry area, is very logical, as well as to bypass the large fortified area in Chasov Yar.
The town is situated on the dominant heights relative to the areas from which the Wagnerians are now advancing. A frontal attack is extremely dangerous because of the terrain, and an assault on Chasov Yar would be like an assault on #Ugledar from the lowlands.
The simultaneous advance to the north with successes in the south of #Bakhmut and southwest of the city pins the AFU formations in one area, which in the face of a shortage of ammunition for Ukrainian artillerymen allows us to develop success.
Bakhmut may be a charnel house, but it is small potatoes compared to the horrific losses that were inflicted on the military forces in Stalingrad and Verdun. Frankly, I think it is intellectual laziness to compare those titanic battles to the fighting underway in Bakhmut. The United States and Europe, along with Ukraine, remain fixated on relentlessly pushing propaganda that portrays the Russian military as incompetent and ineffective.
But Russia is not preoccupied with Bakhmut. Bakhmut is just one component of a broader military strategy and plan. Russia’s defense industry is running full tilt and is producing the artillery shells, tanks, missiles and planes that Russia requires to destroy the Ukrainian military. Ukraine, even with Western support, has no answer for this.