By David Sole
The military situation for Ukraine’s forces continues to deteriorate. This reality is difficult for some in the West to understand because the two offensives carried out by Ukraine against Russian Federation forces in the late summer and early fall were widely exaggerated by the anti-Russian media.
In fact the Kharkiv advances by Ukraine in the northeast battlefields were met with a Russian decision to pull back their troops and equipment from forward positions that were weakly defended. On the southern front around Kherson city, the Russians had continually stopped Ukraine offensive operations, exacting a heavy toll on the Ukrainian troops. Then Russia decided to withdraw their forces to the east bank of the Dnieper River and abandon their bridgehead around the city of Kherson. In both cases the Russians preserved troop strength and regrouped in good order in more defensible positions while awaiting the arrival of the 300,000 military reservists called up to serve in Ukraine.
The Russian reinforcements have begun arriving and there are areas in the northeast that show Russians offensive operations. Most notable is the battle for the city of Bakhmut. For several months Russian troops have pushed steadily forward in heavy fighting. Western media have now been forced to admit that Ukraine is suffering massive casualties which they are unable to replace along with a severe shortage of weapons and ammunition.
Newsweek, no friend of Russia, ran a headline that “Ukrainian Forces Outnumbered and Facing Supply Issues in Battle for Bakhmut.” A Ukrainian commander told CNN that they “faced a Russian barrage from early morning until night, but the biggest problem …was that they were ‘heavily outnumbered.’ Battery commanders at the frontline told … that ammunition supplies are running low and even U.S.-supplied guns are ‘breaking’ under the constant strain.”
Western analysts are promoting the idea that Bakhmut has little strategic value. They fail to realize that major battles often take shape simply because one side and then the other keep putting troops and resources into an unfolding battle. Russia’s stated goal, at the beginning of the war on February 24, was the demilitarization of Ukraine. With many reports appearing that Ukraine is losing 5 to 10 soldiers to every Russian loss, the Bakhmut battle may be in line with Russia’s aims.
The New York Times admitted on November 26 that the war “is chewing up the modest stockpiles of artillery, ammunition and air defenses of” NATO’s supplies. “Even the mighty United States has only limited stocks of the weapons that Ukrainians want and need.” This “could prove decisive to Ukraine’s effort.”
The Ukrainians have been firing over 6,000 artillery rounds a day. The Russians pound them with over 40,000 shells a day. It is reported, for comparison, that U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before the withdrawal might fire a total of 300 rounds a day. And the U.S. can manufacture only 15,000 per month.
The U.S. and NATO are also unable to replace lost tanks and modern air defense systems to Ukraine. Artillery pieces that break down on the front lines have to be shipped well over 1,000 miles to repair facilities in Poland, and another 1,000+ miles back to the front.
Increasing production of weapons for Ukraine isn’t a solution. A severe shortage of 155-mm artillery shells “is probably the big one that has the planners most concerned…If you want to increase production capability of 155 shells…it is going to be probably four to five years before you start seeing them come out the other end.”
Another revelation from the Bakhmut battle is that an unknown number of foreign troops are fighting for Ukraine on the front lines. It has been reported that Polish and Romanian troops are fighting in Ukrainian uniforms. Also U.S. mercenaries have been seen in videos fighting on the ground, separate from U.S. troops who are supposedly in Ukraine to monitor weapons deliveries.
On December 4 five military “volunteers” from the nation of Georgia were encircled near Bakhmut and killed in the fighting. A Georgian news outlet has revealed that as many as 1,500 Georgian soldiers are currently fighting in Ukraine – making it hard to believe that they are all volunteers.
With prospects dimming for them on the battlefield, Ukraine’s political leaders and their U.S./NATO puppet masters are cranking up their political rhetoric trying to keep the public in the U.S. and Europe from turning against this proxy war.
On September 27 Ukraine’s president Zelensky called upon the United Nations to create a special tribunal to punish Russia. On November 23 the European Union passed a motion calling Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Much of the West, following the United States’ lead, have already imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia. These recent pronouncements are a reflection that the sanctions have not been effective, and in fact may end up hurting Europe more, since it has depended on Russian oil and gas for their energy supplies.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military, General Mark Milley accused Russia of committing war crimes. In particular Milley condemned the Russian missile strikes that have targeted and knocked out much of Ukraine’s electric supply. The general, speaking at a press conference, decried “their strikes on civilian infrastructure, power generation and dams.”
Anyone familiar with U.S. military policy in the many imperialist attacks against other nations over the past decades knows that it has been the policy of the Pentagon to strike electric power grids, water supplies, media centers, bridges and other infrastructure targets in the first days of any operation.
One can go back to the U.S./NATO war to destroy Yugoslavia where months of bombing infrastructure brought that country to its knees. Hitting civilian targets was made even more terrible when U.S./NATO planes would return to a target twenty minutes after the first bombs dropped to make sure to kill the medical and rescue personnel who would rush in to the scene of destruction.
The U.S./NATO goal to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2011 also used indiscriminate bombing for over 6 months. In both Iraq wars (1991 and 2003) massive bombing carpeted that country. The U.S. sanctions which spanned the decade between the two invasions particularly targeted civilians. The terrible lack of medicine caused an estimated 500,000 children to die – a fact admitted by Secretary of Defense Madeleine Albright, who added “the cost was worth it.”
So Milley’s remarks are purely for propaganda reasons, hoping that the public is not knowledgeable about the history of imperialist crimes against humanity. In fact Russia had held off targeting the electric power system of Ukraine for many, many months. Only after the massive flood of western trained troops and tens of billions of dollars of U.S./NATO heavy weapons systems into Ukraine took place that Russia has been forced to escalate.
Further escalation on the part of the United States and NATO is a possible danger. Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics “called to allow Kiev to attack targets deep in Russian territory.” Rinkevics spoke at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania on November 30. So far NATO has sought to limit the range of NATO supplied weapons. If such an escalation were permitted, Russia has indicated that it would be free to attack NATO bases outside of Ukraine in retaliation.
This rhetorical escalation against Russia is a reflection of the frustration that the war is not going well for Ukraine and its U.S./NATO masters. It remains to be seen how the West will react if and when the Ukraine forces start to crumble in the face of a long prepared broad Russian offensive.