Ukraine and Western Masters Grapple with Battlefield Losses

Metal of Dishonor book cover
Metal of Dishonor book cover.

By David Sole

The Ukrainian government continues to throw its military forces into battle with the Russian Federation army despite the increasingly unfavorable situation. The world awaits a so-called “Spring Offensive” by Ukraine that has been much talked about to see if it can turn the tide in this bitter conflict.

The losses of Ukrainian troops in the past year of war are staggering. Pro-Ukrainian western media give the figures at well over 100,000 killed or wounded. Russian losses are usually exaggerated greatly, sometimes given as up to 200,000 casualties. However, more objective reporting has given the Russian losses at 16,000.

Recent reports reveal that Ukraine is sending in poorly trained raw recruits to shore up its frontlines. National Public Radio broadcast interviews on March 28 with Ukrainian soldiers who were being given only days of basic instruction compared to normal combat preparation of up to 2 months.

Ukraine has lost its most experienced and trained fighters who were trained by the U.S. and NATO from the 2014 right-wing coup until the 2022 Special Military Operation by the Russian Federation. Most of the heavy equipment built up by Ukraine in those years has also been destroyed in heavy fighting.

Undertrained personnel cannot be expected to operate even the limited amount of sophisticated military hardware being rushed in to shore up Ukraine’s capabilities. And coordinating troops and armor on the battlefield in combined arms fighting tactics inevitably will suffer in any new offensive.

Intense fighting continues around two cities, Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Both have been controlled and heavily fortified by the Ukrainian military in its standoff with the ethnic Russian population which established the Donetsk People’s Republic in opposition to the coup. Both cities are now almost totally surrounded by Russian forces.

The pro-Ukrainian, Washington D.C. based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War estimated as of March 29 that Bakhmut is now 65% controlled by the Russian Federation.

CNN reported on March 26 that Russian forces have gained control of the huge AZOM metallurgical plant in the north side of Bakhmut while also pushing forward in the south and west of the city.

Fifty-six miles south of Bakhmut, Avdiivka sits just north of the provincial capital of Donetsk City. It had been used for years to shell the People’s Republic, often killing many civilians.  Newsweek admitted on March 20 that Russian forces, including units from the Donetsk People’s Republic, have been making gains in that city.

As Ukraine faces the danger of having tens of thousands of its troops surrounded and cut off from resupply in Bakhmut and Avdiivka, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted that he “fears Ukrainians will lose the will to fight and push him to negotiate with Moscow if Bakhmut falls.” According to the Associated Press Zelensky said “Our society will push me to have to compromise with [the Russsians].”  This is quite an admission that the Ukrainian people are becoming aware  that they are being forced to fight Russia as proxies for the U.S. and NATO imperialist powers. Zelensky has loudly proclaimed that Ukraine is about to drive back Russian forces facing them in the south and east.

The U.S. ruling class meanwhile is struggling to cope with the growing awareness of their losing strategy in Ukraine. Asia Times reported on March 20 about a “private gathering of former top U.S. soldiers, intelligence officials and scholars with resumes reaching from the Reagan to the Trump administrations.”

The article admitted that “a gloomy assessment of Ukraine’s prospects for victory against Russia emerged” partly because Ukraine was “short of trained personnel and ammunition…” But locked into their current thinking the “experts” could not suggest any road to peace. “Overwhelmingly, the sentiment of participants leaned towards escalation” the Asia Times reported.

One dangerous escalation was the United Kingdom’s announcement it intends to send depleted uranium (DU) ammunition to Ukraine. The UK Ministry of Defense confirmed it would be shipping Ukraine the DU armor piercing shells and ammunition.

Uranium has two common isotopes (same element but different number of neutrons), U-238 and U-235. Only about 0.72% of mined uranium is U-235 but that is carefully removed from the major U-238 component for use in nuclear fission weapons or nuclear power plants. The leftover U-238 portion now has only around 0.3% U-235 and is known as DU. Due to its high density (about 1.7 times the density of lead) this depleted uranium is used in the coating of bullets and tank shells. It allows the ammunition to easily penetrate through heavy armor. Upon impact the DU vaporizes and spreads throughout the environment.

DU was used by the U.S. and NATO in their war against Yugoslavia in the 1990s and extensively in the Iraq wars.

Years after the first Iraq War that country reported the appearance of a large number of rare cancers appearing in the south of the country where DU was largely used. In addition to the radioactive dangers from its use, DU dust also contaminates soil and poses a danger as a “heavy metal.” Of course the U.S. and NATO have always claimed DU is harmless, much as they denied for decades the deleterious effects of the use of Agent Orange” throughout the Vietnam War.

The 1997 book “Metal of Dishonor” published by the International Action Center documents the dangers posed by depleted uranium contradicting the claims of the imperialists.

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