Why the Battle of Bakhmut became of strategic importance

So today there are two opposing views of Bakhmut’s defense. The head of the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, put it this way (and was supported by all of NATO’s leading military): “I think its importance is more symbolic than strategic and operational.” The position of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was consolidated with great effort by the decision of the political leadership. Now the commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, expressed it: “The defensive operation in Bakhmut is of great strategic importance for deterring the enemy. This is the key to the stability of the defense of the entire front line.”

two items

It must be said that not a single commentator in the West (not to mention Russia) dared to call the importance of this city strategic. General Załużny was forced to say these words by the political pressure of the presidential team, the traces of which are generously scattered in quotes from the all-Ukrainian discussion of the last two months. The military-political leadership of Ukraine and the United States, its most powerful ally, are guided by divergent considerations of their own domestic policies.

For Zelensky’s team, even an organized retreat from the city, which is defended by many thousands of human lives and a breakthrough in material resources, will call into question the main idea that permeates the public mood after military propaganda: Ukraine’s victory is inevitable under any circumstances! It can not be otherwise. Pragmatic Yankees see Bakhmut as a city beyond which stretches the Slavic Kramator urban agglomeration – an incomparably more powerful fortified area standing on a hill. Both financial assistance and further efforts to arm the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be reduced rather than increased in the case of NATO countries that withdraw to more favorable positions.

A withdrawal from Bakhmut would undoubtedly save Ukraine a huge number of personnel, it would make it possible to level the front line and start defending under better conditions. This is exactly what the command of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation did when a group of battle-hardened units was withdrawn without losses along the pontoons and the remains of the Andreyevsky bridge to the left bank of the Dnieper from the Kherson bridgehead in the region. But before that, General Sergei Surovikin received permission to retire from Vladimir Putin himself, who later awarded him the Order of St. George III degree.

It turns out that under the influence of political reasons, Zelensky will not dare to act through Putin. This is understandable: for him, as a politician, the stakes are much greater than for the enemy. But there is also foreign policy – you have to demonstrate success in front of allies, creditors and the entire baptized world. What is happening around Bakhmut not from a political but from a purely military point of view?

Unparalleled possibilities

Vladimir Vysotsky described the essence of what is happening in 1972 in the song “The Honor of the Chess Crown”: do not go into hand-to-hand combat, work on your body and remember that your crown is straight. Near Bakhmut, the situation was exactly the opposite. Opponents cannot afford to act from a distance.

Any attempt to strike from the depth of the defenses around – in sticky field, on bare roads, in sight of artillery reconnaissance – will easily end in inadequate losses in equipment and personnel. It is impossible to break away from the zone where the enemy cannot use long-range firearms, precision weapons and aircraft – this is how combat formations mix. It’s a real boxing clinch.

The Ukrainian press writes about the rains in Bakhmut, which do not allow the launch of a counter-offensive: all fields have turned into impassable swamps. But that’s only part of the picture. Both general staffs are preparing active operations for the summer and are considering thwarting similar enemy plans. The command of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation decided to use the political “duty” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (in preference – the inability of the first player in turn to reject a move when the rest do not want to play V. Sz.) and began to slowly crush the Ukrainian units in battles where their superiority in intelligence, communications and battlefield vision did not help in any way.

Of course, the Wagner formation and the Russian paratroopers standing on the flanks suffer comparable losses in these fights. But this is the long-term advantage of Putin’s team – the mobilization abilities of Russia and Ukraine are incomparable. With such “close combat”, the fighters of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be the first to flee.

Under these conditions, the Ukrainian command began to withdraw from other areas and transfer reserves to Bakhmut, which would be very useful for a decisive offensive (against all rules, the world press is convinced that it will be a campaign for the liberation of Crimea). Today, both sides fear the first move: putting the reserves at risk of annihilation and leaving them naked before the enemy’s retaliatory counter-offensive is a real scenario. The death test of General Rustam Muradov, who in an unprepared attack on Ugledar gave the combat impulse of the entire brigade from scratch, is a terrible lesson for everyone.

A double-edged situation

Attempts by the parties to seize numbers in hand-to-hand combat in Bakhmut’s urban development led to them gradually massing 40-60 thousand men in this small area with adequate equipment according to the state. There was some balance, among military commentators there was talk of unlocking Bakhmut.

The attack of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the flanks of the Russian grouping may not only unblock the grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the city.

Such a strike could end with the encirclement of Wagner’s units and create the risk of a deep breakthrough of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the east. Of course, at the same time there is a risk of circling Bakhmut by 30-40 thousand. Ukrainian fighters if such a scenario fails.

Thus, General Załużny’s words take on a new meaning: as a result of a trivial accumulation of forces, both sides have concentrated such groups, the defeat of which will entail strategic consequences.

Slush hampers a potential maneuver for both sides – transporting ammunition and removing wounded is extremely complicated. Even a successful local strike cannot yet be rapidly developed and transformed into a classic frontal breakthrough. The withdrawal of the Ukrainian troops from the Bakhmut region to the armed lines near Kramatorsk will mean that Zelensky’s team has still not dared to risk the fate of the entire campaign: in the event of a hypothetical defeat, the troops around Donetsk (Marinka and Avdiivka) will find themselves in a difficult situation.


Add a Comment