The World Today for May 10, 2023


A Pyrrhic Victory


Ukrainian commanders have been establishing protected supply lines and funneling soldiers and weapons to Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that could become a fulcrum for the long-awaited spring offense against Russian-controlled lines, wrote US News and World Report. Russian forces, meanwhile, are fortifying the Crimean Peninsula, highlighting Russian fears that the Ukrainians might strike behind their lines.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, who leads the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary force that has been fighting alongside Russian soldiers in Ukraine, recently told Reuters that the Ukrainian offensive had technically already started. He was worried because his fighters around Bakhmut needed more shells. “The [Russian] Ministry of Defense has not provided us with artillery ammunition and we only have resources for a few days,” said Prigozhin. “They ignore all requests from Wagner.”

Wagner got what it wanted after it threatened to pull out, the Moscow Times reported this week.

Regardless, the “grueling cat and mouse fight” along the Dnipro River that separates the two sides is now heating up, wrote the Guardian.

Many expect the Russians to eventually take the city – they have been trying for the past year at the cost of thousands of soldiers, even if they have little to show for it other than forcing the Ukrainians back, inch by inch. Meanwhile, there is little to win here: The city with a pre-war population of 70,000 is decimated. It has limited strategic significance. What it does have is symbolic weight: A Russian victory could be a prize to hand the Russian leadership and a morale boost – ditto for the Ukrainians, who want to deny the Russians this tarnished prize, the Economist noted.

And so the battle for Bakhmut goes on, a near stalemate for the moment, looking ahead to a “Pyrrhic victory.”

A CNN analysis found that Ukrainians were blowing up fuel dumps and other Russian infrastructure necessary to fight. The Russians, meanwhile, were flying drones and lobbing artillery fire into population centers with the goal of traumatizing the residents and breaking the Ukrainian people’s will to fight. The Ukrainians have shown little signs of wavering, however, according to US Army Gen. Mark Milley who delivered a speech last month on the issue at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Ukrainian boosters shouldn’t necessarily think the momentum is on their side, however. As leaked Pentagon documents illustrated, explained the Daily Mail, Russia has not lost as many forces as many in the West believe. Ukraine, meanwhile, while losing around half the number of troops as Russia, has suffered numerous injuries that are undermining its punching power. Ukraine is also in desperate need of equipment and ordnance, too.

That’s likely why the US is sending Ukraine another $300 million worth of artillery and mortar rounds, the Hill reported. American taxpayers have sent a total of $36 billion in military aid to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February last year. European nations have also given aid to the country, including German-made Leopard tanks that will prove crucial in the coming confrontation with Russia, as might the long-range missiles the British are considering sending.

Still, the US and its European partners in NATO haven’t given Ukraine their most advanced weapons, argued Foreign Policy. Russia, meanwhile, is firing at Ukraine from ships as far away as the Caspian Sea and from jets flying in Russian airspace.

Expect the climactic encounter to kick off any day now.

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