Ukraine wastes ammunition in Bakhmut, endangers future war against Russia

the army of Ukraine is firing thousands of artillery shells daily in its attempt to maintain control over the city of Bakhmutin the east of the country, at a pace that US and European officials say is unsustainable and could jeopardize their planned April campaign — which Ukrainians hope will be decisive in defeating the Russia in war.

The bombing has been so intense that the US government USA expressed concerns to Ukrainians recently about wasting ammunition after several days of continuous artillery fire. According to Pentagon sources, there is a growing contradiction between Ukraine’s decision to defend Bakhmut at any cost and its hope to retake territories from Russia by mid-year. Ukraine’s Armed Forces have even received warnings against wasting ammunition at a critical time.

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United States and United Kingdom are preparing to send thousands of artillery shells to the Ukrainians. That effort, however, must be the last of Western allies. Ukraine’s allies don’t have enough ammunition to keep up with the pace of consumption. Your inventories are critically low. Western manufacturers are ramping up production, but it will be many months before new supplies start to meet demand.

This is happening because the Americans and Europeans have not stockpiled weapons in anticipation of an artillery war like the one taking place in Ukraine. The United States expects to produce 90,000 artillery shells a month, but it should take two years to reach that rate.

A European Union is pooling resources to manufacture and purchase around 1 million shells. But that will also take time. And a British task force is leading an effort to find and buy Soviet-era munitions, which Ukraine primarily depends on, across the planet.

No bullet in the needle

That puts Kiev in an increasingly risky position: its troops are expected to have only one significant opportunity this year to go on the offensive, push Russian forces back and retake territory occupied after last year’s invasion. And they will likely have to do so while dealing with persistent ammunition shortages. Contributing to the uncertainty, Ukrainian casualties have been so severe that commanders will have to decide whether to send units to defend Bakhmut or use them in the spring offensive.

A brigade commander who has been instrumental in holding the position in Bakhmut posted on Facebook on Tuesday that there is “a catastrophic shortage of shells”. He described an incident where his unit stopped a Russian T-90 tank but was forbidden to completely destroy the tank with an artillery round because “it’s too expensive”.

The Pentagon estimates that Ukraine is firing thousands of artillery shells daily across the 1,000-kilometer front line, which includes Bakhmut, a city that is almost completely surrounded by Russian troops. Moscow forces control approximately half of the city and are crippling the supply lines the Ukrainians need to defend the rest.

Artillery became the defining weapon of warfare in Ukraine, including howitzers and mortars. Both sides have powerful anti-aircraft systems, so the ground war has been the main one. As the year-long conflict continues, a big factor in who perseveres is which side has enough ammunition and soldiers.

It is estimated that over 200,000 Russians have been wounded or killed since the start of the war. Among Ukrainians, the number exceeds 100 thousand. Russia can draw on soldiers from its population, which is about three times that of Ukraine, but both sides are living with ammunition shortages. Russian formations are firing more than Ukrainian ones.

Political and military victory

Camille Grand, an expert at the European Council on International Relations who until last fall was NATO’s undersecretary general for defense investment, said it was both politically important and militarily necessary for Ukraine to prove it would defend its territory. But, Grand said, “they need to demonstrate that the defense was worth it.”

That’s not to say there aren’t tactical reasons to continue the prolonged fighting in Bakhmut, he said. Such an effort could drain Russia’s resources and make it impossible for its troops to advance farther west, where they could win another advance to Moscow.

“That would be the rationale for wasting so much blood and ammunition on Bakhmut,” Grand said. “Otherwise, they will have become entangled in a situation that, in the long run, works in Russia’s favor and which is now difficult to extricate itself from.”

He added: “Is it correct to observe that the Ukrainians are exploiting the reserve contingents, putting them in a more difficult position to make that open artillery barrage necessary for the initiation of a fortified offensive against the Russian lines elsewhere?” .

“This is the big question mark right now.”/ TRANSLATION BY AUGUSTO CALIL