After months of pouring soldiers into eastern Ukraine, Russia’s progress essentially adds up to this: three small settlements and part of the city of Bakhmut, a high-profile battlefield with limited strategic value.
Compare that with what Moscow had hoped to achieve from its winter offensive by now: to seize the entire Donbas region — which contains dozens more settlements, some of them much larger than Bakhmut. To do that, Russia would have to recreate and win battles at the scale of Bakhmut again and again.
A breakthrough for Russia appears increasingly unlikely. Regardless of the outcome in the fierce battle of Bakhmut, Moscow’s inability to gain substantial ground in the Donbas shows how little its offensive has achieved and how much its military has struggled to efficiently capture urban areas throughout the war.
After mobilizing hundreds of thousands of troops, Russia is no longer severely understaffed, as it was in the fall, when it lost large parts of the northeast in a surprise Ukrainian counteroffensive.
But even with more troops and firepower, Russia has, at best, only managed to inch forward, encountering well-prepared Ukrainian positions, protected by basements and buildings, with defensive lines heavily fortified from nearly a decade of fighting. [Continue reading…]