It’s been a few months since December 2022, when Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris held the Ukrainian flag, which bore the signatures of Bakhmut’s supporters, during Zelensky’s speech on Capitol Hill. Now Bahamut has fallen into the hands of the Russians, and the symbols have been overtaken by events that are not good for kyiv at all.
Famed University of Chicago professor John Mersheimer speaking on the stage at the Committee for the Republic (Committee for the Republic) laid out the hard facts about the turn the war in Ukraine has taken, especially after the fall of Bakhmut.
“If you look at the battlefield and the military balance between the two sides, I think the Russians are in better shape than the Ukrainians,” Mearsheimer said, pointing to the deployment of 300,000 Russian troops and the broader streamlining of the army by Moscow. “give him the upper hand.”
Analyzing the – gloomy for Ukraine – state of the battlefield, the American academic is convinced that Ukraine cannot win this war because it is engaged in a battle of attrition, reminiscent of the static First World War .
“It’s a war like the First World War, in the battles of the Somme and Verdun, it’s a classic war of attrition,” says Merheimer, adding that “Who wins in a war of attrition depends on the size of population and artillery.
Population: 5 Russians for 1 Ukrainian
Before the war, the population ratio of Russian Ukrainians was 3.5 to 1, while today, according to the professor’s estimates, it is 5 Russians for every Ukrainian.
“We all understand that 8 million Ukrainians left the country, three million went to Russia, and the 3.5 to 1 that I gave you is based on the assumption that Russian-speaking Ukrainians who are in Donbass were included in the Ukrainian population, but now count as part of the Russian population”.
For Mersheimer, “it’s a good analogy to explain where we are today. This is bad news for Ukrainians.”
Artillery: frightening difference
Since Mearsheimer described the Russian-Ukrainian war as a war of attrition, artillery is the primary weapon.
“All the artillery records say 5 to 1 or 7 to 1 and maybe 10 to 1 in favor of the Russians. That has huge implications. It’s really scary.”
Mearsheimer estimates that two Ukrainians die for one Russian soldier, but says many of his friends think the ratio is closer to 3:1 or 4:1 in favor of the Russians. The reason for this is static warfare, just like World War I in which artillery was the deadliest weapon.
Russia has a huge artillery advantage. During an attack, the attacker will often suffer more casualties than the defender. But in this war “the Ukrainian side was (counter)attacked most of the time while the Russians were defending”, which made the Ukrainians bleed a lot.
“The Ukrainians say that 8 Russians die for one Ukrainian. It’s ridiculous, given the imbalance of artillery,” said the academic.
“I think for every Ukrainian, a Russian dies,” Mersheimer believes, and therefore “Ukrainians lose a lot more than Russians.”
Bahamut can paralyze the Ukrainian army
For former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA official George Beebe, the question is whether Ukraine’s decision to shed so much blood in defense of Bakhmut, despite what he said to be of little strategic importance, will lead to paralysis of the ability to carry a new counterattack that he had been planning for a long time.
“I think many Western military experts, including Pentagon officials, have long urged the Ukrainians to simply begin an orderly retreat from Bakhmut to reserve men and ammunition for larger battles in the future.”
Unfortunately for Ukraine, however, Zelensky, alias Beebe, rejected this advice and decided to spend more elite troops in order to hold Bakhmut.
In fact, as Beebe adds, the Ukrainian president “made quite a theatrical display of it. You remember when he came to Washington last December, he came carrying a Bakhmut flag that he had taken from the defenders, which he presented to the US Congress as a symbol of Ukraine’s determination to hold the town and push back the Russian forces.”
“Well, it all failed. Now it’s clear that everything they did to defend him was lost and I guess there are a lot of heads shaking (in Ukraine). Washington is now wondering what Zelensky was thinking.”
There’s no room for compromise
Mearsheimer expects Russia, which has already annexed four Ukrainian regions plus Crimea, to take another four regions from Ukraine.
He also maintains that there will be no peace agreement in Ukraine because the war is seen by both sides as existential. Ukraine insists on recovering the territories it considers part of the country and demands security guarantees from the “West”.
The problem of ultra-nationalism on the Ukrainian side also makes peace impossible. Then there is the problem that Russia, which was lied to about the Minsk agreements, has no faith in the West.
“I think at this point the sides are too far apart. And neither Ukraine nor Russia are inclined to compromise. And the G7 statement and Washington’s decision to supply the F-16s does not encourage me to believe that the United States is about to try to find a compromise solution to this, ”explains Beebe.