This industrial city has become the epicenter of the raging war in eastern Ukraine, with massive artillery strikes, slow progress and heavy casualties on both sides.
Bachmut has also become an important political and symbolic prize, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visiting the front lines there in December, just before his dramatic trip to the US to meet with the president and address Congress.
But a senior administration official in President Joe Biden said the focus on Bakhmut was hindering Ukraine’s more important task of preparing for a widely anticipated spring offensive aimed at making major gains against Russian occupiers in the country’s south.
According to the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity and was not quoted verbatim, Bakhmut’s timing is more favorable to Russia, given its greater artillery resources and available troops.
However, according to the official, a Russian victory here would not lead to any significant changes in the war, as Ukrainian forces would retreat to well-defended positions.
Rather than waste so many troops and munitions on a strategically unimportant target, the US is advising Ukraine to withdraw these forces to renew and join US-led training programs aimed at building a more sophisticated and better-armed force capable of launching an offensive in the south.
The official noted that counterattack weaponry is flowing into Ukraine, including several hundred armored vehicles that will be needed for mobile assault forces.
But training takes time, so the Ukrainians must consider whether to stay in Bakhmut or prepare for broader strategic action, the official said, adding that the Ukrainians may not have the resources to meet both challenges.
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