kos has already illustrated some of the costs Russia paid in walking troops over the open fields east and north of Soledar to attack this town with a pre-war population of under 10,000 and a current population of 0.
Just to repeat what we’ve said before, the tactical or strategic value of Soledar is extremely limited. Holding the town does give Russia fire control over the TO503 highway. That highway was already under threat, but now it’s likely difficult or impossible for Ukraine to move forces between Bakhmut and Siversk without taking a several-kilometer jog to the west. That highway was of high importance when Ukraine was engaged with Russia in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Russia’s ability to disrupt traffic along this highway could be a factor when Ukraine moves to liberate those cities. Likely not. The important highway in supplying this area was the T1302, and that one has been impassable for months. Taking Soledar makes no difference there.
I’m grabbing this map from War Mapper because I never do a good job of preserving past positions on my own map and in this case, our estimates are close enough. This gives a fair sense of just what Russia has gained, at least in terms of occupied territory.
The destruction of Soledar may also better position Russia for another of its endless runs at Bakhmut. It certainly extends the area of contact along the north side of the city. However, should Russia turn the forces in this area south, it would make them vulnerable to attack from the north and west, where other Ukrainian troops are positions at Vesele and Rozdolivka. It seems more likely that Russian forces that moved into the space-that-was-Soledar will continue in an attempt to press west, hoping to isolate Bakhmut or threaten other locations rather than make an immediate swing to the south.
Still, none of that is really what Soledar is all about.
Soledar was captured because Russia identified it as a weak point in the line, a point where it could bring together more pressure than the defenders could withstand, and where an advance could be made to capture territory. That’s what every army does. That’s what Ukraine did when it moved against the area north of Balakliya in early September and kicked off the Kharkiv counteroffensive. Right now, Ukraine is maneuvering, as best the mud and weather allows, along the front line just 40 km north of Soledar, looking for the best way around Russian defenses at Kreminna.
The difference between what Ukraine is doing and what Russia did at Soledar comes down to two things: cost and goals. In terms of the losses it was willing to sustain to take the location, it appears Russia had no limits. Just look to kos’ post from Monday to see one of the Russian units getting smashed as they attempt to take Soledar. There are many such videos.
That willingness to sustain any level of loss to achieve an objective is sometimes necessary for almost any army in a critical situation. Any number of battles in World War II could be named where generals knew taking the target would come at a high cost, but still judged that cost worth paying. (Note: These costs are never measured in generals.)
Only we just got through discussing how Soledar isn’t a great strategic target and doesn’t provide some immense tactical advantage. The Ukrainian advance near Balakliya broke Russian defensive lines, opened a route deep into occupied territory, and resulted in the liberation of over 12,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory in the next three weeks. Taking Soledar offers … the opportunity to try and take the next small town, at an equally high cost.
Even so, there have been many reports that capturing Soledar, at any cost, was exactly the order that had been laid down to both Wagner group mercenary leaders and other Russian commanders in the area. So why? Well …
Russia didn’t manage to capture Kyiv. So it redefined victory down to taking the eastern and southern areas of Ukraine. Then it failed to hold Kharkiv, so it redefined victory to capturing all of Luhansk and holding the sea coast. Kherson is Russia forever! Then Russia lost Kherson in an absolutely humiliating defeat. Then Russia decided that taking Bakhmut, Bakhmut would be a victory! Only they couldn’t capture Bakhmut.
Russia threw everything at Soledar because it needed a “win.” And any win would do. The strategic value of taking this flat space that used to hold a town is negligible, except in terms of the media reports announcing “Russia scores its first victory in months,” backed by the sound of 10,000 cheering tankies.
Which does make you think. Not so much about Soledar, but about exactly why Russia felt it needed a win so badly that it was willing to reset the bar of victory so low and raise the level of acceptable loss so high. It’s fair to say that the importance of Soledar isn’t well understood, and the answers won’t be found on a map of Ukraine.
Task & Purpose has put together a sharp video looking at the potential impact of the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle in Ukraine.
It gives a good sense of how the vehicle matches up with Russia’s BMP, but more importantly, how the Bradley is designed as a component of a different fighting strategy than the vehicles now being used in this war. Good insights into the source and level of equipment likely to be featured on those Bradleys now headed for active service, but why the U.S. could easily follow with many more, and why the Bradley is “finally getting to do what it was designed to do.” Finally, they do a decent job talking about that demon logistics and how it impacts the Bradley’s likely deployment in Ukraine.
We love us some logistics at Daily Kos, and we’ve talked often about the constraints that affect Russia’s ability to keep its forces supplied or to support a deep penetration. Something as simple as the use of palletes affects not just how quickly a truck or train can be unloaded, but how materiel is stored, how ammunition is positioned adjacent to the battlefield, and how many times HIMARS has converted heaps of Russian shells into truly impressive explosions.
This thread from a Ukrainian military officer does a fantastic job of illuminating how Russia has begun to address those issues, particularly when it comes to protecting their stores of equipment and ammo, and what effect that’s having on actions in Ukraine.
The statement at the end of the thread sums up the importance of this issue nicely.
“The best way to keep Russia away from Ukraine is to keep pushing Russian logistical routes out of it, saving the lives of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.”
This is what remains of a Russian armored unit that attempted to move out from the Donetsk area toward the small town of Vodyane on Saturday. That town has been under attack since the invasion began. In fact, it was the front lines on the day Russia rolled into Ukraine. It’s still on the front line.
Don’t get the impression that just because Russia took Soledar, they’ve somehow gained some new level of competence. They have not.
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