In the past several days, four separate events have occurred that, each in a significant way, signal the need for concern in the US.
The War in Ukraine
Like an example of double think in a seminar on Orwell’s 1984, two The New York Times’ headlines read simultaneously that “Russia Claims Victory in Bakhmut” and “Ukraine Turns Tide in Bakhmut.” The Western media then gave an Orwellian example of rewriting history with the claim that, with Russia’s victory in Bakhmut, they had fallen into Ukraine’s trap. If the Russian occupation of Bakhmut was a trap, the Ukrainian military could have left long ago, sprung the trap and spared the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers.
Though far from the end of the war, the fall of Bakhmut is important. In March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned, perhaps somewhat dramatically in his quest for more weapons, that, if Russia wins control of Bakhmut, “it would be open road for the Russians . . . to other towns in Ukraine” and said that if Bakhmut is captured, “Our society will push me to have to compromise” with Russia. Now the media has turned “fortress Bakhmut” into a “symbolic victory.”
The victory in Bakhmut is not merely symbolic for two reasons. Though the town itself may not be of much value, its locations is. A number of transportation lines run through Bakhmut. Russian control of Bakhmut makes it difficult for Ukraine to supply its forces and gives Russia increased mobility throughout the Donbas region. And though the conquest of Bakhmut may not really give Russia an open road west, it may allow them to advance several tens of kilometers to Ukraine’s next defensive line.
More importantly, though, the Russian assault on Bakhmut may not have been primarily about territory. As Ukraine continued to pour soldiers into Bakhmut, the Russian army, like death’s maw, devoured everyone Kiev sent in to displace it. Bakhmut may have been more about depleting Ukrainian troops and artillery to weaken its military for the anticipated Ukrainian offensive than it was about territory. Occupying Bakhmut also presents the possibility that, as Ukrainian forces move south for their offensive, they could find themselves dangerously between Russian forces on two sides.
The New Cold War
On May 16, Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles hit a US made Patriot air defense system in Kiev. The public debate quickly focussed on whether the Patriot unit was damaged or destroyed. But the true concern for the US was that it had been hit at all….