Discover more from Andrew Korybko's Newsletter
Analyzing Zelensky’s Admission That His Forces Might Abandon Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut”
According to the Ukrainian leader himself, Russia’s potential control of Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” would immediately enable it to launch a follow-up offensive against Kramatorsk and Slavyansk, but his side might still abandon it if casualties keep mounting. This obvious military insight, which even armchair generals were aware of just by looking at the map, discredits the West’s perception managers who hitherto insisted that Russia was supposedly “wasting” its forces by throwing them into a so-called “meat grinder” over a “completely unimportant” city purely for President Putin’s prestige.
Zelensky shocked his supporters on Sunday when admitting in an interview with Italy’s Corriere della Serra that his forces might actually abandon Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” despite previously pledging to hold it no matter the cost. This stunning reversal aligns with the trend over the past month of Western officials – American, NATO, and Polish – decisively shifting the “official narrative” about the Ukrainian Conflict after it became impossible to deny that Russia hasn’t been defeated like they predicted.
Those skeptics who doubt that Zelensky just made this damning admission, and thus discredited everything that his side’s perception managers had hitherto claimed about clinging to Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” no matter what, should read the Google Translate version of his remarks themselves that were originally published in Italian by that reputable newspaper:
“It is important for us to defend it, but not at any price and for everyone to die. We will fight until it is reasonable, the Russians then want to continue to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, up to the borders of Donbass and up to Dnipro if they can. We are resisting and in the meantime we are preparing the next counterattack.”
As can be seen, not only did Zelensky finally jump on his Western patrons’ bandwagon by doing his part to decisively shift the “official narrative” about this conflict from one of Kiev’s supposedly “inevitable” victory to warning about its possible loss in this proxy war, but he also inadvertently explained why Russia has been fighting so hard to capture this city that his side earlier claimed isn’t important.
According to the Ukrainian leader himself, Russia’s potential control of Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” would immediately enable it to launch a follow-up offensive against Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. This obvious military insight, which even armchair generals were aware of just by looking at the map, discredits the West’s perception managers who insisted that Russia was supposedly “wasting” its forces by throwing them into a so-called “meat grinder” over a “completely unimportant” city purely for President Putin’s prestige.
The truth all along was that Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” has always been immensely important in terms of deciding the larger Battle of Donbass for the exact same reason that Zelensky unwittingly acknowledged. Moreover, with this in mind, the West’s own information warfare narrative can be reflected back against Kiev by claiming that it’s actually the one that’s wasting its forces by throwing them into this meat grinder all for Zelensky’s prestige in order to avoid losing morale by withdrawing.
The only reason why the Ukrainian leader would abruptly shift his side’s narrative about that city in such a decisive way is to precondition his people and their international supporters into gradually accepting its potential loss to Russia. Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” can no longer be considered by them to be “completely unimportant” like the West’s perception managers claimed since that narrative would mean that Kiev’s forces literally died for nothing if they end up ultimately drawing from there.
It would be less of a blow to their morale to finally admit that this city is actually quite strategic, even though doing so results in them proverbially falling on their own narrative sword by exposing their prior claims about it to have been nothing but anti-Russian disinformation. That offensive phase of their information warfare campaign is now shifting to the defensive one characterized by “copium”, which refers to spewing false narratives for disguising a disadvantageous narrative development.
In the examined case, it’s expected that their perception managers will throw around wild figures claiming that Russia lost tens of thousands of troops in that battle, which it could have otherwise used for launching more offensives had Kiev abandoned Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” earlier. This is spiritually similar to what their side claimed about Mariupol’s Azovstal, both of which of course have a tinge of truth to them but are also designed to help their supporters cope with their troops dying for nothing.
At the end of the day, Ukraine has officially put forth a maximalist stance towards this conflict by demanding Russia’s full and unconditional withdrawal from all the territory that Kiev claims as its own, but its side’s defeat in Mariupol and possibly soon in Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” greatly impedes that goal. It was never realistic to begin with, to be sure, but it still functioned to keep its side’s and their supporters’ hopes up. They’re now at real risk of another very painful disappointment, however.
It was already a crushing blow to their morale to lose Mariupol, but losing Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” might be too much too handle, especially for Kiev’s foreign state patrons. They’re struggling so much to sustain the pace, scale, and scope of armed assistance to their proxy amidst their military-industrial crisis, which even the NATO chief was forced to officially acknowledge last week, that some might question whether it’s even worth it if Russia soon captures that city and appears poised to liberate the rest of Donbass.
This insight suggests that Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut” might truly be pivotal to the outcome of this conflict, which explains why both sides have fought so fiercely for control over it across the past months. The larger strategic context in which this battle might soon be decided is maximally disadvantageous for Kiev due to the abovementioned military-industrial crisis presently afflicting its Western patrons. With a view towards averting the scenario of their reduced support in the aftermath, Zelensky finally came clean.
He decisively shifted the “official narrative” about this battle from one of Kiev’s supposedly “inevitable” victory after tricking Russia into “wasting” its troops by throwing them into a “meat grinder” over a “completely unimportant” city to admitting its military-strategic importance in the conflict. This was done under duress caused by the increasing likelihood that Russia will capture Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut”, hence why Zelensky suddenly flipped the script at the expense of his and his own side’s credibility.
He hopes that the West will sustain the pace, scale, and scope of their armed support to Kiev in spite of their military-industrial crisis in order to prevent further losses to Russia once his side potentially abandons Artyomovsk/“Bakhmut”. That of course can’t be taken for granted, but in any case, what can indeed be confidently predicted is that there’ll be an unprecedented proliferation of “copium” across the US-led West’s information space desperately aimed at bolstering morale if Russia captures that city.