Ukraine is firing thousands of artillery shells each day in its battle to defend the Donbas city of Bakhmut, a pace that US and European officials don’t think is sustainable, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Two unnamed US officials told the Times that the Pentagon has raised the issue of Ukraine’s ammunition use in Bakhmut after a few days of non-stop firing. Ukraine’s war effort is entirely reliant on support from the US, as the Pentagon has shipped millions of artillery shells to the country.
The report is the latest example of Ukraine’s Western backers expressing doubt about Kyiv’s war strategy. The US wants Ukraine to launch a spring counteroffensive, but Western officials think those plans could be jeopardized by the amount of resources Ukraine is using in Bakhmut.
The US and Britain are preparing to ship thousands more artillery rounds and rockets to Ukraine to shore up its supplies for a counteroffensive. A senior Pentagon official described these shipments to the Times as a “last ditch effort” because Ukraine’s Western backers don’t have enough to keep up with Ukraine’s pace.
The US and its NATO allies were not prepared to support such an intense artillery war. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has acknowledged that Ukraine is using munitions at a much faster rate than the entire 30-member alliance can produce. The Western powers have big plans to ramp up the production of artillery rounds, but it will take months before any significant progress is made.
Ukrainian troops fighting in Bakhmut have told the media that they are already fighting with severe ammunition shortages. Ukraine is also losing a lot of people as fresh recruits are being sent into Bakhmut, which has become known as the “meat grinder,” with very little training.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his top officials have decided to keep defending Bakhmut despite the dire situation for the soldiers on the ground. They say the Russians are also taking heavy casualties, which makes the city worth defending.