With Russia reportedly capturing Bakhmut, a key place in the Donbas region where the battlefield situation is deemed as a "meat grinder" as it is the longest and bloodiest battle in the Russia-Ukraine war, some experts believe that such progress for Russia will help it gain a significant advantage in politics and largely boost the Russian soldiers' morale, reflecting the arguement that the Ukraine crisis is a war that neither Russia nor the US could win easily but neither could afford to lose.
Meanwhile, the US-led West continued delivering strong messages of "sustained support" for Ukraine during the three-day G7 summit held in Japan where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "at the center of a swirl of diplomacy on the final day of the summit," as some media reported. In addition to a military assistance package to Ukraine worth $375 million pledged by US President Joe Biden, the US also said it will allow its Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including the US-made F-16s, backing joint efforts to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the fighter jets.
While it is impossible to change the battlefield situation through supplies of some new advanced weapons or fighter jets, it is likely that the deployment of the F-16 fighter aircraft will lead NATO into a military conflict with Russia. For example, if they are deployed in neighboring countries to Ukraine such as Poland or Romania, they could be possible targets of strikes from Russia, some military experts warned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Wagner private military company and regular soldiers for "liberating the Donbas city of Artyomovsk," known in Ukraine as Bakhmut, from the Ukrainian Army, the RT reported, citing the Kremlin.
Zelensky responded to the claim from the Russian side by saying that "the city is only in our hearts" as he mourned the vast destruction, the Washington Post reported. The Ukrainian president sparked confusion when he appeared to suggest Ukraine had lost control of the eastern city of Bakhmut, but his spokesperson later clarified that he did not intend to say that, according to media reports.
"The battle of Bakhmut has both symbolic and practical significance," Zhang Hong, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday.
The battle is at a core place of the Donbas battlefield, toward which both Russian and Ukrainian governments have invested a huge military force but also suffered huge casualties, which caused tremendous pressure on society and politics of both sides, Zhang said. He noted that if Russia truly captured the place as it had claimed, it would help it gain a significant advantage in politics and confidence, leading to new changes in terms of morale.
Some Western officials and military analysts said that Russia capturing Bakhmut would be a blow for Ukraine, but was unlikely to prove a decisive turning point in the conflict, NBC News reported on Sunday.
"No one kind of weapon can change the pattern of war. But the deployment of the F-16s could lead NATO into a direct military conflict with Russia, as the most critical question is where to deploy the fighter aircraft that requires a lot of ground maintenance support with complex systems," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.
If they are deployed in neighboring countries such as Poland or Romania, Russia will inevitably target some military airports, which will further escalate the military conflict, Song said.
Some Chinese experts believe that through the battle of Bakhmut, we can tell that Russia maintains a military advantage against Ukraine although the West continues to use Ukraine as its proxy with increasing military supplies in order to weaken Russia. "The West is hoping to end the war by warfare, which is completely wrong. The Ukraine crisis is a war that neither Russia nor the US could win easily but neither could afford to lose," Zhang said.
"The high-profile attendance of Zelensky at the G7 and the growing military supplies from the West all indicate that the West is seeking to end the war by the use of war, which would further escalate and complicate the situation," he noted.
Photo: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference after the G7 Summit at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 21, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan © VCG.
Source: The Global Times.