Over the weekend Wagner Group must have thrown a huge party after their Group financier, Yevgeny Prigozhin, declared victory in Bakhmut City on May 20 and announced his intent to withdraw from the city on May 25. The greatest victory? You have to hand it to Prigozhin – the muppets from our global mass media swallowed it whole….German and French speaking TV news in half a dozen countries proclaimed the great victory.
Prigozhin’s claimed victory over the remaining areas in Bakhmut is purely symbolic even if true. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in Washington DC see no evidence of any change on the battlefield, the part of the city near the Mig-17 monument. Ukrainian forces continue pressuring Bakhmut’s northern and southern flanks. Nothing has occurred in Bakhmut over the weekend that is likely to have any significant impact on the course of the war.
Further the ISW team assess Wagner forces are unlikely to successfully conduct a controlled withdrawal from Bakhmut while in contact with Ukrainian forces within five days without disrupting the Russian MoD’s efforts to prepare for planned Ukrainian counteroffensives. Russia’s Army will still need to transfer additional conventional forces to the Bakhmut front lines even if Wagner mercenaries remain in Bakhmut.
The real news
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated on May 20 that the United States may agree to transfer modern combat aircraft to Ukraine, including the F-16, on the condition that Ukraine does not use them to strike Russian territory. Well done Rishi and Rutte and Ben Wallace. There was only one way to shift senile old Joe – tell him you’re going to do it anyway if Trump 2 is allowed into the White House.
Joe would have had to put his head above the parapet and the maker company, General Dynamics, ordered not to co-operate. Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark are all introducing the fifth generation stealthy F 35 thus their combined fleet of about fifty F 16s is available for Ukraine. Poland and the Slovaks have given Ukraine about thirty Mig 29s. The American calculation was that some eighteen months of pilot training was required for the F 16 but the USAF has now reduced this to four months after testing experienced pilots on a simulator. The F 16 may be an old lady but she packs a punch. They have been in service since 1978 and some 4604 have been been built and served with two dozen air forces.
My introduction to the F 16 was at the US 82nd Airborne Division annual open day back in summer 1980 when a squadron put on a demonstration air strike with live ammunition. Now in my life I have witnessed dozens of air strikes – from LOH pusher planes through Cobra and Huey gunships to F 4 Phantoms to Canberras and B 52s. The latter’s Arclight strikes feel like an earthquake. The British Embassy in Saigon used to quiver when a B 52 strike went in fifty miles away in Cambodia. On this occasion the F 16s came in low and cluster bombed a small hill. White flashes advanced over the ground at the speed of the fighters, hundreds of cluster bombs exploded, smothering the hill with thick milky smoke full of hot shrapnel. I was glad we were all sitting on a grandstand with the Division’s Deputy Commander, Dick Schultess, about a healthy mile away from their target!