Ukraine Digs Into the Eastern Line

There is nowhere for Putin to go, just like Hitler

Shankar Narayan
7 min readMar 13, 2023
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“On Wednesday, February 3, 1943, a special radio announcement informed the German people they had lost the Battle of Stalingrad. The news had a devastating impact on morale, casting an undeniable shadow of doubt on the Führer personally, and the future of Nazi Germany itself”.

A secret opinion survey taken shortly afterward by the Nazi intelligence service reported: “People ask, above all, why Stalingrad was not evacuated or relieved, and how it is possible, only a few months ago, to describe the military situation as secure? Fearing that an unfavorable end to the war is now possible, many compatriots are seriously thinking about the consequences of defeat.”

Despite Hitler’s best efforts, Operation Barbarossa, an attempt to invade Moscow with a blitzkrieg, was a disastrous failure due to overstretched logistics. Over a million German soldiers died. In spite of suffering colossal losses of its own, the Soviet Union started believing victory was possible after the Nazi defeat boosted its morale.

Hitler ignored the warnings from his generals and ordered the invasion to continue. He threw everything he had to capture the “expansive oil fields in the Caucasus which fueled Russia’s war machine, and seize Stalingrad, the region’s major rail junction and industrial center, located along the Volga River”

As Stalin mobilized the country and poured Soviet soldiers into the war, 27 million Soviets were killed, but the Nazi army was wiped out. Germany lost all its economic and human strength, so it was incapable of even defending itself. Two years after the defeat in Stalingrad, the Nazi regime came to an end in April 1945, with Hitler’s suicide.

The parallel between Hitler’s decisions and Putin’s decisions are way too strong to ignore. Putin tried to win Kyiv, but he was unable to do so. Then he focused on Donbas and Bakhmut. Now he is unable to win either. The Ukrainian war has taken up all the resources he could mobilize, both economically and humanly.

The war is draining Russia of everything, but he just won’t stop.

Bakhmut is crushing the Russian army

A good tactical leader would have accepted that the enemy’s defense is good and walked out of the fight. Such a leader will prioritize protecting his army over anything else. He will accept a small defeat as a bargain in his search for a full victory. He will keep probing for weaknesses and wait until he finds one before moving forward.

Putin is neither a tactician nor a strategist. According to him, all he has to do is repeat what he reads in history books and he will be immortalized as a hero in the future book. In his mind, he believes repeating Stalin’s playbook will help him win the Ukraine war.

As the Soviets fought for freedom, Stalin was able to rally the country. Today, Ukraine is fighting for freedom. Not Russia. Nobody is buying Putin’s story that the Ukraine war is a freedom fight.

The Russian president is a propagandist. Every propagandist needs a story to convince the populace to stay united behind him. However, Putin hasn’t met this basic dictatorship requirement. After his partial mobilization order, the exodus of Russian men has thrown Putin into a state of fear.

It is a double whammy.

As he fears an internal revolt, he cannot order full mobilization that would allow the Russian troops to overpower the Ukrainian army. Putin will not order the Russian army to stay clear of Bakhmut since the western world will realize Putin is spent and force him to sit on a cold Kremlin floor while negotiating an armistice.

As he dredges in the middle, he cannot move left or right. Ukrainians are using Putin’s indecisiveness to deliver a black eye to the Russian army every day. The BBC reported few days ago that up to 30,000 Russians had been killed in Bakhmut. Add in the potential number of injured and you are looking at a loss of 60,000 or more than 100,000 soldiers.

It is very likely that this number is closer to reality. According to the U.K. ministry of defense, the Russians lost 824 soldiers a day in February. “Ukrainian officials have claimed that nearly 30,000 of Wagner’s 50,000 troops have deserted or been killed or wounded, many around Bakhmut”.

This is a staggering loss in just one month.

While the southern front is not eerily silent, the might of Dnipro has imposed a temporary stalemate for nearly 421 kilometers. Some artillery duels have been reported, but there has been no major movement by either side since November 2022. The war is primarily happening along the 250–350 km eastern frontline, starting from Vuhledar to Svatove. The main attacks take place near Vuhledar, Bakhmut, and Svatove.

The loss of one fifth of the Russian army near Bakhmut is not out of bounds. The Russians likely lost that much in that section. Bakhmut has become a meat grinder that grinds Putin’s army to pieces and the Wagnerites into dust.

Putin has only two choices to make.

  1. Stop pouring more resources into Bakhmut. Accept defeat. Move forces to other sections. (or)
  2. Order full mobilization and keep filling up Bakhmut with live bodies.

A defeat in Bakhmut will be too much mud for Putin to wipe off his face after the Kherson withdrawal. Not to mention the withdrawal from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kupyansk, Izyum and other towns. It is only by ordering full mobilization that he will be able to protect what remains of his army.

To maintain the army’s current capacity, you have to raise three battalions worth of soldiers every single day. Silent mobilization cannot raise that many troops every day.

In the second world war, Stalin mobilized millions of people, but it wasn’t just full mobilization. It was full-scale mobilization, as every available resource was harnessed to stop the Nazis. But now isn’t the 1940s, and neither is Russia fighting for independence.

In May last year, when it became evident that he was losing way too many resources for the fight to last, Putin did not order mobilization. He simply assumed that defeat and death would motivate his army to win. He forced the Russian army to fight with what they had. When the Ukrainians launched a counter-offensive in late August, the Russians were forced to flee because they did not have the capacity to repel the attack.

Putin never realized that he couldn’t have peace at home while there was violence in the neighborhood, and that eventually it would spill over. His worst fears came true when hundreds of thousands of Russians crossed the border after he ordered partial mobilization in September. In certain border checkpoints, people walked over the border as wait time ran into days.

Initial data shows that at least 500,000, and perhaps nearly 1 million, have left in the year since the invasion began — a tidal wave on scale with emigration following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

Now, as then, the departures stand to redefine the country for generations. And the flood may still be in its early stages. The war seems nowhere near finished. Any new conscription effort by the Kremlin will spark new departures, as will worsening economic conditions, which are expected as the conflict drags on.

Million Russians have left the country. Many more are still leaving everyday because staying back means potential burial in a foreign land. No amount of propaganda will ever bring enough Russians to volunteer for Putin’s fight against Ukraine.

In Bakhmut, Russia has lost an insane amount of troops since the beginning of 2023. According to Ukraine, they have a 7 to 1 casualty advantage. This is because Russia is the aggressor trying to advance, while Ukraine is trying to defend. Casualty skew always favors the defender over the aggressor.

As of now, Putin hasn’t ordered full mobilization. He is worried about internal backlash. The Russian society is already a tinderbox waiting to burst. A simple spark could ignite it.

Russia doesn’t have unlimited manpower, which is a pertinently wrong assumption pushed by right wing Putin puppets in western countries.

If that was the case then why is Putin still delaying full mobilization?

Putin’s fear of an internal revolt is most clearly demonstrated by the long line of cars that queued up near border check points in September last year after he ordered partial mobilization.

As a result of that fear, not only is Putin’s second army grinding to dust, but his grip on Russian society is also slipping. It appears that Putin the propagandist has finally lost control of the Russian information space as the ultra-nationalists he cultivated over the years are slowly gravitating against him and his army.

Putin, known for expending journalists and his political opponents, has done nothing against the ultra-right voices that have targeted his incompetence.

It is highly unusual because a dictator has to rule by fear. Putin could have easily arrested the men who spoke out against him. He could have easily removed the Wagner head and built a gulag in Siberia for him. But Putin has done nothing. It is simply not in his interest to antagonize the nationalists because they are crucial to the silent mobilization he is coordinating with his army. The average Russian must be rallied against the west by them.

If Putin starts arresting the military bloggers who speak up against him or if he removes the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is slowly rallying the country against Kremlin, then Putin will turn the nationalist group decisively against him.

He cannot order full mobilization, without which his army is going to be toast very soon.

He cannot stop the right wingers ganging up against him because it will be the end of silent mobilization.

Putin is stuck and has nowhere to go.



Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.