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  • Cary Donham


Updated: Jul 16, 2023

One of the most ironic (and sad) statements from the Vietnam War was “It became necessary to destroy that village in order to save it.” Allegedly made by a US Army Major, the statement was never verified but it does symbolize the futility of war.

Looking at drone footage of the Ukraine city of Bahkmut recalls that Vietnam War meme. The now destroyed and virtually deserted city once had nearly 80,000 residents. Now, it is a scarred battlefield of cratered parks, crumbling high rises, with a few remaining people skulking through the ruins for anything useful they can find. After a year of intense fighting, Russia apparently has seized the city proper, while Ukraine continues to defend the surrounding area. But at what cost?

““Look up ‘Pyrrhic victory,’” said Ben Barry, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a research group based in London. “A victory which imposes such casualties on the side that supposedly wins the battle that it actually doesn’t help them achieve their strategic ends.””

After more than a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia’s strategic ends are now a mystery. And neither Russia nor Ukraine occupies high ground, tactically or morally.

The Bakhmut battle is a sad example of the absurdity of war, even within its own context. While Russia likely suffered more significant casualties than Ukraine, an estimated 20,00 dead and 100,000 wounded since December 2022, Ukraine also suffered large casualties, as well as possibly using a lot of ammunition that it might have better used in other areas of the war. And the current status is not a fixed outcome. Russia may control the city but to what purpose? Its housing and infrastructure have been ravaged and its population evacuated. Ukraine continues to maintain troops in the surrounding area (to what purpose is a good question) so Russia can’t lower its guard.

So Ukraine and Russia are in a circle of death and destruction in Bakhmut. Like Vietnam, the city was destroyed, but saved? It sure doesn’t look like it.

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