Lt. Gen. Outlines Key to Beating Wagner's Brutal 'WWI' Fighting in Bakhmut

A top U.S. military official outlined what Ukrainian forces need to be successful on the front lines during what he described as World War I-type fighting in Ukraine.

During a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Lieutenant General Douglas Sims II, director for operations at the Joint Staff, and other Defense Department officials provided testimony on oversight of U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

In his opening statement to the committee, Sims said more training and weapons are needed for Ukrainian forces to defeat Russian advances.

The most active part of the battlefield today, he said, is around the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

Frontline in Bakhmut
Ukrainian military members drive an infantry fighting vehicle on a dirt road on February 26, 2023, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. A top U.S military official outlined what Ukraine needs to combat Russian advances on the frontlines of the war in Ukraine. Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Sims described the current situation between Ukraine and Russia as "static," with both sides employing heavy amounts of artillery resulting in "minimal changes in territory" and "significant numbers of casualties."

According to Sims, the Russian army has made "incremental gains at significant cost."

Sims described the current fighting in Ukraine has "replicated the condition of the first World War."

"The Russian army, with assistance from contract Wagner Group, has fought savagely to defeat Ukraine's defenses, employing extreme amounts of artillery and waves of thousands of partially training mobilized soldiers and personnel contracts from prisons," he said.

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Russian military is "implementing new assault tactics to compensate for current combat power limitations in response to continued offensive failures."

A Ukrainian reserve officer said the new Russian formation was likely partially influenced by Wagner Group operations around Bakhmut, according to the ISW. The Wagner Group relies largely on "squad-sized frontal assaults," but ISW said the offensives had "failed to gain operationally significant ground."

According to Russian sources, the Wagner Group made gains north of Bakhmut this week on the eastern outskirts and toward Koperatyvna Vulystia, near Bakhmut's city center, as well as toward Ivanivske, the ISW reported.

In order to bolster Ukraine's capabilities, Sims said the U.S. has concentrated its efforts on providing equipment and munitions with people and training. The U.S. military is intent on generating "combat-credible" forces capable of combining fire and movement to "achieve maneuver" and increase overall capabilities of Ukraine forces. A cohesive approach to training with European allies and partners remains a key part of achieving this goal.

Sims said the U.S. has trained 1,000 Ukrainians since January and a total of over 4,000 Ukrainians at European and U.S. bases since the start of the war.

He added that Ukraine's success also depends on access to maneuver-related equipment, including ground vehicles, strikers, howitzers and tanks from partners and allies, that are "notably increasing" Ukraine's capabilities.

The U.S. is also providing critical munitions and medical and cold weather gear as well as Patriot defense systems to help Ukraine combat Russian attacks on critical infrastructure.

Based on previous trainings, Sims said he is "confident" that Ukraine will employ Patriot air defense systems "with same expertise they employ every day with current air defense capabilities."

As the war in Ukraine hit its one-year anniversary on February 24, the Biden administration announced additional security assistance for Ukraine. The latest military package, which totals $2 billion, includes additional ammunition for High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), additional artillery rounds, munitions for laser-guided rocket systems and mine-clearing equipment.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Department of Defense for comment.

Correction 03/01/23, 12:05 p.m. ET: This article was updated to clarify details in the ISW report.