Espreso. Global
Interview

Britain, France may overtake U.S. leadership in Russia’s war on Ukraine — Colonel Grant

17 March, 2024 Sunday
16:55

Retired British Army Colonel, military expert Glen Grant spoke about changes at the front and among Ukraine's allies in an interview on Espreso TV

How do you assess the level of danger along the front line?

It's premature to suggest that there might be a breakthrough at this point. We're aware that the artillery ammunition the Czech Republic has been purchasing is set to arrive soon, which could significantly alter the artillery battle and potentially shift the front line once again, provided Ukraine has enough ammunition to utilize effectively.

However, effectively utilizing and mobilizing strategic reserves remains challenging due to the lack of clarity regarding Russia's troop numbers and activities. Without intelligence on Russia's training efforts and troop movements, it's difficult to predict where or if a breakthrough might occur. We'll need to wait and see what their strategic objectives are.

While Russia's aim is clear—to break through—we lack information on where they might attempt this and whether they have the capacity to do so, given the significant losses they've sustained in recent months, particularly around Avdiivka. It's likely that they're experiencing strain in certain areas due to these losses

How do you see the pace of supplying us with artillery ammunition?

To be honest, I'm not well-versed in the detailed tactical level. On the strategic level, we're aware that the expected financial support from America has yet to materialize.

However, American politicians supporting Ukraine are becoming increasingly assertive and adept at employing political and procedural tools within Congress. This suggests that there may be a breakthrough in terms of American support.

On the European front, the Czech Republic has sourced ammunition from countries outside of Europe, such as South Africa and Korea. Although this ammunition is on its way, its delivery won't happen instantaneously due to the logistical challenges of moving heavy munitions. Typically, sea transport is used, with limited airlift capacity available. Additionally, the European promise of one million rounds is experiencing production delays, resulting in a slower-than-expected delivery to Ukraine.

Nevertheless, I believe there will come a critical point where Ukraine begins to receive more ammunition, potentially placing them in a better position relative to Russia.

What is the essence of the American game? Is the Biden administration ready to use other mechanisms such as a lend-lease? And to what extent will France and the United Kingdom take on the burden that the United States may refuse to bear?

I believe you had about 10 questions there, so let's address them one by one, starting with the situation in America.

It seems there's still uncertainty in the White House regarding how to effectively confront Russia without triggering a nuclear response. This concern about nuclear weapons appears to be a significant factor shaping the U.S. approach. 

The Congress. We know what's happening there. The political landscape in Congress reflects the consequences of Russia's influence over the past two decades. And Trump is the answer to that. Trump is so strong in the Republican party that it appears that many of his acolytes just won't do anything against him whatever he wants he'll do. 

So we have two big problems. 

Now the White House still retains the ability to impose further sanctions, and it may well do so. Just last week, they discovered an additional $300 million that had been unspent from other contracts.

However, I don't foresee America deviating from its current actions. It seems likely that they will continue with more of the same, attempting to secure additional funding and resources. It's improbable that they will deploy troops to Ukraine or put boots on the ground unless Putin directly attacks NATO, which seems clear.

Regarding Europe, Macron is striving to position himself as the leading figure. He's exerting significant pressure on others to support Ukraine, which is positive, as someone needed to take action. Olaf Schultz tends to talk loudly without much follow-through, and Macron's past actions haven't always matched his rhetoric. We'll need to wait and see if his recent statements translate into concrete actions.

As for Britain, while they lack military resources, they still possess considerable financial capabilities. Recently, Cameron, the foreign minister, visited Germany to negotiate the purchase of long-range missiles. Britain remains active and committed to playing a leading role in the ongoing efforts.

However, the future remains uncertain. Despite much talk, there hasn't been significant positive action impacting the front lines, except for the Czech Republic's procurement of ammunition. We're currently in a period of uncertainty.

Do you believe that European leaders can sign a decree on a foreign contingent that would help our military on the territory of Ukraine?

Well, I mean, there's always a possibility of anything happening in a war. So, there's a possibility of troops being deployed onto the ground in Ukraine, especially to aid in training. The Ukrainian military is in dire need of support in training soldiers within the country. Every time they have to deploy troops elsewhere, they lose valuable time in transportation and organization, which is crucial.

So, yes, troops could potentially come, and there's also a significant need for European staff officers to assist the general staff in planning and organization. I mention Europe because I believe their culture and concepts align more closely with Ukraine's than those of America, and Europeans are likely to better understand the operations of the general staff.

However, in the long term, it's difficult to predict the possibility of troops being deployed into Ukraine. In the short term, we'll have to wait and see what France does. It remains uncertain whether their actions will be mere talk or actual implementation.

What are General Zaluzhnyi's prospects as ambassador to the UK? How will he be heard and will he succeed in convincing the British government to take additional steps to address Ukraine's needs?

Well, his role is that of an ambassador, not a glorified defense attaché. It's important for people to understand that an ambassador's role is far more complex. This complexity is further compounded in Britain due to its devolved power structure, where decision-making is dispersed among various centers of power. Unlike Ukraine, where the president assumes much of the responsibility, Britain operates differently, requiring engagement with numerous stakeholders to understand how the country functions because even the decision making is devolved and it is much wider in Britain than it is in Ukraine.

Regarding his perspective upon returning, I don't believe it will be primarily military-oriented. Instead, his return would likely involve political activities in Ukraine. Whatever that political activity is. But Britain offers him an opportunity to learn a different way of working, a different system, and a different culture. Hopefully, he will gain valuable insights during his time there. However, I'm unsure if he has the strength or persuasive arguments to secure additional support. The current British government seems committed to supporting Ukraine in every aspect except troop deployment. It's unlikely that he can sway the government to change this stance. Nonetheless, his primary task is to maintain and strengthen the existing relationship between Ukraine and Britain.

He must ensure that this relationship extends beyond traditional channels to encompass other power centers, such as the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and even the Church of England. Various stakeholders need to be engaged to garner broader support for Ukraine. In this regard, he appears to be a good choice due to his amiable nature, which is likely to resonate well with people.

To what extent will the UK be ready to become a leader when we talk about a possible new design of European defense policy?

The question is quite complex because it involves different perspectives depending on whether we're referring to the European Union or Europe as a whole. It's important to note that Britain is not part of the European Union.

Europe.

Well, that requires a different mindset. In many ways, Britain is not hesitant to take the lead. Let's be clear about that. We have skilled officers, commanders, and the capability to establish headquarters and conduct military operations. We've demonstrated this ability before and within NATO.

When considering involving Britain in a military endeavor, it's important to recognize that it effectively entails involving a significant portion of the NATO command structure. This adds complexity to political negotiations and relationships. However, if the situation worsens—let's say, for instance, if Trump calls America away if he got there or Biden refuses to deploy troops—Britain is not afraid to take on a more serious role. 

I believe there are only two countries in Europe capable of this: Britain and France. Germany, unfortunately, lacks the capability, having suffered significant losses over the last 20 years. It lacks the command and staff officer capability to effectively lead. It's either Britain or France, or both together, that can manage something serious.

It's worth remembering  we've effectively done this sort of work before in Bosnia.

So Britain and France are both quite capable of managing something serious.

What are the medium- and short-term prospects for what will happen in the war now? Is Russia preparing for fundamentally larger-scale actions on land?

I think Russia is currently operating within its means. I don't believe there's an imminent tsunami-like event looming, though I could be mistaken. There's no intelligence indicating that Russia is stockpiling significant resources for a major offensive, such as the use of nuclear weapons. We're aware of their struggles in supplying enough armored vehicles to the front lines, resorting to deploying older ones from storage. They do have reserves, perhaps around a thousand of these vehicles, which they could mobilize. They can bring a lot more people forward.

But there cannot be a comprehensive training system capable of producing a large number of well-trained personnel and vehicles because Russia simply lacks the necessary resources. The technical resources required for operations, such as radios, and the expertise to devise sophisticated strategies are also limited. Therefore, I anticipate that we will continue to see more of the same—Russian forces reallocating their human resources to exploit perceived weaknesses in Ukrainian defenses. However, I don't envision this as a tsunami-like event.

Instead, it's more akin to a person digging a garden—you can only dig at a certain pace before becoming tired. Similarly, the Russian attack is likely to progress incrementally. They may launch a significant offensive, lose personnel, and then experience a temporary lull, particularly after Putin's reelection, as the political motivation diminishes. Any further actions may occur around October or November, as Russia lacks the resources for a breakthrough at present. These five or six months also provide Ukraine with an opportunity to address some of its political challenges and strengthen its defenses.

Thank you very much, Mr. Colonel, for this honest conversation. 

Glory to Ukraine. God save the king.

Heroyam Slava

And the king is still suffering from cancer, as you know, so hopefully, he will recover from that.

Lastly, I'd like to emphasize the remarkable job being done by the frontline soldiers, especially considering they've had almost no artillery ammunition. Let's hope that when the ammunition arrives, it enables them to push forward and exert pressure on Russia, rather than the other way around. Thank you.

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