Espreso. Global
Interview

Ukraine is in difficult situation, but Putin is in worse one - Colonel Grant

7 January, 2024 Sunday
20:50

Retired British Army Colonel Glen Grant, in an interview with Anton Borkovskyi, host of Espreso's Studio West program, spoke about what will be decisive in this year's war and what Putin is preparing

The long war scenario has been set in stone. The question will be about resources: money, equipment, and trained troops. Russia has demonstrated its meanness in what they can do. In particular, we are talking about massive missile attacks on Ukrainian cities. Our air defense system has demonstrated to the Russian interventionists that we can neutralize their missiles. But this means a competition: who will have more air defense systems, who will have more missiles, what kind of strikes will be launched, and so on.

The first thing we knew was that the big attacks were going to come because Russia has been only firing small amounts of missiles for several months. So it's been preparing for something like this. It would seem at the moment that the main attacks were just simply for terror, rather than trying to wear out the missile systems. But of course strategically if Russia can continue throwing a lot of missiles at Ukraine, even if Ukraine is very successful, it's going to at some stage struggle with the number of missiles because you can't expect that the number of missiles available will go on the same way. We know that other countries have had problems with missiles. So it may well be, for example, what people are doing around Kyiv by having small teams with machine guns and other smaller weapons to attack the drones that maybe this principle has got to happen much more over Ukraine so that we don't have to fire expensive missiles at drones. They need to probably separate how drones are attacked from how missiles are attacked because every missile that's fired on the Ukrainian side is precious in this regard, as we know Russia gets drones from other people and that they're going to make their own. So this is as you say in the medium term, we just have to hope that we have enough and that the Western countries like Britain, America and Germany can actually deliver more missiles than Ukraine needs.

To radically change the situation on the battlefield, what steps should be taken? Some military experts talk about the need to move the war deeper into Russia, i.e., to hit Russian military facilities. But this requires equipment that is currently under an unspoken taboo.

We're in a difficult situation. But I think Putin is in a more difficult situation at the moment than we are because he needs some sort of success before the elections. And so one of the reasons why they've been making so many hardwave attacks is just to try and get some sort of breakthrough. Hopefully, on their part they want to take Avdiivka because that will be sufficient for Putin to claim success, because they would move forward. But when you haven't got enough equipment and when you haven't got enough missiles, you can't attack long range into Russia. And if we did attack long range into Russia, you have to ask one question. Is it going to help our front line? And the answer at the moment is probably no, in fact, it may actually cause more problems because it could turn the population in Russia even more to wanting to fight Ukraine if we start killing people inside Russia. So this is very problematic before the elections. I think we need to see how those elections in Russia go to see what the appetite of the population is for the war continuing. But if we can fire long range, then it must be against things that actually are going to help us directly. Not just something that is going to make a small change. Obviously the biggest things are those in Crimea. The boats like the ship that has just been killed and the bridge. Those are the things that have got to be destroyed because cutting off Crimea changes the whole geopolitical situation for Russia. Attacking another fuel dump behind the lines in Russia is probably not going to make much difference to our front line. So we've got to do things that are actually going to bring us big wins and realistic wins to change the battle, not just hitting anything.

Recently, a missile flew into Poland. Earlier there were similar stories with Romanian airspace. It is clear what messages Putin is sending in this way. The West needs to make a certain strategic decision about its readiness to respond, possibly militarily, if a military operation is carried out. I am not saying that this will happen now, but Putin is demonstrating his readiness. On the other hand, perhaps Putin wants to force the West to take care of its resources - air defense systems, missile systems, etc.

I think you're mixing two separate ideas there. I mean, the first idea is how long can Putin keep going and frankly he can keep going as he is at the moment for another couple of years just because what is he doing? He's just throwing basic resources of men, rifles, ammunition at Ukraine, and those basics he can keep going. Remember he controls when the missiles are fired, so he can keep those going a bit now, a bit in a week, a bit next week at the rate that he can afford. Russia will try and keep this going as long as possible. At the moment there is no message to the West from Russia. I mean one missile into Romania, one missile in Poland. Those are not messages, they're just mistakes on Putin's part. A message from Putin that he can keep this going has already been made. Everybody knows that in Brussels and Berlin. They know they've got to keep supporting Ukraine as the war is going at the moment. I don't think that they expect Putin to make the war wider for the moment because Putin has doubtedly got the ability to take the war wider and win. Because if he tries to do that, then the West will close down on many of the things that he wants to do, to make it work, which they can do. But as the war is going as it is at the moment, If he keeps going, then the West is going to have to look for new ways of slowing him down. That means probably more sanctions, more policing of sanctions from working out how things are getting to him that they can stop. And that will happen in the capitals. What is happening now is that people are trying to work out how to reduce Putin's ability to wage war for the long term. So you will see small things happening. Many things you will not see because they will happen between the banks. They will happen between financial institutions. They will happen between discussions between European officials, American officials and Switzerland, for example. You probably won't ever know about these. We will never know what is being said, but you can be sure that there is a lot being said behind the scenes to try and reduce Putin's ability to keep this war going in the way that it is at the moment.

In order to change the course of events on the battlefield, we need aircraft in adequate numbers. We understand that a fundamental decision has already been made, and we are grateful to the British royal family for this - Storm Shadows are working. But when Storm Shadow is combined with aircraft, it is a completely different quality. We need 3-4 squadrons of aircraft, not just a few. Accordingly, this entails strengthening our air defense system, which could cover military airfields. It is clear that Russia is also preparing for similar scenarios.

To be honest I can't answer that because I don't know what countries are actually doing. I don't know how many F-16s are being prepared. Nor do I know how many are actually ready to go on the front line? 

And then comes the second point, which is that when you do get F-16s flying, what are you going to do with them? I don't know that at the moment. I'm not even sure that many of the other advisors have any clue either on how Ukraine will use the F-16s. Because there's got to be an element of surprise when they are used, and the question is are they going to support the front line or are they going to be used for more strategic uses trying to kill maybe more Russian aircraft. I don't know, we'll have to wait and see on that one. But your comment about everything being around F-16s and Abrams, for example, isn't necessarily true. I mean the biggest thing that will make a change to the front line is quality training. Quality training for the commanders and for the soldiers. And that's the first and most important thing because whatever happens, the soldiers have still got to fight on the front line. They've still managed in a drone environment. And remember F-16s are not going to kill the air cover from drones. It's not going to come in and fight drones. Those drones that are being used by Russia will still be there. Even if you've got F-16s, they will still be there. Even if you get more Abrams. So there needs to be a lot more thinking, for example, about counter drone activity and counter drone weapons. Not just about big things all the time. There's a fixation with big and powerful but it didn't work on the counter attack. Just remember that having big stuff, more weapons didn't work on the counter attack. It's important - quality of training so that the soldiers can keep fighting the way they're fighting but better. For me, it is the most important thing. And this is especially important if we're going to have mobilization and we're going to ask most people to come in. They must be properly trained before the fight. Otherwise, they will just be killed in big numbers. So there's a lot of work to be done on that. Frontline is not going to be helped by F-16s in a big way. Don't get that sort of idea. It will help, but it's not going to help them move forward in the way that you're probably expecting.

And what signals do London, Berlin or Washington expect most from our military and military-political command?

I don't think they're waiting for any signals. I think they know completely at the moment what is required in each of those areas. And each one of those countries has a different problem. 

There is the main problem in America's internal politics and this is very much about negotiating positions for their political parties before their election in America. So that's a problem there. Britain will stick with you. There isn't any question. Britain knows what is going on and will do their absolute best to support Ukraine in every way they can but they are running out of equipment and they've effectively run out of ammunition. So, at some point you're not going to get much from Britain until industry starts producing more. 

Germany has got an equal problem with politics because remember that you're looking at a party in Germany, which was basically against war. A left-wing party and now they're having to turn themselves into a right-wing party. 

The big support, if it's going to come, will continue to come from Poland, and there is a lot more that could come from the southern countries - from France, Spain, Portugal, Italy. They have to be engaged more because they've got more capacity to help Ukraine with equipment and things than they have done so at the moment.

The signals are the same, but they need to be made stronger to some countries than others.

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