Espreso. Global

Ukraine will not win unless government, army change their thinking — military expert Grant

22 October, 2023 Sunday

Glen Grant, a retired British Army Colonel and renowned military expert, discusses the potential duration of the war in Ukraine and what the US and Ukraine could do to end it, in an interview with Espreso TV


It seems that we are on the verge of World War III. The United States has sent an aircraft carrier group and an additional flagship to the Middle East. It seems that the world is on the brink of something.

In realistic terms, I don't think we're yet at World War 3. You could say that overall it's more like a Cold War 2. And there's a lot happening, but these are sort of proxy battles as they used to be in the Cold War when people fought in Africa and they fought in different places.

I don't see that Russia is going to engage NATO. They must be realizing now that that would be a mistake.

And at the moment there are only two things that are going to bring us to World War 3 and that's an attack on NATO or China attacking Taiwan.

The Middle East can remain relatively self-contained. Of course, if Iran has a nuclear bomb and decides to use that, then that would change everything. And going nuclear would change everything. But at the moment I just don't see that that is a possibility.

So what we'll see is the continuing saw of the battle between Russia and Ukraine and the continuing saw of the battle between Israel and Hamas, maybe even Hezbollah. But I don't see it widening for the moment. To be honest I don't think China is ready for it.

War is not only about fighting, but also about resources. There are concerns that some of the resources to support Ukraine may go to the Middle East. On the other hand, the Western defense system is getting more dynamic. After all, we are talking about a possible major war, not just Russian aggression in Ukraine. Now the West cannot pretend that nothing is happening and that it can get off with a few Leopard tanks. It has to engage in full force, otherwise it will be destroyed.

In the first point, I don't think that what is going to Israel is reducing the amount that is going to Ukraine. I don't think that will happen at all. It's likely to come from effectively different packages, different groups of weapons and everything else because a lot of the things that Israel needs are not things that Ukraine is ready for, and the reverse a lot of the things that Ukraine wants are not things that Israel wants. So I don't think you should draw that conclusion.

As for the readiness of the West, to me it is worrying because I still don't think that they've taken the seriousness of this war to heart.

To use the cooking expression, it's still on the back burner. It's not at the front being stood carefully because it's going to be eaten now. If the war changes, there will be several countries including Great Britain that get a nasty shock because I'm also quite sure that most of the countries in Europe have not taken the lessons learned as they should do. They are viewing the lessons learned through their own cultural prism. This is what we've got. This is how we're going to do business, forgetting that if it's Russia we fight, not going to allow them to do business in the same way.

The West is not ready as it should be. It's getting better. But there are still lots of things. Remember that a lot of countries like Romania, Czech Republic, the Baltic states have given Ukraine huge amounts of equipment. I mean in Latvia's case all its air defense, and almost all its anti-tank missiles. So it's still waiting for those to be replenished.

We just have to hope that nothing happens in this regard quickly because the West does need time to restock and replenish itself in case Russia actually decides to broaden the war.

ATACMS - they worked perfectly! The US has finally decided to give them to us. The decision has been on Biden's desk for a long time. How do you assess the prospects for further deliveries of these missiles? Will they help break through the front line by destroying logistics?

In the first place I am not sure which of the ATACMS models have actually been delivered. There're about five different ones. And it seems to be the older ones that have actually been sent. Why it's only a small number I suspect because that's the number you can put on a couple of aircraft rather than sending them by sea, which would have taken a longer. So that's my suspicion for the numbers. If you can provide 20 quickly, you can provide another 20 quickly if needed and maybe a bit more modern ones. I know that the US is keen to make sure it doesn't run down its own stocks because ATACMS is a key weapon in the US Armory and they don't want to give that away too easily.

Now about the fighting. The danger with ATACMS is that it is a long-range weapon. And so when you're firing it you tend to fire it at things that are a long way away. Will it break through the front? The answer is no, it won't. Will it help the front to be weaker? The answer is yes, but there is the danger and I think you said this in a way that if there's too much like time delay between the ATACMS attacking and something on the front changing for our benefit, then that gives Russia time to actually bring up more reserves, more ammunition and overcome the attack from ATACMS.

These things are very much fire and maneuver. You need to fire it at the same time as you do something on the front line so that you actually create a coherent attack at the same time. If you delay the attack on the front line after firing ATACMS, Russia has time to sort themselves out and get back again. It doesn't make it easy for them because if they start putting things close together, Ukraine will find the target and will kill it. They're going to have to think about doing things differently. So there will be some generals in the next few weeks having an extremely difficult time working out how to defeat ATACMS so that they don't lose key resources that they need.

First there were the British Storm Shadows, then the French Scalps, now the American ATACMS, so we are waiting for the German Taurus missiles. Can long-range missiles change the situation on the southern front? Will they be enough?

Don't forget that only infantry can take and hold the ground. You can hit things in the rear but that doesn't actually change the front line unless you can destroy and delay so much ammunition that the front line can't fight.

So this is going to be a challenge for the Ukrainian planners to make sure that they actually can use what artillery they've got in a focused fashion to help the soldiers in brigades because the most important thing is to allow the brigades to keep moving or to defend better.

What's my helicopter view? Russia is going to keep going. It's going to provide more people. It's going to provide more ammunition and it's going to provide more guns. Even if some of them are very old, a gun and a tank old though, it still fires, and they're going to lose lots more people.

I think we've missed the opportunity or missed the time when Russia was going to break.

They've got their stubborn head on now and the only way is to beat them. But frankly then the only way is for Ukraine to stop looking only at resources from abroad and to start spending much more time and energy trying to create our own weapons and our own systems because if this war goes through another winter into another summer, finding equipment from the West is going to get harder and harder. Ukraine must find ways of compensating and compensating quickly.

There are weapons systems that you can produce like mortars. You can create mortars quite quickly and mortar ammunition is easy to make. And that will make a fundamental difference if every battalion had six mortars the same as they do in Great Britain, for example.

There needs to be some new military thinking. What I see at the moment is old military thinking still. People need new thinking about how to use things. You cannot just rely on civil society providing drones.

That's not going to work. Even that's getting tired now. So there needs to be some new thinking and I'm afraid - by better people than we have doing the thinking at the moment.

You were one of the first to predict the protracted war that the Russians are now preparing for. However, the West has probably already calculated Russia's resource capabilities. How long can a Russian attack, or as Putin put it, an active defense campaign, last?

They would just keep doing what they're doing because in their minds they're winning. Russians are used to losing lots of people, they're used to losing lots of equipment. I mean, the Second World War was a fine example of this for them. They just lost lots. And there seems to be no appetite within Russia for breaking the war. They seem to be backing Putin as strongly now as they've ever done. And Putin is putting all his energy and Russian resources into fighting the war. He may not have the ability to produce clever things but he will still produce lots of low level things that will make it extremely difficult for Ukraine because just the numbers make it difficult. This is the strength that Russia has.

So if we don't break them over the winter, then there is a possibility that this could go on for another two or three years. And I'm quite serious about that. Russia has to be broken, and we're not breaking them at the moment. We're only holding them.

Some move forward, but it's not a breakthrough. We need the breakthrough to be honest. Maybe that will come down by Kherson with a new operation crossing the river. But something different needs to be done because strategy is about capabilities and at the moment the capabilities that we have are not strong enough to make the strategy work. Even with ATACMS, even with F-16 because the main capability is a hundred fighting brigades and those fighting brigades are not equipped properly to win this war at the moment. So there needs to be more thinking.

In your opinion, has Putin already gained a sense of the purpose of this war? Unexpectedly for him, the war has turned from blitzkrieg into a protracted war. We often hear Russian propagandists talk about an existential war. They want this war to become a war of the entire Russian people, and at the same time the Third World War.

You are right there but I think that Putin sees that the only way he can do this is to get the resources from Ukraine, that without the resources of Ukraine he cannot fight an existential war against NATO. With Ukraine, with the manpower of Ukraine, the trained manpower of Ukraine fighting for Russia, and this is how his brain will work. Because he's already stealing people from Crimea and from Kherson who are Ukrainians and we've already got a lot of Ukrainians fighting on the other side. So one shouldn't forget this. This is how he will see the war.

Now, what he's going to do is he's going to keep setting the world order. He will support anything that is like Hamas, any war in the Middle East, any war he can get in Africa because he wants to draw the attention of the West away from the war in Ukraine, and you could say he's already doing that. I mean he's been doing it by putting nuclear weapons into Belarus, for example, and that uses up the time and the energy of the Latvians of the Lithuanians. As when they should be spending training, they're spending standing looking at a wire because hundreds of immigrants are coming across.

So he's going to look for every way he can and during the winter and into next year to draw the thinking and the time and the other resources away from the West supporting the Ukraine war.

He will do something else. I don't know what that's something else is but he will do something else. I've been saying this since 2014 and I've been right every time. Something else will happen, and we need to just be mentally prepared which is why I come back to the thing that his existential war can only really be lost in Ukraine for us, not anywhere else. And that's why Ukraine has got to take this seriously because other things might happen that spoil what Ukraine wants to do.

Has the vision of the war changed among our key allies? There was a feeling that they wanted to localize the war and were not in too much of a hurry to provide important weapons. Now they are providing aircraft. Have our allies changed their vision of the end of the war?

I think there is a whole line of things that are important. One is that you have to understand that whatever formula there is has got to be based on trust. There is nothing else. If it's not based on trust, then it won't work. There will be no formula. And the things that cover the trust are the things that have been given to Ukraine being properly used. Is Ukraine fighting corruption? Is Ukraine fighting the legal battle? Because those are the things upon which trust is based. Joining NATO is completely about political compatibility. Ukraine has got in some regards military compatibility, in other regards, like logistics, there is no compatibility at all. The fact that you have to take all your equipment to other countries to get it repaired is telling you that there is something wrong with the logistics system.

So the military compatibility, okay half half. But the political compatibility is weak. The ambassadors are weak. Apart from probably the Ambassador in America. And therefore, you can't create these relationships which then lead to a proper understanding of what to do to help Ukraine.

So trust is the big thing, and until trust is solid and is 100%, there is always going to be a lack of surety about what to do next to support the country. I can't make that more plain. This is difficult. This is Ukraine's major problem. There's no good just asking for things. You've actually got to create a relationship that people understand is a real relationship that is going to be enduring and go on for years. And that is not being done in lots of places at the moment.

Ukraine has a new defense minister. What do the ministers of the allied states talk to him about? What issues of logistics or domestic weapons production can they raise? Do they give comprehensive advice on how to strengthen Ukraine's defense industry?

I am 100% sure that all those things that they say are all the things that you and I've been talking about in all our interviews. I don't think there'll be anything any different because structural things are structural things. Logistics is logistics. It has to be designed. It has to be made. People have to be trained.

I'm sure that they're saying the training has got to improve. I'm sure that they're saying that structures and battle structures have got to change and be updated. All the things that people understand. It won't be any different from any of the countries at all. Еhere will be nothing new to the new defense minister. It may be new to him, which of course it will be but it won't be new to the system.

I'm sure that Zaluzhnyi has been giving lots of advice. The only thing I say and I go back to trust is I just remind you that there are no American generals or British generals really close in to the system. As far as I know they may be. But Ukraine is still not using the resources of all the retired officers that are around in the West who did the Cold War and who've been to other wars, First Gulf War, for example, that almost none of those have been asked to join in and help because the system only allows you to be a private soldier which means that intellectual capital of the West, military intellectual capital is being wasted. Which is a pity.

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