Espreso. Global

Well-equipped infantry, not F-16 jets, will liberate Crimea – Colonel Grant 

27 August, 2023 Sunday

Glen Grant, a former British army colonel and a renowned military specialist, shared these insights in a conversation with Espreso TV's host Anton Borkovskyi. They discussed the strategy for entering Crimea and the adoption of new weaponry by Ukraine's Armed Forces


You are currently on a mission to Ukraine. How do you assess Ukraine's preparations in many different areas where our country must prepare for difficult autumn scenarios?

This is really challenging at the moment because I don't think there has been as much as people would like in terms of preparation. But what I do feel from discussions is that there is an understanding now in a lot of society and in government more and more that this could be a long war. And the biggest scenario in the autumn is the possibility that we don't break through. And that it just becomes a long slow flog towards the South. And that's the biggest thing. And our people preparing for that are half preparing because we need a lot more manpower and a lot more trained soldiers. If we're going to keep this fight going through the winter.

As you asked about my visit to Ukraine and the fact that I'm in Kyiv. I came here to see Finnish reserve officers, who are training Ukrainian sergeants and instructors in training area. So I had a chance to see the training area, to talk to the commander of the polygon and to see the Finnish soldiers doing the training, which was very good, very successful and very high grade. And I hope that Finland will continue to send instructors. They are volunteers, actually all of them, they're reserve officers. And this is an important thing. Some of them have been on the front line, they fought with the Legion and then they've gone home to Finland, and come back and are training Ukrainian soldiers. I was very really pleased to see that. And then yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to members of the Army staff about what I'd seen and how we can improve the training in polygon. Those are the key things that I've been doing and I will do a few more with people tomorrow.

Let's talk about a potential long war scenario. Russians may be preparing for a powerful counteroffensive in late fall.

This is complex because it depends upon how many soldiers that they can find. And what quality they can produce for them. I mean, they've got no spare soldiers now.

The front line is quite thin, even though they are attacking sort of North and around Bakhmut, there's still quite thin, much thinner than they've been before, much less artillery than they've had before. So the main thing that they are going to be able to produce is bodies, human people, meat whatever you want to call it. And if they get lots more people, which they're trying to do, I don't think that they're going to be ready by the fall. I think it's going to be much much later than that, but more towards the middle of the winter. But then what they will try and do is to use bodies to block the advance in the South and try to make more attack points in the north of the country and their aim in the North East is to pull reserves away from the South, to pull more people from the South, to defend in areas in the North East around Bakhmut and further North. And if they get enough bodies, then it's possible they could open another front line around Kharkiv and Sumy. But they don't have trained soldiers. This is the main thing, they only have bodies and that means the more Ukraine can prepare and train, the more chances they have of stopping just ordinary bodies breaking through. You're not going to see something clever from Russia, you're just going to see killing, slow and steady killing because that's all they can do at the moment.

And what is the situation with providing Ukraine with critical military assistance, especially which can hit Russian logistics centers?

If to talk about F-16 jets, nobody knows when they will appear. It is a closely guarded secret. That is not something that any special advisors or anybody else actually knows. And it's being kept secret for a good reason and the good reason is that Russia needs to be surprised when they arrived and not prepared. Because they're going to be used in a surprise and dominant fashion, and it should be kept completely quiet when that will be.

That's the first thing. As for long range missiles, they're going to come. I don't know when they're going to arrive but you will get some. I'm going to just be challenging about one thing, which is that for me, the most important thing is not just the ability to hit ammunition in the back but the ability for infantry to break through. And the most important thing with that is that infantry also need better equipment, they need more night equipment, more drone equipment, and they need more ability for indirect fire for them to break through. So the simple reason is, you cannot get to Melitopol and Crimea with F-16. You can't get to Melitopol and Crimea with long-range weapons. You can only get there with infantry. And at the moment those infantry are fighting very well on their feet but it's very bloody. So, if you want to break through to Crimea and break Russia, the infantry have to be better equipped. I know that they will be protected more from the air with F-16. That will stop Russian aircraft flying almost certainly but it won't stop drones. F-16 will not stop drones. So there needs to be more anti-drone equipment and more electronic warfare equipment against drones because you can stop the air from air. But if you don't stop the drones, the infantry are still extremely vulnerable when they're moving forward. There should be a balance in thinking and activity, a balance between the big systems and the small things that soldiers need to stay alive and to fight.

Russia is increasing production of low-tech drones in large numbers. Ukraine should also increase its drone production. In the south, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have had some success in dismantling the occupiers' defense line. What are the prospects there?

Although you say that we can take Crimea, the reality is that unless you put soldiers on the ground in Crimea, I do not see Russia giving it up. Even if the Kerch bridge is blown. They will just use ships and try to bring supplies across by boats, ships and otherwise because this is really important for Putin. The soldiers on Crimea may give up. But Russia itself is not going to give up Crimea until it is driven out of Crimea completely. And that means you've got to put soldiers in there.

Yesterday we saw the first attack by someone. Whether that was GUR or whether that was Marines, I don't know. But the first people onto Crimea and actually did some destruction. Hopefully, there will be more attacks like this because this is the sort of thing that creates tension inside Moscow. And it's that tension inside Moscow that is needed to put uncertainty in and around Putin's entourage. Because the more uncertainty there is about what is going to happen, the more likelihood there is that there will be a regime change inside Moscow. Uncertainty is the big killer for them.

We've still got to get feet on the ground in Crimea. There's no question about that. But you're right until you get Crimea, then there is always going to be the problem with grain and with the ports in Odesa and everything else. There's no security of supply for Ukraine from the Black Sea without owning Crimea and that's important. But what Russia will try to do is to slow everything in the South by putting as much of an attack in the North East as possible. This is going to be a balance of nerves for the General Staff to make sure that they don't stop doing what they need to do in the South. And that means you may have to lose some ground in the North but the South is more important at the moment.

Recently, Admiral Sir Anthony Radakin, the UK Chief of Defence Staff, visited Ukraine. What did he bring to Ukraine or what did he come to talk about?

The first important thing is always how the war is going, because Britain wants to be clear, what's happening and especially what is happening with the aid and the systems that Britain has already provided. Because as you know, recently we provided Chieftain tanks. And also AS 90 guns which are a truly wonderful piece of equipment. And I know that they have been in action already in several places. So he's going to want to know about that. Then he's going to want to know from Zaluzhnyi what is required next? What equipment is required? What support is required? I mean Britain has now trained 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers, which is a huge amount of work in Great Britain. And a large amount of the Army is involved in training Ukrainian soldiers and especially recently as we know, they've been training marines and the marine training is quite long and involved, so that's been important. And the last thing from the British Chief of Defense is he's going to want to assure Zaluzhnyi that Britain is going to stay in the battle. That Britain is not about to run away. I don't hear any whispers that Britain is getting tired. I think we understand the problems with corruption. We understand the problems with training and things like not having enough ammunition. Britain will do its bit to keep going with supporting Ukraine as long as it is needed. And there is cross-party support in Parliament for this. This is not just one party. This is both sides. All sides of the houses of Parliament and the House of Lords, the senior house, are all very positive about supporting Ukraine. So those would have been his, his main messages.

How massive can missile and air attacks be in the fall? Do you have any guesses as to how the Russians will act? How can they use the resources they have gathered?

Their aim is to create terror, you know this. They also understand that the defense now of Kyiv is quite strong. What they will be looking to do and what their spies inside Ukraine will be looking for is what are the weak areas? Which are the cities that do not have such good air defense? And I think that as autumn and you come into winter and they use their weapons, they will be looking to spread the terror as widely as possible. Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro have had a hard time. But they will look at other towns that they haven't yet really attacked and try to do that.

Last year we had electricity and they concentrated on power. My suspicion is that when the winter comes and starts getting cold, they will start concentrating on power again. But until then, it's going to be as it is now that the evil things will attack schools, hotels, hospitals into autumn and then back to the power scenario.

How do you think the Ukrainian military should act when they strike at the enemy's military infrastructure? What are Russians most afraid of in today's circumstances? And what are our allies in Washington, Brussels, and Berlin afraid of, as they have been delaying the issue of air power for so long?

There are a lot of questions in there that need to be unpacked.

The first thing that I feel about attacking Russia is that you've got to make value with the attacks. If you just kill one aircraft, there's no value in that. That's a tactical attack. And if you're going to fly a drone to Russia, it makes no sense to make a tactical attack on just one aircraft. It doesn't shape the battle at all. Russia still has got hundreds of aircraft still that it hasn't actually deployed. What is far more important in terms of dealing with Russia is to do things like close down the civilian airfields. We've already seen that. If you actually start attacking civilian airfields, anywhere, then all the airlines have to stop flying. That would have a significant effect on Russia. You only need to close down three or four important places over the border that we can reach with drones, and the whole of the international support for flying aircraft in and out of Russia will change dramatically. That will have a huge effect. So there needs to be a stronger focus of understanding what is the effect that we want from actually flying a drone somewhere. If you just hit a building, okay, this a bit of terror in there but it probably hardens people, they actually think we want to kill Ukrainians more. What you have to do is to destroy the business, to destroy the way of life. Which is much more important than actually just killing one or two small individual things.

What are Washington, Brussels and Berlin afraid of? In the first instances, they were afraid of a nuclear attack. I think those days have gone and people realize that it will be extremely foolish of Putin to do anything nuclear, that was liable to have a greater effect upon all his oligarchs and their families who are living in Europe and in America. He can't afford to mess them up. The nuclear option is a stupid option because tactical nuclear weapons are not going to change the battlefield that much. Because they're not designed for that. They're never really were.

And a strategic nuclear weapon. Well, that changes everything in the world and I can't imagine that countries like Brazil, China, South Africa, and India in BRICS would want to see a nuclear exchange between people. The world is not ready for that and they are not ready for that, and they will have told Russia and Putin so. I think that option has gone. What else?

I think that America is more frightened about what comes next than it is about nuclear. So what comes next? If Russia breaks up, will we see eight countries with nuclear weapons? Will we see eight or nine different centers of people that we have to deal with? Personally I think this is stupid because we already saw that the Central Asian states have actually brought stability to the Central Asian region. And this would be the same if Russia actually broke up, you would see stability across the region from many of those countries because they would actually want a relationship with the West, not fighting the West, but a proper relationship.

So, the fears of America of Russia breaking up are unfounded. We would get a better deal than we get at the moment. But the trouble is America is a long way away from Europe. And maybe they don't have the touch of feeling about what is going on that many of the people in Europe, the Baltic states and Ukraine have about the future.

What in your opinion will happen in the Russian command after the death of Prigozhin and other Wagnerians?

Whatever happens now, there is no Prigozhin. He is either dead or he's alive and if he's alive, we're not going to see him again. Because I don't think he is alive, but if he is alive, he's got to keep a low profile, spend his money and probably live in Africa somewhere because he cannot appear back in Russia, as there are too many people who would now want to kill him. I don't think that Wagner is going to easily fall under the military. They were never easy with the military before. The military don't really even like them because they are better soldiers in some ways, they're stronger, they're nastier, and they don't have military discipline in the same way, they were loyal to Prigozhin and his bosses. We are about to see something happen with Wagner group. From what I read today, some of the Wagner group have already said publicly that they want revenge. If Prigozhin has been killed, then they want to do something. We may have an interesting few days coming from Wagner group.

But to go back to Shoigu and Gerasimov, they are a pair of Mickey Mouse officers. Neither of them is really a military officer of quality. Shoigu is not not a military officer at all, even if he wears a general's uniform. So we're actually looking at two people who are fighting for their survival. What is amazing is that Putin has kept them but it just shows that Putin values loyalty much more than he values performance. These two have managed to survive being really awful, which they are. They are really awful in their roles, but they've survived. And I think if they've survived this long, they're going to survive a bit longer. But you can only fail for so long, and at some stage people around Putin are going to start saying this is not good enough. We're fighting a war. We're losing lots of people. They don't care about the people, but it's an argument. We are losing money and it's the money argument that people are going to be unhappy with.

So we're going to have to see who takes over Wagner, what Wagner soldiers do? What Shoigu and Gerasimov are going to try and do to control Wagner? The next two weeks could be really interesting for all of us to watch.

Thank you Mr. Colonel for this analysis. God save the King and Glory to Ukraine.

Thank you. God save the King and Glory to Heroes and the strongest support for them that we can possibly give while they keep fighting in these dangerous and really difficult times for them.

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