Security expert: Germany has wasted valuable time holding back battle tanks
Germany's stalling in terms of whether to send Ukraine main battle tanks is highly political as the ruling SPD has a lot of voters, especially in the former GDR, sporting a more positive attitude toward Russia than others parties, security expert Martin Hurt said on Vikerraadio.
"Germany has been reluctant to export its tanks, less so send them east to be used against Moscow. It is an unloved narrative. Especially in former East Germany that has a lot of SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany of Chancellor Olaf Scholz– ed.) supporters and voters who tend to take a more positive view of Russia than those of other political forces," Hurt suggested.
The analyst said that the matter is political in Germany, and while there is will to support Ukraine, it is weighed against other aspects. For example, Russia's potential reaction.
"But Germany, like many others countries, has lost a lot of valuable time. We could recently read in the media the realization of German military contractors in terms of how many tanks are in storage and how long it would take to get them battle-ready – to suggest that a lot of precious time has already been lost."
Asked about the message this haggling over tanks sends to Russia, Hurt said it is hardly positive from where we're standing.
"That is precisely their hope – for allies to fail to agree. And demonstrate weakness. The other aspect is NATO members wondering to what extent they can trust major allies in times of crisis. Whereas political will is one thing, while military capability is another. Everyone is slightly worried.
That said, it bears keeping in mind that the U.S. was in no rush to pledge main battle tanks either, Hurt remarked.
"We are gradually inching closer to it. USA and the U.K. have given Ukraine a lot of military and economic aid. These aspects matter more. It is becoming apparent who the major and minor sponsors are."
The expert said that Putin's claim, according to which Russia can produce more arms in a year than the Western countries combined, is both true and false.
"This [statement] includes a good dose of propaganda and is largely aimed at the domestic audience. On the other hand, Russia's production capacity is considerable. Talking about munitions, Russia really can match or even outperform the West.
Hurt said that it pays to recall where Western armed forces have been active in the last 20 years.
"Unfortunately, it's countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other smaller hot spots, which has required fewer weapons and munitions and caused the defense industry to contract. However, increased demand will see defense companies invest, hire new people and set up new production lines in the conditions of capitalism. Countries are also hiking defense spending. We will see the West's military capacity start to grow again. However, we have to support Ukraine with what we've got today, and it will have an impact on NATO's own defensive capacity.
Talking about training Ukrainian soldiers to use [Western] main battle tanks, Hurt suggested this could start before the decision to supply them is made.
"The training will be handled in cooperation between Western powers and take place largely in Poland, but also Germany and France. The training mechanism and apparatus are quite carefully thought out and coordinated, and quality has improved in time," Hurt said.
The expert warned against excess optimism, however, as the Russian leadership has surely also learned lessons and drawn conclusions in the last year.
"Sometimes the wrong ones, but sometimes quite on the money. Not everything they're doing is foolish," Hurt admitted. "Russia is a dictatorship and they're careful about the information they feed the president. It is believed Putin does not use the internet or a smartphone himself. The information that reaches him comes through tightly controlled channels. One aim of this is keeping the system from falling apart. But it also means that the president does not have the full picture," the expert remarked. "That said, we need to realize that he gets signals from here and there, meaning that we cannot claim he is cut off from what's really happening."
Hurt believes Russia will see new waves of mobilization as its standards differ from those of the West.
"The Western mode of thinking is that a soldier needs moths of training to learn how to survive the battlefield. In Russia, ordinary criminals are sent to the front, sometimes without weapons, with the sole aim of forcing Ukrainians to waste munitions on killing them. They're different standards. Even in Estonia, we cannot always understand why Russia is doing some of these things. But Russia has a big enough population to have mobilization resources," Martin Hurt said.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski