Ramstein and the forgotten lessons of the past

Alexander Gusev,
Doctor of political sciences, professor

On January 20 this year, representatives of fifty countries of the anti-Russian coalition gathered at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, to discuss a plan to begin full-scale military operations against our country. No doubt, the participants of the meeting could call themselves an "advisory group" or a "Western partnership"; the essence of the decisions they made did not change. In fact, the participants in this gathering unequivocally declared that the West was waging a full-scale war against Russia.[1]

Moreover, immediately after the "Ramstein meetings" the head of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, confirmed that the alliance was ready for a direct confrontation with Russia, as its strategic goals extended beyond Ukraine. It is, therefore, no coincidence that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, following talks with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor on 23 January this year, noted that the Ramstein meeting showed that the West is waging an almost real war against Russia, which it has long prepared, seeking to destroy everything Russian — from language to culture — in Ukraine.[2]

As if to confirm this, opening the meeting in Ramstein, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin pathosously declared that "this is a turning point for Ukraine in the conflict with Russia, so now is not the time to stop. We need to dig deeper because the Ukrainians are looking at us, the Kremlin is looking at us and history is looking at us. The US Defence Secretary also once again added that the US and European partners would support Ukraine "as long as it takes." In this regard, plans to increase production of weapons and ammunition for both Ukraine and the armies of donor countries were announced. The outcome of the meeting was a large package of US military aid for the Kiev authorities at an estimated cost of 2.5 billion dollars. The package included in particular 59 Bradley BMPs with 590 TOW anti-tank missiles, 295 thousand ammunition, 90 Stryker armored personnel carriers with 20 mine rollers, 53 MRAP armored personnel carriers and 350 HMMWV high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, and now also 31 M1 Abrams tanks, which the Americans plan to ship to Ukraine in the next three to four months.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke by video link, was not satisfied with such a "meagre aid package", and he demanded that the Western partners expand supplies of weapons and equipment, expressing hope that in addition to tanks, artillery and air defence equipment, the "partners" would also supply F-16 fighters and long-range missiles for a possible attack on Crimea. Even a submarine was requested, but so far the planes, submarines and missiles seem to have been denied.

Either the West could not withstand "Zelensky's onslaught" or the US and its partners were really so afraid of active actions of the Russian armed forces, but after the "sit-down" in Ramstein, they still decided to allocate additional "tank" aid to the Nezalezhnaya.

As a result, the analysis of military supplies shows that in the near future the Kiev authorities may be armed with four new types of tanks - American Abrams, German Leopard-2, British Challenger-2 and probably French Leclerc, i.e. all modern representatives of the Western school of tank building may appear in the "Ukrainian military assortment", except maybe Italian C1 Ariete, but it is also possible.

According to Colonel General Andrei Kartopolov, head of the Russian State Duma Defence Committee, the supply of modern Western tanks should certainly be seen as a serious help to the AFU, but no more than that. According to him, "Leopards are not bad tanks, I would even say that they are more efficient than Abrams tanks in terms of some characteristics, but if we compare them with our T-90M tanks, they are significantly inferior in firepower and armour protection. Besides, our tanks have already been tested during air defense, but how the western tanks will behave in the battle is not known. According to Andrei Kartopolov, the danger for Russia is not the supply of tanks themselves to the battlefield, but the possible formation of formations from them."[3]

Kiev does have such plans. A new brigade equipped exclusively with Western armoured vehicles is currently being formed in Poltava Region. According to Western analysts, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are planning to form two or three strike corps by the summer, which means that the Russian army will now have to deal with a combined North Atlantic bloc army.[4]

Meanwhile, the British publication The Spectator expressed hope that this could be a tipping point in the military operation in Kiev's favour. However, most military analysts are confident that deliveries of Western tanks to Ukraine will not change anything. Thus, according to British Vice Marshal Sean Bell, British Challenger-2s may prove useless for the Ukrainian Armed Forces because of the large amount of electronics, while according to US Marine Corps officer Scott Ritter, the Russian army will not have much trouble destroying tanks of Western countries in the process of their delivery to Ukraine.

If Western heavy military equipment reaches its deployment sites, however, three possible scenarios can be envisaged:

The first scenario assumes a situation where 40–50 tanks supplied by Poland would end up in the conflict zone. In this situation, there is no talk of a breakthrough character, which would be ensured by deliveries of Western heavy armaments. Polish-made RT-91 Twardy tanks are considerably inferior to Russian tanks and, moreover, have so far not proved to be anything special. An armored group of 40–50 tanks is unlikely to affect the situation in an operational sense.

The second scenario: deliveries of Western-made heavy armament and tanks will take place within the next three-four weeks. The total number is 120–150 units. We are talking about German deliveries of Leopard-2 tanks. Most likely, according to experts, the Russian army will stir up all this heavy weaponry, but the task is certainly not easy.

The third scenario - according to the Ukrainian ambassador to France, Vadym Omelchenko, 12 Western coalition countries have informed Kiev about deliveries of tanks, officially confirming the possible transfer of 321 heavy tanks to the war zone. However, the timing of deliveries varies. While Germany and Great Britain are ready to deliver 14 Leopard-2 and Challenger-2 tanks each in the very near future, the Americans, represented by President Joe Biden, have said that the United States is ready to deliver 31 M1 Abrams tanks, but only in late summer/early autumn, and probably not until the end of this year. Such an arrangement clearly does not suit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In his words, "it will be too late!". At the same time, the Kiev leadership certainly understands that it takes time, which Zelensky simply does not have, to move tanks, maintain them, solve logistics issues, train soldiers and, as a result, form full-fledged tank brigades.

Therefore, under the third scenario, Ukraine is unlikely to be able to solve all the problems arising with the introduction of large tank units into the conflict zone in a short time. As for the Russian armed forces, we can assume that they will not wait for Nezalezhnaya to form its tank brigades and train the command staff, but will try to disable the heavy equipment in advance and purposefully at the supply stage. A ship with 60 Bradley BMPs for the AFU is now on its way to the Atlantic. If it is possible to blow up Russian gas pipelines at sea, is it possible to help a chartered ship with military equipment that will kill our soldiers to sink? - asks a difficult question of a Russian expert. The question is indeed a strategic one. But such a question does not arise once this equipment is on the first kilometre of Ukrainian territory.

In conclusion, I would like to remind the strategists in Kiev and their western curators that there are more than 20 thousand tanks in the arsenal of the Russian armed forces today, and also not to forget the lessons of the past - the outcome of the biggest tank battle of the Second World War at the Kursk Bulge, the 80th anniversary of which Russia will celebrate in July 2023.


Source: interaffairs.ru. Translated with DeepL.com. Image: Ramstein Air Base, Germany, January 20, 2023. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay. AWIP: http://www.a-w-i-p.com/index.php/aM5t

[1] West launches operation "Barbarossa-2" against Russia on 21.01.2023. Электронный ресурс: https://ria.ru/20230121/zapad-1846366533.html

[2] Lavrov stated that Russia is no longer fighting a hybrid war with the West 23.01.2023. Электронный ресурс: https://ria.ru/20230123/rossiya-1846778090.html

[3] Kartapolov explained no need to change the status of special operation 26.01.2023. Electronic resource: https://www.rbc.ru/politics/26/01/2023/63d23f159a79472099medium=desktop

[4] Crossed red lines. What will follow the transfer of tanks to Ukraine on 26.01.2023. Электронный ресурс: https://ria.ru/20230126/leopardy-1847413989.html


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