Sleepwalking into Escalation — Global Issues

Nuclear experts warn that ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons can cause terrible death tolls and devastation. This photo shows war damage in Borodianka, Kyiv Oblast. Credit: Oleksandr Ratushniak / UNDP Ukraine
  • Opinion by Helmut W. Ganser (Hamburg, Germany)
  • Associated Press Service

Perhaps, in the ensuing course of the war, the numbers mentioned so far will not suffice; The decision to supply tanks immediately sparked an international debate about supplying fighter aircraft.

We are also listening initial call for NATO troops to be deployed to Ukraine as a ‘deterrence’, which meant that NATO was drawn into the war. However, the discussion of goals in the Ukraine war should not be overshadowed, even if the clarification of these goals leads to bitter disputes both within and between NATO states. There is too much risk.

The US and German governments indicated that they wanted to allow Ukraine to keep the front line they have fought so far and liberate more areas whenever possible. All occupied territory, including Crimea, is likely to be recaptured through a strategic approach with protracted negotiations under the pressure of overwhelming Western sanctions packages.

This goal comes with a larger demand that Ukraine be able to recapture all of its territory through military counter-attacks, which the Ukrainian leadership also claims. The serious risks of escalation associated with this must be analyzed thoroughly, much of which has been covered in the discussions so far.

The fog of war prevents us from predicting how things will turn out. All professional military policy experts know that their analyzes, assessments and forecasts are clouded by this; There are always frictions and surprises. However, considering different scenarios can help us refine our assessments of what might happen.

We will try to assess the potential impact of the delivery of new tanks to Ukraine, using two scenarios projected until early summer 2023. In both scenarios, it is assumed that the military Ukraine will gradually receive about 100 Western battle tanks, mostly of the Leopard model, and about 100 mainly German and American infantry vehicles by the early summer of 2023.

The 31 previously promised M1 Abrams tanks are unlikely to be delivered at this time. Two tank battalion and two battalions of tank grenade launchers – the equivalent of a brigade – will be equipped with the new heavy weapons systems by early summer under both scenarios.

Another assumption is that the widely anticipated Russian spring offensive, targeting the Luhansk or Donetsk regions, will begin around the end of February or March. Very few Western combat vehicles and infantry, if any, are capable of being used in what is believed to be very intense battles with heavy casualties.

There are some uncertain assumptions that Ukraine’s more mobile and professional defenses can block larger operational interests from key Russian units. These two scenarios will play out in the early summer after the Ukrainian army receives tanks from the West.

By the end of spring, it was clear that the Ukrainian army intended to push southwards from the area east and southeast of Zaporizhzhia. The goal was to advance about 100 kilometers to the Sea of ​​Azov and cut off the Russian army south of the Dnieper and above all to prevent Crimea from resupplying over the land bridge.

The terrain in this area was mostly flat and open – very favorable for tanks – and, with the exception of the town of Melitopol, was dotted with only small villages. In the early summer of 2023, Ukraine made bold strides south in favorable weather, targeting the Azov coast.

This led to the first major tank battle of the war, in which German Leopards and Marders were deployed at the front, as well as American Bradleys and Strikers. With better armor, agility, and weapon effects, they will clearly prevail in a head-to-head battle.

However, Ukrainian commanders struggled to master the intricacies of mixed-armed combat, in which battle tanks, armored infantry vehicles with tank grenades, artillery, commandos and air cover do not have to work closely together to achieve full impact power. Russian heavy infantry and tank forces against advancing units.

The Ukrainian counterattack progressed for about 30 kilometers but was then mired in massive defensive fire, after Russian motorized units successfully pushed into the flanks of the Ukrainian tank formation, endangering the Ukrainian army. jeopardize their supplies. The loss of troops and material was seriously high for both sides.

Photos of the destroyed Leopard tank flooded the internet. German TV channels and online media increasingly draw parallels with historical footage of German tanks during World War II in the same area.

From a political and strategic perspective, war of attrition was reinforced in this scenario, despite the tactical interests of both sides. Russia still controls about 10-12% of Ukraine’s territory.

The depletion of weapons systems, spare parts and ammunition by the German and American militaries is increasingly reducing the ability and persistence of NATO forces on both sides of the Atlantic.

As production capacity remains limited, there is growing support for a deal between the US, Ukraine and Russia to end the war. In Ukraine, heavy damage is affecting more and more families, leading to political demands for a ceasefire. Opposition politicians demanded that their presidents disclose the actual damage done since the war began.

Scenario 2 is similar to scenario 1 until the counterattack of the Ukrainian army from the eastern region of Zaporizhzhia. But in this scenario, operations are underway according to the plan of the General Staff of Ukraine. Kiev has deployed forces equipped with Western tanks and infantry vehicles into the heart of the battlefield.

With the superior firepower, armor and agility of the Leopard 2 tanks, they reached the intermediate targets northeast of Melitopol in a few days. Leadership, combat power, and motivation once again proved weak in the Russian ranks, while the Ukrainian army’s mixed-weapon combat command was better than initially anticipated. Western military experts.

The spearheads of leopards reach villages just offshore, facing Crimea. As the Ukrainians advanced, US-made HIMARS missiles destroyed the new Russian bridge near Kerch in several places, making it impossible to resupply Crimea. Russia responded with the heaviest air raid ever launched on Kyiv, with many casualties reported and power supplies destroyed.

The Russian President issued a brief statement after a phased press conference with his General Staff. First, Putin stated that the Russian Federation now considers the NATO countries that supply Ukraine with heavy weapons as direct opponents in the war, regardless of every little detail in international law.

The ongoing assault on Russian-occupied Crimea is possible only with the mass participation of Western nations. War has now given an existential dimension to the Russian Federation. As for Russia, the entire war zone has now extended to the territory of the Western countries that support Ukraine.

He refrained from verbal warnings about nuclear war because his earlier threats were not taken seriously. Putin said he has ordered the Defense Minister and the General Staff to supply some nuclear-capable missile forces with nuclear warheads stored in depots.

If the blockade of supplies to Crimea via land bridge is not lifted, Russia will have to use force through its tactical nuclear weapons. Russian bloggers report that the course of the war has brought unity to the Kremlin leaders and only made them more determined to overcome it, but this cannot be verified.

A few hours later, American satellites captured the Russian convoy starting its journey from the nuclear arsenal to the area where the nuclear missile battalion was deployed. This secret intelligence becomes public around the world.

In an unexpected turn of events, China announced its largest-ever naval mobilization in the Taiwan Strait. Its first fleet of warships has set sail. The United States and its NATO partners are now on the verge of a nuclear confrontation that escalates faster than many realize, with unimaginable consequences for all of Europe.

Western governments, the NATO Council and the Military Commission, as well as the United Nations Security Council, meet daily. Commentators cannot help but compare it to the height of the Cuban crisis. But NATO leaders clash over their assessment of the situation and approach. In Berlin, huge protests were organized calling for an immediate end to the war, with the slogan ‘Stop the madness’.

Of course, more optimistic scenarios can also be envisioned in which the Kremlin returns Crimea without nuclear escalation. The great powers, including those in Berlin, Washington, and Paris, have so far remained steadfast in their goal of not entering the gray zone of direct involvement in the war.

But the danger of slowly and unintentionally sleepwalking into what would be the greatest catastrophe for all of Europe is growing. Unexpected turns (sometimes called ) black Swan or wild card) can also create volatile developments that are potentially extremely difficult to control and prevent.

As more German tanks were sent to Ukraine, the more Germany’s responsibility for the course of the war – and its consequences – increased and ultimately the right and need to influence the leadership in Kiev.

Helmut W. GanserBrigadier General (retd), a graduate psychologist and political scientist, served as Deputy Head of the Department of Military Policy at the Ministry of Defense in Berlin, lecturer in strategy at the Command College and the German Armed Forces Staff and military policy advisor to the Permanent Representative of Germany to NATO and the United Nations.

Source: International politics and society (IPS)-Journals published by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s International Political Analysis Unit, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service


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