Gressel on the course of the war: "Putin will try to soften the West"

The military expert Gustav Gressel sees signs "that the Russian army is on its last legs when it comes to precision distance guided missiles".

Gressel on the course of the war: "Putin will try to soften the West"

The military expert Gustav Gressel sees signs "that the Russian army is on its last legs when it comes to precision distance guided missiles". The failures are also critical for main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery. "All in all, I would estimate that Russia could run out of material from the fall," says Gressel in an interview with "However, the looming shortage of personnel is the bigger problem for the Russian army."

From Gressel's point of view, German support for Ukraine is not enough. "Scholz always only reacts to pressure: to pressure from the Americans, NATO allies, the EU and coalition partners." This hesitation will be held against Germany "for years and probably decades". In the USA there is a debate about the war aims; The New York Times has asked US President Biden to make it clear to Ukrainian President Zelensky that there is a limit to support. How long do you think the West will sustain support for Ukraine?

Gustav Gressel: This support will probably last longer in the USA and Great Britain than in Germany and France, where it is not available to any relevant extent anyway. If you look at the way the US Congress voted on the military support packages for Ukraine, I think the US will stick with this for a while. After the messed up wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is something for the US to pick up morally from.

In what way?

As is well known, the USA started the Iraq war on the basis of deliberate misinformation. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the war in Afghanistan had a legitimate reason, but then went completely wrong. In the Ukraine war, the US is on the right side of history, it is a legitimate war and there is a chance of success. In a way, this war represents a moral course correction. It's similar in Britain, where there are strong domestic reasons for supporting Ukraine. That's why I don't think the support will be gone anytime soon.

Are enough arms arriving in Ukraine for it to continue its struggle?

Recently, there was frequent talk of the inability of the Russian army to attack the supply movements from the west. This has not changed, Russian reconnaissance activity is still weak.


What you find in the phone book can be attacked even without information from the secret service. Ammunition manufacturers, producers of anti-tank guided missiles, companies involved in the maintenance and modernization of combat vehicles - they are all in the telephone book. In recent months, the Russians have systematically destroyed the Ukrainian defense industry. As a result, Ukraine is now much more dependent on Western support than before the war. In the Donbass war from 2014, Ukraine was still able to manufacture most of the weapons itself. This is no longer the case.

Does Ukraine get enough weapons from the West?

To some extent, the West still behaves too little with foresight. In Germany in particular, the discussion was long dominated by the question of what Ukraine could need in the next two weeks. But if this war drags on into the fall, probably into next year, then you have to plan ahead. There are rumors that Ukrainians are now being trained on American Patriots. That would be a sign that the US is finally thinking longer term.

Why is training on this anti-aircraft system a sign of long-term planning?

If the war drags on, the Ukrainians will run out of large anti-aircraft missiles by the summer. That's why it's high time to give the Ukrainians something in this class - even if the Patriots are not ideal in my opinion.

Why not?

It is a very cumbersome system that requires a lot of training and is expensive to operate. Also, it's not very mobile. But since the German IRIS-T SLM air defense system is not available, it is probably the only chance to supply the Ukrainians with such devices.

The German system would be more suitable?

The IRIS-T SLM has a shorter range than the Patriots, but it's more mobile, making it better suited for Ukraine. The Russians can detect the Ukrainian radar positions and then attack them. That's why the Ukrainians always shoot only one defensive battle from one position. After that, they turn off the radar, move their equipment to another location, and wait for the Russians to fly the next mission. For this you need mobile devices if possible. Therefore, the IRIS-T SLM would be a very good weapon for the Ukrainians. But it is made in Germany and is therefore not available.

Why not?

You have to ask Olaf Scholz that.

What's your explanation?

The IRIS-T SLM are produced by the armaments company Diehl Defense for export, most recently a tranche was delivered to Egypt in April. The manufacturer is bound by the delivery contracts. In these contracts, however, there is a clause for national needs. So the federal government would have to step in and say: We'll register a need for this device, we'll requisition it and give it to Ukraine. But that doesn't happen.

Friedrich Merz said in the Bundestag last week that "virtually nothing in the way of weapons has been delivered from Germany in recent weeks." Is that correct?

Ukrainian soldiers are currently being trained to use the Panzerhaubitze 2000, and some ammunition is being scraped together to be able to deliver the Gepard anti-aircraft tank. What could be delivered quickly has been delivered. But Ukraine, for example, wants to buy Leopard 1 and Marder tanks in Germany. As far as I know from the manufacturer, he is waiting for the okay from the federal government. Approval has been granted for the cheetahs, so it is unclear how long it will take the manufacturer to fix the vehicles.

Exactly where the problem is is difficult to assess from the outside. But what makes me a bit suspicious is the shifting of responsibility back and forth - both within the federal government and between politicians and manufacturers. In my opinion, with clear planning it would be possible to streamline the processes. For example, the training of Ukrainians could run parallel to the repair of the equipment, because the Ukrainian troops must also be able to repair the tanks. You can explain to them how the thing works.

CDU defense expert Roderich Kiesewetter says "the chancellor doesn't want Ukraine to win this war." Is that an understandable assessment for you?

Scholz says Ukraine must not lose the war, but his commitment and enthusiasm appear to be limited. That applies to his excuses, some of which are cheap, as to why he still hasn't been to Kyiv, but also to the arms deliveries. Scholz only ever reacts to pressure: to pressure from the Americans, NATO allies, the EU and coalition partners. To a certain extent you can understand that, because there is a lot of rumbling in the SPD. For a large part of the SPD, what is happening now is an unparalleled breach of taboo. But a chancellor must be able to break ideological taboos in his party.

In addition, Germany has been demanding for years that Europe assume greater responsibility for its own security. Measured against this, the federal government is far from doing enough. This hesitancy will be held against us for years and probably decades when it comes to other European decisions.

We have already talked about the personnel problems that the Russian army will face in the fall. Does Russia also have problems with the supply of material?

These problems exist in certain classes of ammunition. A few days ago Russia destroyed a cultural center in the Kharkiv region. Footage of the attack has been circulating online, suggesting that a Ch-22 cruise missile was used. The Ch-22 dates back to the 1960s and was actually designed to attack ship targets; in land attacks it can only hit large, prominent buildings because the radar sensor says otherwise. Munitions normally used against ships were also used in attacks on Odessa and in some attacks on Ukraine's defense industry. All of this indicates that the Russian army is on its last legs when it comes to precision standoff missiles. Attacks in the depths of Ukraine, on substations and fuel depots, have also decreased somewhat in recent weeks. Don't praise the day before the evening: it could be that the Russian army is just evaluating what has been hit so far. But it could also be that a critical ammunition stock is slowly being reached. In the case of main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery, the failures for the Russian army are also critical. On paper, Russia has an enormous inventory - theoretically 10,000 main battle tanks. But the same applies here as for the German martens: some of them are in poor condition and first have to be repaired.

Overall, I would estimate that Russia could be running into a shortage of material starting in the fall. However, the looming shortage of personnel is the bigger problem for the Russian army.

Couldn't Putin call for general mobilization and send conscripts to war?

He could do that, but that would trigger a much greater social impact. At the moment, volunteers are fighting in Ukraine. When he sends conscripts to war, there are deaths across all walks of life. That would put Putin at risk of changing the mood. He would also risk the US ramping up its involvement again. There is still some material in the USA that could be delivered to Ukraine: M109 self-propelled howitzers, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, M1 Abrahams main battle tanks. If all gloves fall and the Ukrainians manage to field 700,000 to 1 million men, even with a mobilization strength of 1.8 million men, Russia will not be in a position to secure victory. Then Ukraine won't be able to win back its lost territory, but the Russians could only buy themselves further successes at horrendous losses. Does Putin really do that? I dont know. In any case, there is no longer a path that leads to certain success.

How do you think things will continue?

In my view, Putin will continue the offensive as long as possible, probably into late summer. Then he will see if he can soften the West - if he can enlist Western advocates to force Ukraine into an immediate ceasefire before she is mobile and powerful enough to launch successful counteroffensives. However, I cannot imagine that the USA will play along, for the reasons mentioned. But the Russian calculation should look something like this.

Hubertus Volmer spoke to Gustav Gressel