Tanks from the USA and Germany will not turn the war, T-72 with Dutch modification are more dangerous for Russia

  • The machines from Washington and Berlin carry a political message: “We are with you, we will train your army to work with Western systems”, said in an interview with “24 Chasa” the political scientist of Ukrainian origin Serhiy Petrov-Aragioni

More interview highlights:

  • Not only Bulgaria helps secretly – other countries also prefer not to announce what and how exactly it reaches Ukraine
  • It is a fact that there was no serious military conflict during Trump’s time, but he is speaking from the position of a person who will stand for election
  • Apparently, there are internal problems in the Russian army – Kadyrov and Prigozhin do not speak very flatteringly about Gerasimov
  • One type of battlefield armament cannot produce successful offensives overnight. It should be clear to people that this conflict will continue over time

– Should we have learned the obvious from Western publications – about the role of Bulgaria and its assistance to Ukraine. How do you rate this aid and the way in which it was delivered – stealthily, as they say, Mr Araggioni?

– I don’t think we learn anything from Western publications. It was clear in the public space that, in one form or another, Bulgarian ammunition and weapons were reaching Ukraine. But I wouldn’t call this so much help for the simple reason that I don’t remember a military conflict in recent decades in which Bulgarian weapons were not sold and exported. If in this case by help we understand the fear of even selling, but doing it through intermediaries, then I can agree.

But that is not the definition of aid, at least not against the backdrop of everything other countries are doing. Here I am not referring only to the large Western European countries, but other smaller countries that send from their arsenal and wartime stocks. And not only Bulgaria does it secretly – other countries also prefer to help without publicly announcing what and how exactly it reaches Ukraine.

– Germany agreed to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine. In addition to them, tanks will be sent by the USA, Great Britain and France. With these new reinforcements, will the picture of the war change in technical terms?

– There is a lot of speculation in the public space, because people sometimes do not distinguish between different types of armored vehicles. There are even discussions in certain spaces about whether the definitions should be changed, because some could also pass for light tanks. Specifically, those going to Ukraine are 14 “Challenger” from Great Britain, 14 “Leopard” from Germany and 31 from the American “Abrams”. And France is sending AMX-10s, which are not tanks though, despite some claims in the media I’ve come across. The decisions to send these tanks are much more political in nature than helping the actual tasks on the battlefield.

Much more important for what is happening at the front are the recently sent 90 T-72 tanks modified in the Netherlands. Because these are machines with a painfully familiar system of the Ukrainian army – they can be serviced, they have parts. And they have people who can manage them. That is, it is an implemented system in the Ukrainian army and can work immediately. And now she gets three other systems that are incompatible and new. This means that they do not yet have trained people to work with them, as well as to serve them. Separately, for example, the “Abrams” tanks do not use normal diesel fuel, but kerosene. Which opens up a number of questions about when we’ll actually see the new machines in action. Therefore, these decisions carry two political messages. On the one hand, they say: “We will not tire of helping you”. In addition, many were worried that most countries were running out of supplies of Soviet weaponry to send, and that aid would effectively end when those supplies ran out as well.

And the second message with the decisions to send the tanks is: “We will gradually start training the Ukrainian army to work with Western systems.” And this opens the door to endless support for Ukraine, even if the conflict continues for an extremely long time. That’s the value of these decisions to send the weapons.

In the media space, however, it is speculated that almost as soon as these tanks arrive, the course of the war will turn. Not exactly, because some of them are not suitable for this season and for this terrain in Ukraine, where they are actually most needed. We have far more policy messages here than solutions for a strong short- or medium-term result.

– Is that why claims were heard that Germany’s initial refusal was not so much due to fear of Russia’s reaction as to reluctance for this tank to enter real combat operations. In order not to turn out to be a highly praised machine, for example.

– There are always concerns, and of a different nature. One of them is that this technology can reach the enemy. This is mainly related when weapons are provided or when permission is sought from the producing country. The tank is the heaviest land vehicle that can face a military conflict. There have also been discussions in Germany and the US in which official Berlin says it will send tanks, but only if the US sends first. An expectation was even created that tanks would not be sent. And the opposite happened – both countries sent. And the information about these decisions was about ten minutes apart. That is, a clearly coordinated action between Washington and Berlin.

– And how are things actually at the front and how are the military actions developing at this moment?

– To the general audience, the situation on the battlefield seems frozen for two reasons. This is not entirely true – heavy positional shelling is taking place. On the one hand, the weather conditions at the moment are more specific. On the other hand, Russia stopped the intensity of Ukrainian military offensives. But this is due to a number of factors.

Therefore, tanks in themselves are not a panacea. In the course of the war, there was a certain type of weapon that was almost never extolled as the solution to all problems. It started with Bayraktar drones, then with howitzers, Hymars, modern air defense systems, and so on to tanks. It’s just that at certain times there is a critical need for certain things, but by themselves they do not solve a military conflict. Because for one side, the solution is the seizure of all the areas it declared as its own, and for the other – the expulsion of all Russian troops from Ukraine. And we see that there is no indication of peace talks at this stage.

In order to carry out successful offensives, very good coordination is needed between infantry, aviation, intelligence, and separately, heavy machinery is needed. One type of battlefield armament cannot produce successful offensives overnight. It should be clear to people that this conflict will continue over time. And everything that happens today with this help will have its impact further in time.

– On January 11, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed Valery Gerasimov as commander of Russian forces in Ukraine. And the previous “General Armageddon” Sergey Surovikin has been demoted as his deputy. In this way, does not the status of the commander of the troops in Ukraine increase, since Gerasimov is also the chief of the general staff of Russia?

– In practice, the commander-in-chief of the Russian forces in Ukraine is changing. This is a clear sign – no one changes the head of a certain operation if it lives up to expectations. However we interpret it, there are clearly internal problems in the Russian army. We see that the leader of the Chechens, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the head of the private military company “Wagner” – Yevgeny Prigozhin, have not very flattering statements about Gerasimov. And these are people who have their own military units in Ukraine, in a supposedly centralized army, which opens up completely different questions.

– Presidential elections are coming up in Ukraine next year. Last vote, Volodymyr Zelensky won it with 73%. Are we seeing another highly rated individual to stand out in Ukraine?

– For the outside world, only Zelensky exists. Inside Ukraine, there are other personalities who certainly increase self-confidence. Such an example is the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny. If we compare the two armies, we will see that while Russia has changed several times its model of command of the forces in Ukraine, as well as the people who command them, Zaluzhny and other people of the military staff of Ukraine have stood their ground since day one. And they are highly trusted by both the population and the political class.

Otherwise, regarding the presidential vote next year – we have to see if they will be able to organize it in Ukraine. After all, the country is in a full-scale war, and therefore the competent internal authorities must decide. And which candidates will appear and whether Zelensky will run at all depends to a large extent on the course of military operations. However, categorically, support for Zelensky is extremely high, and if he decides to run again, he will most likely win the elections.

– But isn’t the logic in such a situation for more hardline personalities to come – hardliners like the generals for example?

– The personalities themselves also change. Zelensky’s image has also evolved. If before the elections he was a smiling person, known from the television screens – kind and dialogic, now he is completely different. Zelensky himself has become tougher in people’s minds. And the decision to stay in Kyiv, rather than move to western Ukraine or go to a neighboring country, built a tougher image of him. And can someone from the military leadership be a candidate for president – they can. But then I don’t expect anyone from the military leadership and Zelensky to go head-to-head in the race. Rather, a clear decision would be made between them if Zelensky does not participate in the elections personally. This would still be a difficult scenario if Ukraine were at war, because Zelensky has established strong relationships with many political leaders, and a potential transfer would be redundant and complicated.

– In addition to Ukraine, there are also presidential elections in the USA next year. We have already seen the position of Donald Trump who said that he would end the war in 24 hours. Is this pre-election hype? And will a change of power in the US change the course of events in Ukraine?

– It is an absolutely objective fact that during Trump’s time there was no serious military conflict and there was no problem in Ukraine. And when there is a Democratic president, then the invasion of Crimea happened, and then the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But let’s not forget that Trump is speaking from the position of a man who wants to run for office and be president of the United States. In a campaign, it’s easier to say you’ll do something in 24 hours. It is different when you are president and have assumed certain responsibilities. For example, the Lend-Lease program (from English loan-rent) on the military aid, which stopped being commented on in the public space. This contract has not yet started to operate, and everything so far is a grant. A much more meaningful question would be what Trump would do with this treaty and how the whole process would proceed after he fails to stop the war in 24 hours, which he also realizes he cannot achieve.


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