The USA, Great Britain, Germany and other European countries want to supply battle tanks to Ukraine. But it will be months before then. Is Putin using the leave for an early spring offensive and what might that look like? A Russia expert explains.
Stefan Meister, head of the Center for Order and Governance in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) considers an early spring offensive “very likely”, as he explains to FOCUS online. “It could also come on the anniversary of the war.” So on February 24th.
“There could be a sham attack from Belarus to tie down Ukrainian troops, and then it will mainly be about gaining ground in the Donbas and on the Crimean bridge,” Meister outlines a possible scenario. “These are the two regions where Russia could advance, with or without an attack from Belarus.”
But after the military defeats at the end of 2022, is Russia even in a position to launch such a major offensive? “Russia can still go on such an offensive,” Meister is convinced. “They’re going to throw everything in and bring freshly trained recruits into this offensive.” This will be preceded by massive bombardments of the contact line, according to Meister.
In the Ukraine, however, there are already calls for Western fighter jets and German submarines have apparently also aroused greed. “That was to be expected and we should have had such a debate long ago,” clarifies Russia expert Meister. At the moment, however, Meister considers it rather unlikely that these wishes will be granted.
According to him, it would be a big step in a further escalation. “Ukraine could attack Russia in a completely different way and would actually have the chance to reconquer areas.” But this also increases the risk that the war could spread to Russian territory.
In view of all this, the policy of the federal government appears more and more piecemeal. “There still seems to be no preparation in the federal government for the further course and possible scenarios of the war,” emphasizes Meister. “At least so far, ad hoc action has been taken, rather slowing down than taking precautions.”
For the resigned Defense Minister Lambrecht, Meister attributes loyalty to Chancellor Scholz as a core competence rather than getting the Bundeswehr procurement system under control. “This is so bureaucratic and blocks itself that it still takes a long time before new armaments are ordered,” says Meister.
It will take months, sometimes years, for new material to come out. Meister warns: “Germany can only be defended to a limited extent and the lack of planning and orders together with the transfer of weapons to Ukraine is weakening the Bundeswehr.” At the same time, the best insurance for Germany at the moment is to equip Ukraine well and keep it defensible.