In terms of arms deliveries, the federal government is coming under increasing pressure. Inspector General Eberhard Zorn spoke to FOCUS about the situation in Ukraine and how deliveries can continue in the future.
The voices in the capital are getting louder that Germany should deliver more heavy weapons to Ukraine. Inspector General Eberhard Zorn takes a critical view of these demands and urges caution: “My advice is really to acknowledge our figures: we need everything that we give back. And that doesn’t happen overnight,” he warned in an interview with the Berlin news magazine FOCUS.
Putin only understands one language, “that is that of power. For an effective deterrent, we need the appropriate forces. Our partners are counting on us.” Zorn is a four-star general and the top soldier in the Bundeswehr. His assessments also carry weight in the Chancellery.
The major conference of the armed forces in Berlin begins this Thursday, at which the subject of arms deliveries will also be at the center of public interest. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and Chancellor Olaf Scholz will provide an interim assessment of the special fund and “turning point”, which is quite positive for Inspector General Zorn: “We are on the right track.”
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In addition, a lot of material has already been delivered to the Ukraine, Zorn assured: “The list is considerable, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Together with the Dutch, we equipped an entire Ukrainian battalion with the Panzerhaubitze 2000. Added to this is the MLRS multiple rocket launcher. Both came from our own stocks.”
The general continued: “The last of the 30 cheetahs have just been handed over to the Ukrainians. In addition, we have supplied countless vehicles, ammunition and equipment. With IRIS-T we are sending a missile defense system that we would like to have ourselves.” His conclusion: “We will support Ukraine for as long as necessary.”
But when it comes to equipping the Leopard 2 main battle tank, even his own troops are “below target”. In addition, new deliveries from industry are not to be expected anytime soon. “The industry’s order books are full and their production capacities are fully utilized. In addition, we are not the only ones who order,” Zorn told FOCUS. “Each howitzer that we give away can be replaced at the earliest 36 months later. It will probably take even longer, since the same chips that are currently in short supply in the automotive industry are also being used in modern weapon systems.”
Zorn also declared: “Until next summer, the industry will be producing howitzers for Hungary. Then comes our order. But Ukraine also wants 100 pieces. It’s even more difficult with the fox: it will be phased out from 2025. But it takes up to five years to adequately replace it.”
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The inspector general is also under pressure because he has major promises to NATO allies within three years: “From 2025 we will have a fully equipped NATO division with 15,000 men and women, 65 aircraft, 20 ships and a sizeable package of special forces promised. Until then, Germany will provide about a third of NATO’s rapid reaction force this year, next year and the year after that. That is around 15,000 women and men who are ready to be transferred to where they are needed at any time.”
Zorn also pointed to the danger that Putin could open a second front. “Kaliningrad, the Baltic Sea, the Finnish border, Georgia, Moldova. There are many opportunities. Putin would have the skills. Even if around 60 percent of its land forces are tied up in the Ukraine war, the land forces and, above all, the Russian navy and air force still have uncommitted capacities. If Putin ordered a general mobilization, he wouldn’t have any personnel problems either.”
Against this background, the Inspector General is also rather critical of the latest reports of success of Ukrainian counter-offensives: “I’m careful with the terms,” he said in an interview with the magazine FOCUS, which will be published on Saturday. He currently sees at most “counterattacks that can be used to win back locations or individual sections of the front, but not to push back Russia on a broad front”.
Even the approaching winter will “not reduce the suffering – on the contrary”. The Ukrainian army acts “wisely, rarely offers a broadside and conducts operations confidently and very flexibly”. But Zorn doubts whether the Ukrainians really have the strength for a real counter-offensive: For that they need “a superiority of at least three to one”.
However, he is critical of the state of the Russian units: “We are observing stagnation, a war of attrition. No far-reaching operations are conducted. Two weeks ago I would have said that in six months the entire Donbass will be in Russian hands. Today I say: They won’t make it.”
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