Seven months into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, repairing worn-out western weapons is becoming increasingly important. The workshop is to be built on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Air travelers in the Polish airport of Rszeszow in the south-east of Poland hardly notice that the most important transhipment point for military aid to the Ukraine has arisen here. Far away from the civil airport building, the 50 states supporting Ukraine have set up a military camp under the leadership of the USA. Behind the airport fence, NATO has also built an imposing line of defense to protect the eastern perimeter of the alliance: with Patriot anti-aircraft systems, the missile bays of which reach into the sky here.
The military part of the small Polish regional airport is now the Fort Knox of support for Ukraine. The US and Britain had already begun flying in light anti-tank weapons for the Ukrainian army here before Putin’s February 24 invasion, when US intelligence services warned of the Russian attack. The Polish-Ukrainian border is only an hour’s drive from here.
On the ground, the logistical upgrade cannot be overlooked. Military transports are constantly sighted on the region’s roads. Observers who travel a lot by car in south-eastern Poland report that hardly a day goes by without seeing civilian low-loaders at motorway rest areas, in which uniformed soldiers are resting. But exactly how Western aid for the Ukrainian army got to the front is one of the best-kept secrets of this war.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock confirms only indirectly that the Polish region on NATO’s external border has become the central hub for aid. In mid-September, after a trip to Kyiv, she announced in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that a “maintenance hub on the Polish-Ukrainian border” would be set up.
Polish media are reluctant to report on military aid to Ukraine in the south-east of the country. The fact that Germany and the coalition of supporters for Ukraine forged by the USA are building a repair center there has so far not found its way into the news channels in Poland.
Bundeswehr General Christian Freuding was in Kyiv at the beginning of September for talks with the Ukrainian military. The head of the “Special Staff Ukraine” in the German Ministry of Defense reports on the wear and tear of the Panzerhaubitze 2000, which Germany delivered to the Ukraine.
“She’s been in action since May. And now, of course, has limitations in operational readiness.” His special staff is working on “that we can achieve sustainability here and very quickly a high level of operational readiness again” of the artillery systems.
In these weeks before the approaching winter there is a lot to do with repairing the worn western weapons. After the successful counter-offensive by the Ukrainians in the north-east of their country, Germany handed over four more self-propelled howitzers to the Ukraine in 2000.
“Logistics must be strengthened,” says security expert Wolfgang Richter from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), which advises the German government in Berlin. “And that is exactly what is happening now,” said the government adviser, also with a view to the discussion about the delivery of Leopard 2 main battle tanks in Germany, which German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in particular is currently rejecting.
The intense war wears out the weapons. “The spare parts for the many different types of western weapon systems must be kept as close as possible to the Ukrainian border,” Richter told DW. “And secondly, trained personnel who are able to repair western weapon systems are then required.”
It is a difficult undertaking because so many different weapons are being delivered to Ukraine: “I am thinking of the various artillery systems and the necessary peripheral equipment of French, Italian, British, American and German designs.” The completely different war equipment from many countries is required “completely different spare parts, and in large quantities”.
Looking ahead to the coming months of war, Michael Kofman, director of the Russian Studies research program at the US Navy’s Center for Naval Analyzes, says the war in Ukraine will be one of “attrition and recovery.” Although the Ukraine has good chances of being able to gradually liberate further areas after the great success of late summer, Kofman does not dare to predict how long the war will last.
And so the region around Rszeszow in the southeast of Poland will probably have to adjust to the large amount of military equipment on its roads for a long time. Now spare parts deliveries for the repair are added.
Collaboration: Monika Sieradzka, Max Zimmer
Author: Frank Hofmann
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The original of this article “Workshop against wear” comes from Deutsche Welle.