Roderich Kiesewetter in conversation: “Russia must learn to lose as Germany did in 1945”

CDU foreign policy expert Roderich Kiesewetter thinks the US will soon push Germany to become more involved in Ukraine. “If we deliver Western main battle tanks to Ukraine, it will improve the survivability of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Kieswetter says in an interview with ntv.de. “Americans expect more from Germany here.”

“He allowed himself to be swayed by the Russian narrative that if German tanks were used against Russian troops it would be a provocation,” Kieswetter charges. Ukraine must “restore at least the January borders” – and Russia must lose the war. That means “there is no regime change from outside because no one attacked Russia”.

ntv.de: You were at the security conference in Halifax and before that in Washington. Do you fear that the new Republican majority in the US House of Representatives will try to block support for Ukraine?

Roderich Kieswetter: No, quite the opposite. We have met with several Republican senators and members of Congress who have made it very clear that they stand with Ukraine. Support for Ukraine in the US is bipartisan and undiminished. Instead, I think the Republicans will demand more from Europe, especially from Germany. In our talks with the Foreign and Defense Ministries, it also became clear that Washington wanted German support, for example the supply of battle tanks.

Roderich Kieswetter represents the CDU in the Bundestag, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a retired colonel in the Bundeswehr.

(Photo: Image Alliance / Photothek)

How do you rate US President Joe Biden’s stance on the war in Ukraine? He always says that “nothing should be decided about Ukraine without Ukraine” – but the US has not supplied Ukraine with long-range HIMARS munitions because of fears that Ukraine would use them to fire at targets in Russia.

In doing so, the United States wants to make clear that it supports Ukraine in its mission to restore regional integrity without contributing to unnecessary further escalation. This is a radical step that has not yet been appreciated by Russia, on the contrary: the Russians in Ukraine have until the end of October. About 22,000 civilian targets were hit, but only 300 military targets. So I can imagine that the US will reconsider its position.

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Why isn’t America supplying Ukraine with tanks?

I also asked people I spoke to in Washington and Halifax. Americans are ready to supply main battle tanks. Theoretically, the Abrams main battle tank would be an option. Three arguments speak against it. First, separate logistics chains should be set up for the Abrams because they don’t exist in Europe, the Americans say. It differs from Leopard as it is used in 13 European countries. The Mortar armored personnel carrier is also widespread in Europe. The second argument is consumption, which is higher with an Abrams or Bradley infantry fighting vehicle than with the Panther and Mortar. If the Abrams ran on kerosene, it would need two and a half times that of the Leopard. Bradley and Abrams are more serviceable than our relatively tough Panther tanks – the Americans learned this the hard way in the Gulf Wars.

And the third argument?

… is also understandable. An Abrams weighs more than 60 tons. The Americans have limited transport capacity – with the same transport capacity, they can deliver three HIMARS on their ships or in their transport aircraft.

Is the federal government under pressure from Washington to supply Ukraine with battle tanks? So far, the only public statement on this has been the US ambassador in Berlin, who said in September that his expectations for Germany were “even higher” than they had previously been.

There are clear indications that the US government is allowing what the Germans are doing. But as a symbol of burden sharing, they expect Germany to jump over its shadow and finally provide tanks. That’s what senior correspondents at the US State Department and the Pentagon, as well as Democratic senators I’ve spoken to, have told me. They made it very clear that that is what they expect. I expect Congress will soon express itself accordingly and encourage Germany. So far, Washington has assumed that Germany will come up with it on its own initiative. In any case, we – my Parliamentary Group colleagues Peter Bayer, Thomas Silberhorn and I – encouraged our interlocutors at the Security Conference in Halifax to make this more clear.

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Scholes argues that supplying Western battle tanks to Ukraine would be a separate venture.

Scholes himself did “go it alone”. Spain, among others, talked informally with Germany very early on about tank deliveries.

Olaf Scholz said in June that there had been no demand from Spain.

Let’s say they are informal requests, so the central government will not save face. It is the fault of the central government that other states do not provide tanks as Scholes always insists. But even the discussion of “Western battle tanks” is completely wrong.

In which way?

Western countries have already delivered hundreds of battle tanks to Ukraine. The Poles originally wanted to deliver 600 T-72s and wanted a commitment from Germany to receive the correct number of Panther tanks in return. This request went unanswered for months. Then came the announcement that 20 leopards would be given in July. In the end, Poland only delivered 240 T-72s 1000 main battle tanks were ordered from South Korea.

In my view, the chancellor was unsettled by the Russian narrative that German tanks being used against Russian troops would be a provocation. In fact, it’s about something completely different: if a Soviet-made main battle tank explodes, the crew is left with nothing. Because the ammunition and crew quarters are not separated by space, temperatures of several thousand degrees occur there. If a hit goes there, the probability of survival is zero. Hundreds of battle tanks have already been lost, three times as many lives.

Military expert Gustav Kressel from the European Council on Foreign Relations He saysUkrainian soldiers often do not go into battle in tanks, but sit on them, “because the chances of survival are better outside”.

That is the way. Ukrainians are wounded by shrapnel as they have to go into action unprotected. When we deliver Western Main Battle Tanks to Ukraine, the objective is to improve the survivability of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Americans expect more from Germany here.

The president says the important thing is that Russia did not win this war and Ukraine did not lose.

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But how is it defined? In my view, our goal should be for Russia to lose and Ukraine to win. And this goal should be concretely defined. If Ukraine is to win, it can at least restore its January borders, preferably 2014. Everything else is negotiable. If Russia is going to lose, Russia must retreat and learn to lose like Germany did in 1945. Reparations must be paid and war criminals must be handed over to the International Court of Justice. Losing Russia does not mean regime change from outside because no one attacked Russia. Russia has occupied a country, but the future of Russia lies with the Russian people.

In July, Schalls will take a seat on the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee have saidThe supply of mortar tanks was an “alarming increase”.

A terrible escalation is being brought about by Russia by committing war crimes against Ukraine and waging a war against civilians and civilian infrastructure. It was a war of attrition waged by Hitler’s Germany from 1941 to 1944 on Soviet and especially Ukrainian soil. A supply of mortar armored personnel carriers will prevent this monstrous expansion! Of course, this should be coordinated at the European level.

In their communications on the war in Ukraine, Scholz and the SPD have always warned that Russia could use nuclear weapons.

That was always a bogus argument, but Scholes has now refuted it himself. After the G20 summit The chancellor said on ZDF, earlier through the declaration of the summit and his visit to China, this way, i.e. the use of nuclear weapons has been “prevented”. So there is no good reason to deny Ukraine Western main battle tanks.

Without Western support, Ukraine cannot wage a war, let alone win one. How stable is this support?

Americans are catalysts. Chancellor says Germany will show “clear leadership”, SPD leader Klingbeil said Germany must. “The Claim of a Leading Power” should, and Defense Minister Lambrecht says Germany “Leadership whether we like it or not”. But ultimately, the federal government still needs to be reminded by the Americans that “leadership” is not about starving Ukraine, but about empowering it to “win” on its own initiative.

Hubertus Vollmer spoke with Roderich Kiesewetter

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