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This time, we cross the Volga!

If Germany has truly learned from its history, it will send tanks to defend Ukraine
Timothy Garton Ash

See headline for what Garton Ash presumably means.

35 thoughts on “This time, we cross the Volga!”

  1. Well, Germany’s support of Austria against Russia in 1914, when it decided to go for Serbia, led to the 2nd Reich fighting Russia, France and the UK in WW1.

    The Nazi-Soviet pact allowed it to avoid this problem in WW2. But, when it’d thrashed France and was doing quite well against the UK, it decided to attack Russia yet again. One doubts that it could have succeeded in conquering both the Russian and British empires, though Hitler decided to make quite sure by declaring war on the US as well.

    Now Germany has the option of giving it a third try. Being a wimp, I’d be a bit cautious myself.

  2. Let me guess how long it takes to properly train a Challenger 2 or Leopard tank crew so that that are capable of holding their own in battle – Two, three days? A week?
    What’s that you say? Quite a bit longer than that?

    We are sending them Main Battle Tanks. They will end up as Main Battle Targets.

  3. One of the tank crew’s principal duties is field maintenance. Tensioning the tracks as needed, for example. In some respects, one tank is much like another. In others, not.

  4. While many have pledged support, Germany has a unique historical responsibility toward Zelenskiy and his people.

    The article fails utterly to explain why.

  5. Germany is being pressured, by the same people who bombed their strategic energy pipeline and fucked their economy for generations, to send its tanks to the Ukies.

    But the Americans are refusing to send their own tanks to everybody’s favourite war for Freedom and Democracy. That’s got the Krauts spooked, because they’re not completely stupid and don’t believe the Yank excuses.

    It makes more sense when you realise the US government sees its European assets, including Germany and Ukraine, as disposable.

    They’re not doing this to “win the war”, that’s a fantasy for the public’s benefit, to get them all riled up and emotionally invested in Clown War XXXIV.

    They’re doing it to keep the war going for as long as possible, in the hope of harming Russia and strengthening the US government’s hold on its clients. The war is harming Ukraine and Europe a lot more than it’s harming Russia, but that doesn’t matter because they’re disposable assets in the new Great Game. To which Russia is just an amuse bouche, btw, the real conflict and next planned war is with China.

    So we’ve had a major war on European soil for nearly a year now, it has killed hundreds of thousands of people, forced millions to become refugees, and cost trillions in economic damage. But nobody’s pushing for peace, ‘cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome. And Henry Kissinger. (Putin lovers! Booo!)

    Happy days, eh?

  6. Germany is being pressured, by the same people who bombed their strategic energy pipeline and fucked their economy for generations

    Steve, it’s sweet of you to stick up for the Fatherland but I think it might be truer, in the context of fucking others’ economies, that the Fatherland (with its accomplice the euro) has been the fucker rather than the fuckee.

  7. But the Americans are refusing to send their own tanks to everybody’s favourite war for Freedom and Democracy.
    Do the Yanks actually still have any Pershings & Patton left in their inventory, these days? The current Abrams would be totally useless to the Ukranians. Far too heavy & reliant on a logistics train the Ukrainians haven’t got & couldn’t support

  8. The row of the Abrams is not so much on its suitability, or lackof.
    It’s about the US being the ones trying to escalate the war into a wider European conflict, and the Germans being reluctant to play fall guy and target No.1

    And as LJH put it so wonderfully, the optics are dreadful for the Hun, especially in the eyes of the Rooskies. They remember that the Ukraine played on the German team last time too.

    I see it more as a PR exercise. The western world is being prepared for Biden to claim victory and go home, announcing that the tank initiative stopped Putin from taking over all of Europe, and only left him with the Russian-speaking parts of the eastern Ukraine. Only German intransigence (and unwillingness to become radioactive glass) stopped total Ukrainian victory. Which looks to me like a 100% goals-met by Putin. But I don’t watch CNN. They’ll tell it different.

  9. TMB
    Yeah but Das Reich has been engaged in enormous self harm since 2011.
    Perhaps it is their idea of reparations, having screwed the south of Europe since the Euro was introduced, they wanted to show that they were vulnerable too. Trouble is no one believed them and it all went a bit too far and now the German economy is irreperably damaged ( not fixable by the current political mindset anyway ).

  10. Bloke in North Dorset

    One of the tank crew’s principal duties is field maintenance. Tensioning the tracks as needed, for example. In some respects, one tank is much like another. In others, not.
    That’s why they are desperate for the Leopard. Its very easy to maintain and the supply lines are short, plus there’s expertise in Poland for base maintenance.

    The supply and maintenance lines for the Abrahams are long and complicated.

    And if anyone thinks Ukraine hasn’t been sending crews and maintenance teams to train on them in Poland and elsewhere I’ve got a couple of bridges to sell. Plus, as we’ve seen, being under an existential threat is a great motivator and the Ukrainians have shown themselves to be well motivated, quick learners and very innovative.

    The real problem is that Germany doesn’t even know how many of its Leopards are battle read nor how many could be made battle ready quickly.

  11. Poland and the Baltics are well aware that Ukraine is step one in the reestablishment of the Soviet Empire. They have Leopards they could send if Germany gave them the nod. Seems a good compromise to me.

  12. “Ukrainians have shown themselves to be well motivated, quick learners and very innovative.”
    ________________
    A victorious Ukraine would pose a bit of a problem to the German economic model. The latter might have trouble competing with a large, well-educated, innovative, but very low-wage workforce in a country rebuilt to modern industrial standards and with abundant natural resources. And crucially no longer hamstrung by Russian interference and invasion.

  13. Didn’t Germany send tanks to defend the Sudetenland and the German speakers therein, stranded there when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up after WW I by ‘the Allies’ and didn’t they invade Poland to regain territory similarly lost… and the Anschluss too?

    If Europe has truly learned from its history, it would know not to go futzing around in Eastern Europe, deciding who owns what, who’s the good-guy, who’s the bad-guy as it ALWAYS has led to avoidable major wars. Crimean War, WW Parts I & II, anybody?

    And Ukraine in NATO as protection? Britain guaranteed Belgium’s safety and Poland’s safety to protect them from German agression. It did not stop the Germans, but it did result in Britain declaring war on Germany in August 1914, then again in September 1939. NATO membership will not stop the Russians because a land war – including tactical nukes – will involve East Europe and Germany primarily, it will be their cities ruined, the USA dare not use strategic nukes, and if they use tactical nukes they will be nuking Germany and East Europe.

    Learn from history? Nah… no chance.

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    A victorious Ukraine would pose a bit of a problem to the German economic model. The latter might have trouble competing with a large, well-educated, innovative, but very low-wage workforce in a country rebuilt to modern industrial standards and with abundant natural resources. And crucially no longer hamstrung by Russian interference and invasion.

    Indeed, but Germany has been its own worst enemy for at least the past 15 years. Lack of investment in infrastructure, defence and technology and the reliance of (cheap) energy dependent industries has really come home to roos now, but the war only accelerated that problem. They were still using fax machines for urgent reporting during the pandemic and from personal experience complaints about their mobile industry and lack of 4G are true, for example.

  15. “The real problem is that Germany doesn’t even know how many of its Leopards are battle read nor how many could be made battle ready quickly.”

    The Jerries didn’t have any spare parts for the howitzers that they lent the Ukrainians recently.

  16. It seems sensible (for the fat and weak Germans) for Germany to hedge. It’s not clear which way the Ukraine situation will resolve politically. Even with full military coordination the proven cut’n’runners (US politicians) could easily snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and hand Putin his win, after which Europe becomes his bitch. Best to have shown restraint in that case. If Putin is defeated and NATO holds, Germany is left a little embarassed but otherwise whatevs.

    Germany has given the nod for its customers to send their Leopards (which means the logistics will flow) so Ukraine should get its MBT spearhead for action this year. The US Bradleys will be equally useful, if not more so. Bradleys destroyed more Iraqi tanks than the Abrams did and they’re designed to be more simple to operate. The bulk of the Ukrainian military will remain “Soviet” equipped, and Russia has been most generous in being their number one ground arms supplier to this point.

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    Russia has been most generous in being their number one ground arms supplier to this point.

    Is that still the case? I haven’t heard of any big Russian retreats or defeats recently so assume that that supply chain has been severely restricted, if not lost.

  18. Is that still the case? I haven’t heard of any big Russian retreats or defeats recently so assume that that supply chain has been severely restricted, if not lost.

    It’s more a case of the Western supplies only recently starting to arrive in significant numbers, and that’s mostly in the form of artillery weapons and transport vehicles. In terms of armoured fighting vehicles Russia’s still number one.

  19. But nobody’s pushing for peace, ‘cept for the Pope, maybe, in Rome. And Henry Kissinger.

    Sorry Steve, Henry woke up and smelled the coffee. He’s now advocating for Ukraine to join NATO, and he knows that won’t happen with Russia holding a chunk of it. Which probably means he’s realised that Russia’s fucked.

  20. TMB – there’s plenty of blame to go around, I reckon. Germany should never have gotten rid of its atomic plants or made itself dependent on Russia.

    BiS – I don’t think the M1 Abrams (still, by some margin, the world’s best mass production tank) would be useless to Ukraine. Or at least, any more useless than a hodgepodge of (let’s be honest) the worst Challengers and Leopards Britain and Germany can dig out of long term storage.

    There’s logistical, training and other issues with any piece of complex military kit they’re being offered. On the plus side, the US has a lot more M1’s and spare parts it could donate than our paltry offer of 14 Challenger 2’s and whatever number of tanks Germany is eventually browbeaten into scraping up. Y’know, if it wanted to.

    BTW, Iraq and Egypt own and operate M1 Abrams. Are we to believe the Ukrainians – with massive financial and military backing – can’t? C’mon. Like the time Sleepy Joe met a transsexual, it doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    I think Tim the Coder is correct, but regardless of what Biden or Putin may want it’s usually a lot harder to end wars than it is to start them.

  21. PJF – If I had a pound for every time Trump Putin was about to come a cropper, it’d probably be enough to pay Rashee Soonak’s electricity bills.

    KnowhatImsayin?

  22. Otto: Yeah but Das Reich has been engaged in enormous self harm since 2011

    There are so many watershed dates that mark the decline. The ubiquitous “Atomkraft? Nein Danke” bumper stickers from the 1970s onwards were an indicator of what was to come and “Die Wende” of 1989 marked a premature coming into being of a nation that had trained itself to despise the very notion of nationhood. All a bit sad. The only future for Germany will be for the EU to collapse and for Germany to come to terms with itself and its identity.

  23. . . . a nation that had trained itself to despise the very notion of nationhood.

    I suspect we got the ball rolling on that training post WWII, followed up as with everywhere else by communist backed leftie chipping away at what remained of the foundations.

    Not sure what I feel about it. I recently watched a post war US troop education movie about what fuckers the charming, smiling Germans were; definitely not to be trusted. There was not much sympathy for the Krauts immediately following hostilities, even from level headed types like Eisenhower. I’ve little doubt that if Russia had been just another allied nation instead of an ideological foe, Germany would have been split into pieces and deindustrialised. The cold war saved the Germans as a culture, and I’m not convinced that was a good thing.

  24. One problem to factor in is that Russia has managed to capture quite a few of the NLAW anti tank missiles. They are very easy to use. Inevitably some of the multi-millon pound modern NATO tanks being supplied to Ukrainian are going to be shown being vulnerable to a £40,000 weapon. That’s not good for tank sales.

  25. TMB

    Indeed yes, take yer pick. I was listening just to a short programme about the crisid of 2008 and how it took the DAX three years to recover.

    When I lived in Jerryland in the 90s, my overwhelming impression was how complacent the Hun was. They thought that they had solved the integration if the East, they were top of the pile in Europe and the incoming Euro was in their image.

    The descent took a little longer than I expected, but the insane decusions of Mutti sealed their fate.

  26. All I know about Germany, these days, is it’s a country I enter with the intention of getting to the other side of without stopping. Much better when there were two of them.

  27. Bloke in North Dorset

    I have the same attitude to France as I’ve never had a good experience, although on the last trip we did come across a very nice deli in a village that is currently on the French side of the border near Baden Baden. They had the softest, tastiest, Gorgonzola we’ve ever had. They had to use a spoon to scoop it in to a beaker.

  28. Inevitably some of the multi-millon pound modern NATO tanks being supplied to Ukrainian are going to be shown being vulnerable to a £40,000 weapon.

    That wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone buying tanks; everything from the Abrams to the Merkava is vulnerable to infantry fired anti tank weapons. That’s why it’s quadrupedly important to not send your tanks wandering off into situations without sufficient infantry support. And even with the best combined arms equipment and training in the world, someone will get off a shot and hit something expensive. In a hot war, stealth jets will fall, flat tops will sink and submarines will pop.

    As for the NLAWs, I should think most have been sent to Russia, China and Iran for investigations. I doubt any remaining in theatre are being held in reserve waiting for Western tanks. A T-72 with updated thermal optics and a good crew is pretty much as dangerous as anything if you’re the poor schmuck in its path.

  29. Re: Philip

    “Poland and the Baltics are well aware that Ukraine is step one in the reestablishment of the Soviet Empire. They have Leopards they could send if Germany gave them the nod. Seems a good compromise to me.”

    Utter wankery. Your take is such basic bitch MSM stupidity.

    Watch Professor Mearsheimer from 2015

    https://youtu.be/JrMiSQAGOS4

  30. Speaking of Volga transgressions, last night I was bimbling about on Google Earth and ended up on the Caspian Sea. I was amazed at the contrast between the southern, Iranian end and the northern, Russian one. The Iranian end is verdant and (relatively) developed with thousands of square miles of farms and forests and towns and ports and highways. The Russian end is a peculiarly ghastly desolation. Even for Russia it is shite, and the terrible combination of brutal Soviet utility, poverty and a culture of don’t-give-a-shit has laid waste to an already bleak environment.

    Other than oil there is absolutely no need to send the tanks there.

  31. Fact is, Angela Merkel was an FSB agent and everything she did was designed to make Germany weaker, more divided and more dependent on Russia. This included filling the German government and bureaucracy with other FSB stooges, with the consequences we are now seeing.

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