German Military Experts Urge: Since Ukraine Cannot Win, Talks Must Begin

In the context of the heated debate on whether or not Germany should deliver Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, three interviews with senior German military experts in the past two weeks are worth noting.

Renowned security expert Colonel (ret.) Wolfgang Richter warned in the March 12 Berliner Zeitung that deploying the Taurus for “the destruction of strategic targets such as airfields and ammunition depots of the Russian nuclear forces could lead to an escalation of the war” which Ukraine is in no position to win. He recalled the March 2022 Istanbul ceasefire talks which were broken off by Kiev “on the advice of Western partners”, but contained much better terms for the Ukrainians than they can expect today.

Among those terms, “Ukraine’s neutrality, a special status for the Donbass and Russia’s de facto control over Crimea. A final status solution was to be postponed for 15 years. There was no talk of ‘denazification’ or ‘demilitarization’, even if the Russian side was seeking arms limitations for Ukraine. Even Ukraine’s accession to the EU was declared possible.”

According to Col. Richter, the situation is being discussed in the U.S. far more soberly than in Germany, where calls for “negotiations are defamed as ‘mission impossible’ or even ‘treason’. Europe must not allow itself to be led by hopes and wishful thinking.”

In an interview with the Swiss Weltwoche TV, March 20, Col. (ret.) Ralph Thiele, a former staff officer for NATO, raised the paradox that today in Germany, if you talk about peace, you’re denounced as a “war-monger”, while if you talk about war, you’re allegedly working for peace. The hard core of the pro-Taurus faction wants to extend the war into Russian territory, which will escalate and radicalize the military confrontation without really changing it.

Col. Thiele also said the German government’s “refusal to begin talking with Putin is at least not shared in the USA which behind the scenes is talking to Russia”.

Former Gen. (ret.) Harald Kujat dismissed as “utter nonsense” the idea that if Ukraine just gets more ammunition, it would be able to drive the Russians back. He told RBB radio on March 21 that what Ukraine really lacks, is the ability to conduct “mobile, offensive combat operations”. Having the Taurus long-range missile would not give them that capability, but rather “escalate the entire conflict and pull Germany more into direct confrontation with the Russians”. He went on to warn that Russia might use nuclear weapons, if provoked too far. Therefore, de-escalation through diplomacy is required.

Gen. Kujat, Inspector General of the Bundeswehr in 2000-2002 and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee in 2002-2005, knows the military structures of both warring parties well enough to make a qualified assessment.

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