GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Ramstein – Cutting through the PR spin – What does it mean?


Last week’s big news is NATO’s meeting at Ramstein Airforce base to debate further support for Ukraine. The importance of NATO’s key defence officials meeting at Ramstein should not be underestimated, because NATO’s actions will contribute to how long the war in Ukraine lasts.  The war’s outcome is relatively certain at this point. Ukraine will win; either by driving Russia out of its territory or in the worst-case by forcing Russia to negotiate terms. Recent events though are conspiring to make the war longer and possibly providing Russia with the opportunity to improve its odds.  

Warmer than usual European weather means that the ground in Ukraine is still boggy and unusable for large-scale armoured manoeuvre.  This weather is robbing Ukraine of the opportunity to advance before Russia’s newly mobilised forces a fully deployed in the theatre.  Meanwhile, Russia’s force is building in size and capability. This creates a point of tension and many commentators predict a sizeable Russian offensive in the spring around April or May.  This discourse drives much of the mainstream media’s reporting about the NATO conference in Ramstein and about its outcomes.  Further, we must bear in mind that modern strategists see ‘information war’ or winning over public opinion as one of the ‘non-physical operational domains’ of war-fighting.  Or in layman’s terms that any military operation today includes influencing the media and public opinion to support fighting the physical battle.

Russian information operations this week focussed on the Ramstein meeting consisted of more vague threats of escalation. Dmitry Peskov (the Kremlin’s spokesman), Dimitry Medvedev and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (head of the Russian Orthodox Church) all making statements designed to scare and therefore influence NATO leaders before the Ramstein conference. And; on the other side of the conflict the message that Russia is planning a large-scale offensive and that Ukraine needs NATO tanks to stop it has been persistently circulated in the media. This week there were breathless commentaries about how Ramstein is the last chance to save Ukraine. 

Both messages seek to influence the campaign in Ukraine and if we are going to draw conclusions about what could happen, then we need to try and logically appreciate the situation on the ground by looking at the facts.

Regardless of what the commentators tell us we know that Ukraine captured an enormous supply of ammunition, tanks and armoured vehicles from the Russians in the Luhansk offensive.  The collapsing Russians offered little resistance and it is likely that Ukrainian casualties were relatively light.  Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson was also relatively uncontested and again the Ukrainians captured equipment and ammunition.  It is likely that Ukraine retains a relatively capable armoured force able to manoeuvre and when the ground freezes will be able to operate offensively.  We also know that Russian forces are building up as mobilised soldiers finish their training.  However, we do not know how they will be used.  We can make some assessments, for instance it seems unlikely that Russia will open a new front by attacking from Belarus.  Doing so would require it to split its forces away from its strategic main effort – securing the land bridge to Crimea. 

However, it is sensible for Ukraine to broadcast its concerns about upcoming potential offensives from Belarus or from the south or east. Dominating the information space and ensuring future NATO support. Not because Ukraine needs tanks and NATO weapons now; but because Ukraine is planning a modernisation of its army ready for future offensive operations later in 2023.  Therefore we have seen a heated debate recently about NATO tanks.  

The United Kingdom fired the first shot, offering Ukraine Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine. Only a small number, but putting ‘chips on the table’ and pushing other countries to ‘ante up’. The target is Germany, whose Leopard 2 tank is the most common tank in the alliance. The Leopard 2 tank is at least a generation ahead of any tank fielded by the Russians but most importantly is reliable, easy to operate and has large existing logistics chains.  

The United Kingdom’s Challenger 2 is an amazing tank but was produced in relatively small numbers and has a rifled main gun unique in NATO.  Challenger is a bespoke item: think of it as the Jaguar of tanks, high-performing but temperamental, needing a qualified and loving mechanic to keep it running.  But well looked after, it can beat any competition.  Unfortunately, the United Kingdom could not spare enough tanks to provide Ukraine with an effective Challenger based force. And; if it could supply enough then providing its unique ammunition and skilled technicians to service the tanks would be difficult. Likewise, the American Abrams although produced in enormous numbers has a key logistics problem. It uses a gas turbine (jet) engine that burns high-quality fuel at an incredible rate.  This powerful engine gives it incredible speed and mobility but it has a short range and requires a robust fuel supply chain in order to keep fighting.  Further, the turbine engine requires specially trained personal and equipment to maintain it. Few armies have the capabilities to manage an Abrams fleet. 

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That is why most NATO armies purchased Leopard 2.  It is a reliable tank, easily maintained and uses standard NATO fuel and ammunition.  A Leopard tank is the Toyota of the tank world. It does its job exceptionally well, is very reliable and is widely used.  NATO countries alone operate about 2,000 of these tanks. The widespread use of the Leopard ensures that there are robust maintenance and supply chains to keep them operational.  Like a Toyota, getting spare parts or a mechanic that knows how to fix them is not a problem.  The Leopard’s gun is the NATO standard 120mm anti-tank gun, so unlike Challenger there are large stockpiles of suitable ammunition on the ground in Europe.  

For these reasons, Leopard 2 is the tank to build the next Ukrainian armoured force around.  This is why so much effort is being put into information operations that focus international debate on their supply.  At Ramstein Germany did not immediately concede to either supplying Leopards or to releasing their supply by other countries.  This decision is disappointing, but it pays to remember that Germany has already contributed significantly to the defence of Ukraine and struggles with a difficult past.  It also pays to remember that Germany’s position is not final and may change. 

It is likely that Germany’s position will change because if they don’t Poland and other NATO countries with Leopards will probably start to supply Ukraine regardless of German wishes. Already, Ukrainian tankers are training on Leopards in Poland and it is a good bet that Polish Leopards will soon find their way to Ukraine. Then Germany will need to decide if it will provide logistics support – spare parts etc.  If they don’t then the German arms industry and the nation’s international standing will suffer.  So it is highly likely that Germany’s position will change.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, both sides continue to skirmish along the border with most activity still around Bakhmut.  Russia’s main effort appears to be behind the lines, as the conventional military bring Wagner Group and its founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin under control.  In a statement made by John Kirby, United States National Security Coordinator listing Wagner Group as an international criminal organisation, Kirby also confirmed the rift between Wagner Group and the military discussed in our article ‘Gerasimov, Prigozhin and Russia’s broken military leadership’ stating that Wagner is becoming a rival power centre to the Russian military and other Russian ministries”.   

Further, General Gerasimov (Russia’s commander in Ukraine) must also contend with trying to manage Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechens who are currently fighting their own war in Ukraine establishing another parallel military structure.   The key point is that before Russia can employ its new mobilised soldiers in an effective manner Gerasimov needs to get his own house in order. This situation strengthens the assessment that a large Russian offensive is unlikely in the short-term. 

In summary, this week saw considerable information warfare as both sides positioned themselves for the Ramstein conference. The Russians threatened escalation, Ukraine and its allies highlighted the threat Russia poses.  However, on the ground in Ukraine not much changed and although Russian combat power is increasing it is unlikely that Russia is ready to launch a large offensive.  Instead this week’s battle was for public opinion in Europe, developing the popular support required for Ukraine to develop a new modern armoured force based around NATO tanks and armoured vehicles. Or in Russia’s case presenting enough of a threat to prevent it.  

The Russian’s won a small and hopefully short-lived victory when Germany chose not to release NATO’s Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.  This turn of events will not stop Ukraine winning but may extend the war causing more suffering for everybody involved. So let’s hope that Germany reconsiders its position and late in 2023 Ukrainian armoured battlegroups are ready for action. 


Ben Morgan is a tired Gen X interested in international politics. He is TDB’s Military analyst.


  1. Interesting perspective however it doesn’t address the issue of training and experience. It takes months to learn to master modern tanks and their weapons systems not to mention the maintenance; time the Ukrainians simply don’t have. The mass Russian offensive looks to be mere weeks away, this will decide the outcome of this war one way or the other.

    • I’m guessing there are a number of troops from NATO countries secretly in Ukraine handling these things, as well as coordinating and organising attacks on Russian forces. Will be interesting to see what happens if Russia manages to capture some of them.

  2. Enough with the insanity Ben. We are already in the Ukrainian armed forces version 3.0.
    NATO supplied weapons pre SMO is scrap, donated Soviet weapons are non existent. Natostan is begging Cuba for Soviet weapons and now Western tanks are the new life saving wonder weapons?
    Russia has the largest tank force in Europe. For goodness sake Western tanks were being destroyed by the Taliban with RPGs and IEDs. These are facts.
    Ukraine is dragging anyone of fighting age forcibly off the streets.

    • Russia has the largest *obsolete* tank force in Europe and they have been getting picked off at will by man portable rockets.
      Western tanks were *not* destroyed by Taliban. IEDs and RPGs are able to destroy unarmoured and light armoured vehicles only – Humvees and trucks. That’s why they drive around in MRAPs these days.

      • Pure fantasy on your part, Russia has over 12,000 battle tanks and Bens fantasy says Ukraine will win? Easily researchable how Western tanks are not the
        wonder weapons they lead us to believe. Sure12 western tanks are going to make a difference (sarcasm)

        • Are these the same tanks that tried to take Kiev last February? And where have they been since then if they are so much of a match winner?

        • It will be 100 tanks and that will make a massive difference. Where do you get your ‘information’ from Finngrin?

        • Yes, Russia does have 12,000 tanks. But they are mostly built in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They have been stored outside for the last 35 years, and probably have not been run for the last 20 years. In short, practically unusable on the modern battlefield.

          In reality Russia has about 4,000 tanks that are practically usable. The force is 2,000 in operational service and another 2,000 that are sufficiently modern and practically refurbishable. So far about 1,000 have been destroyed or lost to the Ukrainians.

  3. 30 years ago my wife worked for the ‘Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’, a foreign aid agency that is allied to the German SDP. This was when the SDP came to power and subsequently had a significant influence on German politics from then on. In those years I was regularly invited to company functions and dinners and got chance to sound these people out. Two things stood out:

    They were not just anti-war (we’re all anti war!); they were SO ashamed of Germany’s past they couldn’t even contemplate it. It was clear they would appease anyone over anything to avoid it.

    Their shame over Germany’s past also drove their pro-EU stance. Their aim was to unify Europe to such an extent that the European nation states would dissolve into the greater EU so that they could never fight each other again. It was as if they thought Germans had some sort of genetic predisposition toward war that must be suppressed at all costs. German children get the whole Nazi thing drilled into them at school ad nauseam. In essence they’re trained to hate their own country.

    So, Germany’s weak stance toward Ukraine is no surprise to me and I can also see why the US or UK blew up the Nordstream gas line: To force the Germans to stay onside.

    • I appreciate your first hand understanding of Germans, not sure I agree that they won’t all click heels and goose step again. Years back I read AJP Taylor on German history and he was very definite about a dualism in their psyche. He wrote of the way Luther sided with authority against the masses and how ingrained that became in the national character. He also wrote of Luther rejection of the West, being the barbarian who looked with contempt over the Rhine yet turned violently east to conquer and exterminate. Drang nach ost. Europe’s struggle is to contain Germany, has been for a millennium.
      Was Taylor correct? Leopards and spots?

  4. ” The war’s outcome is relatively certain at this point. Ukraine will win; either by driving Russia out of its territory or in the worst-case by forcing Russia to negotiate terms”
    So Ukraine might have to win by forcing Russia to negotiate terms. Like whether Luhansk. Donetsk, Zaporhizhia , Kherson and of course Crimea remain part of Russia or return to Ukraine. Opening the possibility that Russia retains those territories, denazifies and demilitarises Ukraine and Nato membership is abandoned.
    Yes I can imagine that victory for Ukraine. It will be of course for most Ukrainian people , but not for the ultra nationalist current leadership in Ukraine and not for the US of A.
    D J S

    • Exactly. As always, the author is laying the ground work for spinning his stories so always appearing right, just as Ukraine will always win. There is no narrative alternative.
      Best analysis I can see is Russia will allow Nato a face-saving “We saved Kiev” Ukraine victory which forces Russia to relinquish its “imperial ambitions” [sic]. I hope for the world Nato give up their madness and takes that “win”, leaving Ukraine neutral.

      • NATO is not Europe, it’s a largely independent US dominated organisation whose aim is to fight wars, not negotiate and maintain peace. The US has shown again and again that its only aim is the destruction of Russia as an independent rival – European countries like Germany would need to withdraw from NATO for it to give up the madness, and US economic threats will almost certainly keep Germany etc from leaving.

  5. It is rather disturbing that The Daily Blog still indulges in this “war as a spectator sport” type column.

    It remains a proxy war between imperialist powers and it needs to stop via serious negotiations. Talking about battle tanks fuel consumption! is hardly helpful.

    • Couple of points JohnO.

      Given that Polands army out sizes Germany getting rid of Polish tanks to Ukraine may be a blessing for Germany… they really don’t like one another.

      T90s, good Wiki
      Seems they are as good as the next Leopard or Javelin, maybe better. Leopards aren’t exactly new, I once climbed on one at Bovington, 50 years ago.

      • I doubt whether you climbed on a Leopard 2 fifty years ago. Your point is hardly relevant. Germany is quite happy to have Poland in the EU and in NATO. Any distrust between them has nothing on the Poland vs. Russia relationship.

        • Never been to Bovington Gad? You missed a treat, back in the 70s you could climb all over the collection. Bit precious now. You could also go down to RAC open days, sit on real tanks. Including visitors. If you got really lucky you caught sight of exercises on Salisbury plain. Still WTF would you know?

  6. “the American Abrams although produced in enormous numbers has a key logistics problem. It uses a gas turbine (jet) engine that burns high-quality fuel ”
    ahhhhhh…. if Ben knew anything he would know that the Abrams will run on just about any refined oil product- petrol, diesel, heating oil.

    The yanks just want to make sure there aren’t too many videos of them being trivially destroyed by Russian combined arms before they try and sell them to gullible NATO puppets.

  7. the paper quality of a tank is within parameters immaterial…there are numerous cases of ‘inferior’ tanks defeating ‘better tanks’..the wherboo hero wittmans end being a case in point….it’s training that counts(a problem for both sides) a new tank is useless unless the crews are trained to use it…how long does it take to train a leopard crew to an efficient level?

    • We banned invasion, let alone conquest, after WW ll. Do you want to ‘czechoslovakia’ that golden principle for small countries like us?

      In addition, this war has restored the West’s belief in democracy, as per the last vile violent invasions of dictators.

  8. Russia is as wrong as Nazi Germany. Let’s hope it doesn’t require those measures to change its equally entrenched mind. And how do you do that with a nuclear nation?

  9. All this bullshit about tanks highlights what this war is all about. The US at all costs needs to keep Germany away from forming an economic block with China and Russia. France and Britain don’t trust Germany, never have and want US to keep them from dominating Europe. The Poles are paranoid to east and west, rightly so. Hence the squabbling and pressure over an insufficient few tanks. It would seem that should Russia prevail the EU and NATO along with most European governments will fall, hence the absolute determination to fight to the last Ukrainian.

  10. The new ruler of the Russian army in Ukraine is ordering the troops on the front line and in the trenches to be clean shaven, earning universal derision from both supporters and opponents of Russia’s invasion and war.

    General Valery Gerasimov, who was given the role earlier this month, has been “attempting to clamp down on non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts.”

    But shaving has been his particular focus…

    This all reminds me of a certain Gilbert and Sullivan opera. If only it wasn’t so tragic.

    ,i>…I polished up the handle of the big front door.
    I polished up that handle so carefully
    That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navy!

    … I always voted at my party’s call,
    And I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
    I thought so little, they rewarded me
    By making me the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!
    (He thought so little, they rewarded he
    By making him the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!)

    • For heaven’s sake Pat. You tell us not to believe this, not to believe that, but then make yourself look pretty gullible.

    • Not so foolish as you think. These kinds of rules are what install discipline into an Army. I don’t mean brutality, but a sense of organisation and morale. For instance the Russian camps that the Ukrainians found during their advance in the the North spoke of a disorganised and demoralised Army, one that couldn’t fight.

      General Gerasimov is wanting to change that by instilling discipline and organisation. In western Armies people are required to use the kit provided, maintain self discipline and keep themselves and their kit in good shape. Do all these things right and you are more likely to be able to conduct well organised military operations.

      I have always though that of all the Russian senior commanders, General Gerasimov was the one who most looked like and acted like a soldier.

  11. As an aside Erdogan just told Sweden to forget joining NATO after a Koran burning incident. Meanwhile Orban is insisting the Hungary who receive half their energy from nuclear will buy uranium and gas from Russia. Not quite going to plan as Ramstein demonstrated.

      • It would be easier to suspend Hungary from the EU. I’m not sure there is a mechanism for NATO to expel or suspend members. Unfortunately Turkey is too important strategically for any action to be taken against it.

    • Must be a joy to have foul dictatorships on your side.

      Democracy is the first and last word for me. I cut off those who disagree. My four siblings and many others, unfortunately.

        • Think about that, m’lad. This isn’t a fun park, though it appears so. This is the last days 90 percent. In our lifetimes.

  12. Finally the news has broken that Germany and the US are supplying Ukraine with the battle tanks the Ukrainians have long requested to repulse the Russian invaders and end the war.

    Because no imperialist superpower, no matter how dominant and powerful has ever been able to beat a fully mobilised insurgent and well armed population, it is only a matter of time before the invader is eventually defeated and driven out.

    There can be no doubt that Ukraine will win this war, historical precedent is with them.

    The Ukrainians have already shown their ability to drive the invader back in Kherson in the South East and Luhansk in the North with their current soviet era weaponry.

    Hopefully these new weapons will prove decisive in ending the war in the quickest possible time. Ukrainians now have the ability to plan their next big Ukrainian ground offensive against the invaders with the aim to cut Russia’s land bridge to Crimea, and end the war on their terms.

    • Yup hopefully the Leopards + Challengers + Abrams can make a real difference just not convinced that there will be enough of them and that the logistical issues posed by their use don’t provide insurmountable . .

  13. Kremlin mouthpiece RT, Russia Today, claims the number of tanks being supplied to Ukraine from the West are little more than a token gesture, amounting to “dozens”, not enough to turn the tide of war in Ukraine’s favour. I would argue that the tide of war is already in Ukraine’s favour. But that is beside the point.

    Let’s read what RT has to say:

    Kiev will get what it demanded from the West, but will it be enough?

    …..Tank supplies to Ukraine from NATO members is the top news story this week. Kiev has been calling for these weapons from its western sponsors since the beginning of the Russian offensive…..

    …..1,800 tanks, which must be considered an absolute minimum.

    …..So far, NATO countries have earmarked tanks for Ukraine numbered in the dozens. This is only a fraction of the hypothetical minimum.

    …..At a recent meeting of the US-led Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, officials from 12 countries discussed sending a total of about 100 tanks to Kiev, if Berlin were to give the green light, which, according to an ABC report, it has done.
    Rheinmetall could additionally supply a total of 139 tanks to Ukraine, including 88 Leopard 1s and 51 Leopard 2A4s, yet the German manufacturer concedes that only 29 of them could be shipped before the summer of 2023….

    What is interesting is that to counter the threat of these new weapons systems and divert them away from the line of contact in the East, RT suggests that a new front be opened up in the North with an invasion of Ukraine by Russian ally Belarus.

    …. another armored division may be necessary on the Belarusian front, which could see some very heavy fighting. In case of an escalation there….

    As Russian defeats in the East continue I think that this escalation is likely.

    Russia sends more troops to Belarus as fears of new attack grow

    6/01/2023 — Ukraine says Belarus could be used as a staging post by Moscow for an offensive from the north, opening up a new front.

  14. As a prelude to an attack on Ukraine from the North I wouldn’t be surprised if a false false flag attack is staged by Russia that will be blamed on Ukraine to drag Belarus into the war.

    • Who knows what the Russian command will do? They are not telling me or you. Interesting that you speculate though, it appears you agree that they have the initiative everywhere and options.

  15. ‘This is such a stupid tank’: Commander’s plea for Western upgrades

    A Soviet-era T-72 rumbles through woodland belching thick black smoke as it fishtails over the frozen mud near the battered Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

    The tank is old – a relic from a time gone by – but it is nonetheless all the crew of the 24th mechanised brigade have to defend themselves against Russian aggression….

    Russia cannot win this war. As long as Russia attacks Ukraine will resist.

    The quickest way to end this war, would be to give the Ukrainians the weapons they need to throw the invading Russian foreces back across the border.

  16. Croatia mocks Germany
    Commenting on the German foreign minister’s declaration that Europe was “fighting a war against Russia,” Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said on Thursday that this was news to him, and wished Berlin better luck than in WWII.

  17. In a forum of the educated Nick J is fair meat. ‘De-nazify Ukraine’.

    The psychology of post-totalitarian Russia is another thing. As per, if Hitler had the bomb what would he do? We always need to address that centrally.

    • Putin’s psychology doesn’t matter in this case. Every member of his vile ruling group know there is no march on Moscow. Just Ukraine having control of its borders. The blessing of the rules post WW ll protect them in this case.

  18. Putin’s psychology doesn’t matter in this case. Every member of his vile ruling group know there is no march on Moscow. Just Ukraine having control of its borders. The blessing of the rules post WW ll protect them in this case.

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