Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Military Analyst to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt: Ukrainian Frontline Is Vulnerable, Army Struggles with Reserve Shortage

The British expert says Trump’s recent comments on NATO are a gift and “green light” to Putin to attack certain countries.

British military expert Glen Grant.
British military expert Glen Grant.
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Military Analyst to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt: Ukrainian Frontline Is Vulnerable, Army Struggles with Reserve Shortage

British military expert Glen Grant.
British military expert Glen Grant.

In an exclusive interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt, British military expert Glen Grant discussed the ongoing situation on the Ukrainian-Russian front as the second year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches. Grant highlighted the challenges confronting the Ukrainian army, emphasizing that Russia is poised to gradually annex Ukrainian territories, capitalizing on its numerical superiority and learning from past military mistakes.

Regarding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's recent appointment of Oleksandr Syrsky as the new commander of the Ukrainian army, replacing Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Grant expressed skepticism about the potential field outcomes. He noted the diminishing military support for Ukraine, Zelensky's failure to initiate a recruitment campaign, and Syrsky's affiliation with the Old Soviet military school, similar to his predecessor. Despite these concerns, Grant acknowledged the possibility of Syrsky exceeding expectations and achieving positive results.

British military expert Glen Grant lectures to cadets on improving defense management and training of soldiers, Kiev, Ukraine, January 25th, 2024 (Glen Grant's Facebook)

Grant warned against political interference in the Ukrainian army's decisions, asserting that the Ukrainian political leadership's lack of understanding of military matters, coupled with his perception of Syrsky's appointment as a primarily political decision, could adversely affect the army's performance.

Grant strongly criticized a recent statement by Donald Trump, the former US president and Republican Party candidate for the upcoming presidential elections. Trump suggested that if elected president in November, he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies falling short of the alliance's agreed-upon defense spending goals.

Grant viewed Trump's statement as a favorable gesture towards Putin, potentially inciting Russian attacks on multiple countries. He expressed the belief that Trump's election as president would pose a significant threat to the security of the world order and Western civilization.

Proudly acknowledging the assistance extended by Britain to Ukraine, Grant acknowledged the existing challenges in British support, highlighting a shortage of stocks. Nevertheless, he assured that London is actively engaged in securing additional aid for the Ukrainian army.

- As the second year of the war draws to a close, could you provide insight into the state of the Ukrainian army on the frontline?

The frontline is currently in a critical state, and the supply situation goes beyond urgency; it's critical. The Ukrainian frontline is notably thin, and the scarcity of manpower has become acute due to a continuous loss of soldiers for a year without adequate replenishment. This stands out as a significant governmental issue.

President Zelensky has not taken steps to support or enact the necessary laws in parliament for mobilizing people. It appears that this hesitancy is driven by his reluctance to upset the country, particularly with an upcoming election that he is poised to win.

Soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard's "Khartia" Brigade stand guard at a position in the Kupiansk-Lyman area, eastern Ukraine, 10 February 2024 (EPA)

 

- What is the current state of the Russian army from your perspective?

On the Russian side of the frontline, military corruption remains a severe issue. However, the Russians are actively learning and adapting their strategies. Notably, they are quick to adapt to emerging technologies, such as drones, showcasing a level of adaptability that should not be underestimated.

Russia is persistently pushing the frontline back piece by piece, taking advantage of its numerical superiority. This ongoing strategy allows the Russians to attack lightly defended areas, exemplified by the current attack in places like Avdiivka. This approach forces the Ukrainians to deploy reserves to maintain control over villages and towns, as seen previously in Bakhmut, where the Ukrainians incurred significant losses holding a position that was unsustainable, a fact apparent to any solid military analyst.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky shake hands after a meeting with newly appointed top military commanders, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 10, 2024 (Reuters)

 

- How do you assess Zelensky's decision to replace the former Ukrainian Army Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi with Oleksandr Syrsky?

Syrsky shares an old-school approach with his predecessor, reminiscent of the Russian military's Soviet School. With Syrsky now in charge, will there be a notable difference? Some of his staff believe he will be more open to allowing the Ukrainian commanders to fight in the way that is best for them. However, being a political appointee raises questions about whether Zelensky's demands for him to hold the frontline will prove exceptionally challenging. We might not witness the best of him, given the potential for Syrsky to follow political orders.

Nevertheless, people often exhibit different behaviors when in charge. Syrsky should be given the opportunity to showcase more than currently understood. In my extensive military experience, I've witnessed individuals taking charge and blossoming into a different person than expected. Yet, as a product of the Russian military system, Syrsky has primarily displayed an attitude and manner very closely aligned with the traditional Russian military approach.

- Can the new Ukrainian commander in chief effectively maintain the frontline and initiate a counter-offensive against the Russians?

The burn rate on the Ukrainian battlefield is excessively high, indicating that Ukrainians should have consistently considered this issue, anticipating a slowdown and depletion in supply, which has now been ongoing for three months. Swift replenishment of supplies is unlikely; the Ukrainians cannot suddenly acquire fighter jets or more tanks.

The Ukrainian persistence in holding the line and incurring losses without a sustainable supply strategy is essentially jeopardizing the future, as deceased soldiers cannot contribute to tomorrow's battles. This situation necessitates a shift in the Ukrainian approach to warfare.

Instead of relying solely on a conventional counter-attack, the Ukrainians may need to adopt a more nuanced and strategic military strategy, especially given the apparent political nature of the situation. Effectively navigating these challenges requires a subtle and strategic military game plan in the absence of immediate resource reinforcements.

Photograph released on February 14, 2024, shows Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrsky (2nd L) and Ukraine's Defence Minister Rustem Umerov (L) visiting the frontline positions at an undisclosed location in eastern Ukraine (AFP)

 

- As a military expert in a NATO member state, what is your perspective on the possibility of Trump winning the presidential election in wake of his comments that he intends to encourage Russia to attack NATO allies that fail to meet agreed-upon defense spending goals?

If Trump secures the election, I anticipate Ukraine becoming a secondary concern. The potential danger extends beyond Ukraine to encompass the entire Western world. Trump's comments essentially provide a green light to Putin, enabling him (in the future) to attack certain countries. These comments are not only incredibly stupid, but also pose an extraordinary threat to Western civilization, affecting not only the West, but also Japan, Taiwan, and possibly Australia. Trump is dismantling the Western system without instituting any substantive alternatives, doing so for his own power and ego.

What is urgently needed is a US president who promptly defends NATO against aggression from Iran, North Korea, and any other potential threats, while sending a clear message to China that provocations will not be tolerated. However, Trump's recent comments risk dangerously unraveling the entire world order.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Commander of Ukraine's Ground Forces Col.-Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, right, look at a map during their visit to the frontline city of Kupiansk, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Nov. 30, 2023 (AP)

 

- How significant is the proposed $60 billion US aid in Congress for Ukraine, and can it help halt the Russian advancement on the frontline?

The $60 billion US aid would be immensely beneficial for Ukraine and addresses a critical need at the moment. This assistance could indeed help Ukraine maintain its frontline. Putin has already initiated World War III, and the key question is whether the Russians can be restrained from extensive conflict or if the situation is irreversibly sliding downhill. The only entity capable of preventing this descent is the United States. If Russia continues unchecked, the global consequences will be severe, with China likely drawing lessons from the situation.

British military expert Glen Grant lectures in Ukraine, January 2024 (Glen Grant's Facebook)

 

- As a British citizen and expert, how do you evaluate the stance of the UK government, army, and intelligence in assisting the Ukrainian army?

I take great pride in what the UK has accomplished so far. The challenge lies in our limited remaining army resources, although we are still actively seeking supplies from other countries to help Ukraine. Until now, I have been genuinely proud of the stance demonstrated by Britain, including the government and parliament, as they have exhibited considerable strength and resilience.

I previously asserted that the United States was the sole country capable of effectively aiding Ukraine. However, I must now acknowledge that India also possesses the necessary equipment, ammunition, and the capacity to significantly support Ukraine's victory. With its substantial numbers and mass, India has the potential to contribute substantially to this cause and provide considerable assistance.

Glen Grant

Who is the Military Expert Glen Grant?

Glen Grant, a 37-year veteran of the British Army, served as a defense attaché in Finland, Estonia, and Latvia. Following his retirement from the military, he has dedicated himself to defense reform efforts. Currently, he is actively engaged in projects spanning over 10 countries in Eastern Europe and Chile. Additionally, Glen imparts his expertise by lecturing at the Riga Business School, primarily focusing on strategy, human resource management, and crisis management. Moreover, he delivers lectures for the Ukrainian military.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Hamdok Optimistic for Burhan-Hemedti Meeting

Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)
Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)
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Hamdok Optimistic for Burhan-Hemedti Meeting

Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)
Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)

Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), is optimistic about a potential meeting between Sudan’s army leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti.”
Speaking to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt on the sidelines of a Cairo conference for Sudanese political forces, Hamdok said: “A meeting between the two sides is possible through the African Union’s Presidential Committee led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.”
Hamdok highlighted that this committee “is a positive step, providing a mechanism to bring the conflicting parties together, which didn’t exist before.”
In late June, the African Peace and Security Council formed a committee led by Museveni to bring together Sudan’s military and RSF leaders promptly. They proposed an urgent African Union summit to address Sudan’s situation.
Hamdok called it a historic step, noting it’s the first mechanism at the presidential level. He hoped the committee could influence both sides and achieve peace.
He praised the recent African Peace and Security Council meeting for showing Africa’s concern for Sudan.
At the Cairo conference for Sudanese political forces, Hamdok highlighted it as a crucial gathering since the crisis began, focusing on ceasefire strategies and a sustainable political resolution.
He emphasized there’s no military solution to Sudan’s conflict and advocated for political negotiations.
The Cairo conference united Sudanese political and civilian forces under the theme “Together for Peace,” addressing ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and a political roadmap.
Hamdok pointed out that Sudan is undergoing the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 25 million people inside Sudan facing famine.
“Starvation is claiming more lives than bullets,” said Hamdok, highlighting the urgent need to reach war-affected populations.
The former premier urged action to deliver aid across Sudan’s borders and ensure it reaches those in conflict zones.