“All this Talk” of Red Lines

Demands to deliver battle tanks and fighter jets to Ukraine are raised in Berlin. Western military officials support Kiev’s plans to retake Crimea.

BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) – Following the German government’s announcement to supply Ukraine with armored infantry fighting vehicles, more extensive demands to deliver battle tanks and jet fighters are being raised in Berlin. The Green parliamentarian Anton Hofreiter, declared that he “would like” to see “ a European initiative for the delivery of the Leopard 2. Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck does not rule out Leopard 2 deliveries to Kiev. Carlo Masala, Professor at the Bundeswehr University in Munich advocates providing Ukraine’s armed forces also with fighter jets, needed for a “counter-offensive.” Masala and others are pleading to ignore Russia’s red lines. The currently discussed counter-offensives include the attempt to militarily retake Crimea. This could be accomplished by August, according to a retired US General. Of course, this would mean that the West would have to supply Ukraine with even more arms, explains a former advisor to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Plans to retake Crimea had already been signed into law in Kiev by presidential decree back in March 2021. If this plan would be carried out, hundreds of thousands of Russians could be expelled by force.

From Marder to Leopard

The German government’s announcement to supply Ukraine with Marder armored infantry fighting vehicles, was immediately followed by more extensive demands raised by hardliners. Last week, Berlin had promised to provide Kiev with 40 Marders by late March and to train Ukrainian soldiers in their operation. At the same time, Washington had promised Ukraine Bradley M2 infantry fighting vehicles and France AMX-10 RC armored fighting vehicles.[1] Demands are now being raised to supply also Leopard 2 battle tanks for the war. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (FDP), Chair of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee declared, “we won’t back down. After the Marder comes the Leopard. I’ll stick with it.”[2] Anton Hofreiter (Green Party), Chair of the Bundestag’s European Affairs Committee said, “our country being the main manufacturer of the Leopard 2, I would like for us to launch a European initiative for its delivery.”[3] Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Green Party) Vice-President of the Bundestag also pleads for the transfer of the battle tanks, “it would be wrong to stop.”[4] Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck does not rule out supplying Leopard 2s to Kiev.[5]

From Tanks to Jet Fighters

Current discussions include even more far-reaching steps. Already in late December, Carlo Masala, Professor at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, remarked that in regards to arms-supplies to Ukraine, “infantry fighting vehicles and jet fighters, are now being mentioned, which until now have largely been taboo.”[6] Masala agrees, “tanks and fighter jets are the only solution.” Slovakia had announced the delivery of jet fighters already in mid-December. According to an announcement by Foreign Minister Rastislav Káčer, a Ukrainian delegation was getting ready to visit Slovakia, at the time, to prepare together with Slovak and US specialists the delivery of the planes. “I am optimistic,” Káčer had stated, “that the airplanes will soon appear in Ukraine.”[7] Following the decision to supply armored infantry fighting vehicles, Masala now declares that “in two months we will possibly be speaking of jet fighters.”[8] Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Andriy Melnyk, who, during his service as ambassador to Germany, had pressed ahead with a demand to deliver heavy weapons, goes a step further. Melnyk now not only wants jet fighters but even “combat drones, battle ships, submarines, ballistic missiles” – and he wants them “immediately.”[9]

Needed for “Counter-Offensives”

According to Masala inhibitions that had prevented the delivery of heavy weaponry have, in the meantime, largely dissipated – inhibitions, born of fear that one could thereby be crossing Russia’s red lines and therefore no longer remain a covert, but become an overt party to the war. Strack-Zimmermann, for example, had previously called for ignoring the red lines. “Whoever fantasizes” that by delivering certain weapons, “a red line vis à vis Russia would be crossed,” would be telling “the story of the aggressor, not that of the victim,” Strack-Zimmermann alleged.[10] Recently a New York Times article has been frequently quoted, in which an expert from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London openly advocates ignoring Moscow’s red lines: “Red lines are nearly always soft, variable and contingent.”[11] Masala, concludes now that “all this talk of ‘Putin will escalate, if we deliver certain weapons systems,’ is now finally over,” this, in fact opens “the door for other arms deliveries.”[12] Pertaining to the purpose of the delivery of battle tanks, and possibly jet fighters and other instruments, according to Masala, it is “decisive for the war,” although not immediately, but it facilitates “the Ukrainian’s counter-offensives in the East and in the South.”

Retaking Crimea

Recent discussions on Ukrainian offensives include an offensive to retake Crimea. This is receiving growing support among Western military officials. For example, Ben Hodges, former Supreme Commander of US Army in Europe (USAREUR), parts from the premise that Ukraine could retake Crimea by August of this year. To do so, it would necessitate incapacitating the two supply routes to the peninsula – the Kerch Bridge and the land bridge through Mariupol.[13] This would render Crimea “untenable” Hodges predicts. Mick Ryan, a former Australian Major General, who, in the past has also been an advisor to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has outlined prerequisites that should allow Ukraine to militarily regain control of Crimea.[14] According to his plans, Ukraine must first retake Cherson and Zaporizhia, to then be able to attack Crimea via the narrow land bridge. The West, in turn, must maintain unity in its support for Ukraine and increase its supply of weapons. This pertains to tanks, armor-piercing munition, helicopters, and jet fighters. The plans are on hand, all that is now needed is “the political will.”

Forced Expulsions

The Ukrainian government launched plans for recapturing Crimea around a year before Russia entered the war. On March 24, 2021, President Volodymyr Zelenskyj decreed that a strategy elaborated by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Councils that provided for the “de-occupation and reintegration” of Crimea be enacted. This would require a wide range of essential measures in the fields of politics, diplomacy, and economics, but also including military measures. Should Ukraine actually attempt to militarily retake Crimea, it could refer back to these plans. Tamila Tasheva, the Presidential Representative of Ukraine in Crimea, demands that among the measures to be applied within the framework of the “de-occupation,” the 800,000 Russians who had resettled in Crimea since 2014, should be expelled by force.[15]


[1] Eckart Lohse, Markus Wehner, Michaela Wiegel: Eine neue Dimension der Unterstützung. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06.01.2023.

[2] Markus Decker, Jan Emendörfer: Von „hätte früher kommen müssen” bis „Riesenfortschritt”: Reaktionen auf die deutschen Waffenlieferungen. rnd.de 05.01.2023.

[3] Hofreiter: Müssen auch Kampfpanzer Leopard 2 liefern. daserste.de 06.01.2023.

[4] Rufe nach Leopard-Panzern für die Ukraine werden nach Marder-Zusage lauter. welt.de 08.01.2023.

[5] Habeck schließt Leopard-Lieferung nicht aus. welt.de 08.01.2023.

[6] „Panzer und Flugzeuge sind die einzige Lösung”. Süddeutsche Zeitung 27.12.2022.

[7] MiG-29 für die Ukraine. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 13.12.2022.

[8] Markus Decker, Jan Emendörfer: Von „hätte früher kommen müssen” bis „Riesenfortschritt”: Reaktionen auf die deutschen Waffenlieferungen. rnd.de 05.01.2023.

[9] Can Merey: Melnyk: Ukraine braucht von Verbündeten auch Kampfjets, Kriegsschiffe und U-Boote. rnd.de 06.01.2023.

[10] Sven Christian Schulz: „Putin kennt keine roten Linien”. fr.de 08.01.2023.

[11] Nigel Gould-Davies: Putin Has No Red Lines. nytimes.com 01.01.2023.

[12] Markus Decker, Jan Emendörfer: Von „hätte früher kommen müssen” bis „Riesenfortschritt”: Reaktionen auf die deutschen Waffenlieferungen. rnd.de 05.01.2023.

[13] When another military offensive might happen in Ukraine, and what it would look like. npr.org 02.01.2023.

[14] Fabian Sommavilla: Sehnsucht nach der Krim: Gelingt 2023 die Rückeroberung? derstandard.at 31.12.2022.

[15] Andrea Jeska: Droht den Krim-Russen die Vertreibung? NZZ am Sonntag 18.12.2022.