Interview with Dr. Marcus Faber — Member of the German Bundestag from the Free Democratic Party (FDP), which is part of the government coalition.
Photo: Twitter Marcus Faber
Marcus Faber visited Ukraine several times after the full-scale Russian invasion. He saw with his own eyes the crimes committed by the Russian army in Lyman, Kharkiv, and Kherson; сommunicated with both military and civilians. He consistently supports Ukraine and stands for providing weapons necessary for defense against Putin’s forces. Faber believes that what Ukraine is doing now is important for the defense of all of Europe.
In an interview with «Vchasno» on February 10, the German politician talked about what stuck in his memory the most during his visits to the front-line cities of Ukraine and also revealed details about the supply of tanks and other necessary weapons.
«Vchasno» news agency: What impressed you the most during your visit to Lyman, Kherson, and Kharkiv — Ukrainian front-line and de-occupied cities?
— Different things actually. For instance, I visited Lyman — the city which is very much destroyed, like 90% of the buildings are heavily damaged and more than 30% are gone. And I have also been to the mass graves next to Lyman, 350 people are buried in there — 290 civilians, 60 children. It obviously leaves an impression.
In Kherson, I have also been with a former Ukrainian policeman in one of those Russian torture prisons. And he explained to me in his former cell how he was tortured and it was a set for two or three people and for weeks he was there with nine people all the time. He never left that сell without something roughly set on his eyes so he can’t see anything. And he said he got hurt pretty badly. The beating was something he could handle. But the electronic shocks were very hard to handle for him. He had these electrodes on his earlobes but also on his testicles.
And obviously, this is something to remember when you’re standing in Kherson you hear the Russian artillery shelling in the background and you know that the next Russian position is only two kilometers away.
A children’s hospital in Kherson as well got shelled before I was there and the day after I was there. I remembered stories, of how hospital staff tried not to only prevent the children from getting hit, but also to invent treatment for children so just the Russians do not take them away.
Marcus Faber in Lyman / photo: Twitter Marcus Faber
Die Massengräber in #Lyman lassen einen sprachlos zurück. 340 Menschen haben die #Invasionstruppen namenlos verschart — darunter 60 Kinder. Die #Ukraine hat sie jetzt ordentlich beigesetzt und versucht per DNA die Identitäten zu klären. Lasst uns #Putin stoppen. pic.twitter.com/GBGbK79oFz— Marcus Faber (@MarcusFaber) January 7, 2023
— «Being able to help motivate me every day» — you wrote once on Twitter. Why is this important to you to keep supporting Ukraine in this hard fight against Putin and his troops?
— Ukraine is a part of Europe, and Ukraine decided to go for democracy, and the rule of law, and become a part of the European family of nations. And it’s attacked by the biggest dictatorship in Europe that is also a threat to all other countries in Europe, such as the Baltic countries, for instance. So I think what Ukraine does right now is important for Ukraine, yes, but it’s also very important for every other country in Europe. So that’s why it’s in Ukraine’s interests, but also in the interests of all other democracies in Europe to defend, and that’s why I’m trying very much to support Ukraine.
— And if we say about the support of providing weapons to Ukraine in German society? Is there more understanding and approving or not understanding and not approving of these processes?
— The numbers are quite stable. So if you ask the Germans whether they want to support military aid to Ukraine, there are 75% who are saying yes, 70−80%, or something like this. And if you ask people «Do you want to deliver heavy battle tanks to Ukraine» — it’s half and half. So it’s how you ask the question and then in former Eastern Germany, where I come from, that was occupied by Russia — by the Soviet Union — the numbers are even a little bit lower. Because I guess people in Eastern Germany still have a lot of respect and maybe also threatened by Russia because would say know of Russia from their own experience. And say that in their lifetime they have been told a lot that America is evil and Russia is a friend. And so they got it in their head and not everybody realizes that actually, we are living in a democracy. The USA is a democracy. And Russia is a dictatorship, that actually attacks its neighbor, so it has to be explained day by day.
— Leopard 1 tanks — their export was already approved. These tanks should be repaired now as I understand, so what is the next step in their delivery to Ukraine?
— First of all, now we have to scale up the numbers, so deliver more tanks. We have made a huge step this week with deploying Leopard 1, the decision has been made, they will be deployed over the year. I think we will end up deploying at least 160, maybe more if we say about Leopard 1. We have to scale up the numbers on the Leopard 2 as well. So hopefully we will go to 28 pretty fast.
And obviously, Ukraine will press for on the Munich Security Conference (which starts on February 17, 2023) and I think want to ask other alliance partners for MiG-29 and F-16 fighter jets. Germany does not have either of them. So in this case it’s just about the Germans allowing Poland and Slovakia for instance, to export their older MiG-29 which were formerly from Eastern Germany during the socialist time. So this is the issue where Germany is involved right at the moment.
— There are some discussions about Leopard 1 models that you know they are old and everything. But Ukraine itself made an offer to buy it from Germany, so it was a clear decision of our country to buy it, right?
— Yes. So, the Leopard 1 tanks have been in the contract between Ukraine and these German companies that have them still in store. One is Rheinmetall and the other one is FFG (Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft). The contract was there for like 11 months, but there was no export license. Now the export license has been given by the German Government. So the companies going on to restore these older tanks. They are still capable to fight for instance with the T-64 and T-72, obviously, they are not as modern as Leopard 2.
— On your Twitter, you wrote about Wiesel and Fuchs, which would be good for Ukraine. Can you please tell more about this possibility and how these weapons will be useful to our troops?
— Fuchs is a transport carrier, personal carrier. Obviously, it’s armored so gives the troops protection while moving along the front line. We have 900 of them, more than 600 are ready to go, and use in our own forces. They are pretty old, but we will use them for some years. We will have some ideas about replacing Fuchs, but no decision made yet and as we have so many of them obviously we can give some of these working 600 to Ukraine, it would be very, very helpful. So basically it’s a transport vehicle but it has also a machine gun on the roof.
And then there’s a Wiesel. It is a small armored fighting vehicle that has chains like a tank. It’s like three meters long, so really really small, really really good, in the forest for instance not so easy being seen, it has a 20-millimeter gun. We have 300 of them and they would be also useful. It can also be used with an anti-tank gun.
Fuchs / photo: Wikipedia
Wiesel / photo from open sources
— So maybe it’s important to combine tanks, things like Wiesel and Fuchs, and maybe other weapons to create some combined forces for the Ukrainian army?
— We call it the «fight of the combined forces». So our combat tanks used to fight with infantry support vehicles, and armored carriers, so that all our troops can move fast on the battlefield and so they can break enemy lines. And again, on a lot of territories, as the Ukrainian army has done around Kharkiv last year. So this is the idea of it. It also depends on how you use this equipment. You can use a Leopard 2 battle tanks in different ways, but the most effective one is if you use it with other armored carriers. So the whole troops that are advancing can have the same speed.
— Also, you noted the importance of production because there are some needs of Ukraine that are still there and also some need in restocking German forces. So are there any plans in the development of production or maybe some actions have already been done?
— Some actions have already been done by companies in Europe and in Germany like increasing the numbers of artillery ammunition for instance as starting a production line for the Gepard ammunition. This is already being done. It will take some months. It’s obviously too slow, little too late, but it’s going on. And then we also have to talk about increasing the production size of weapon systems. So more Leopard 2 tanks will be needed, Rheinmetall is talking about producing its new Panther tank, no country in the world has them yet, but they seem to be quite capable. So Ukraine has an interest in them as well. Or Ukraine will buy the RCH 155 howitzer set on the wheels. And Germany and the Netherlands financing it.
So it’s about increasing production capacity, something that has not been done for a long time in Europe. Now it’s about giving companies the security to produce, that they will be able to sell what they produce so that they also get financing from banks and they can invest to have those productions. This is a complex process.
— You were in Ukraine, talked with our military men, tankers, and saw the weapons they are fighting with now. How do you think the supply of battle tanks overall will affect the situation, especially in terms of Russian plans for new offensive operations?
— It really depends on the numbers. Right now there are supposed to be 14 Leopard 2 battle tanks from Germany, 14 from Poland, 4 from Canada. So the numbers are just too low. If you have like 300 modern battle tanks, this is another kind and you can actually make a change on some part of the front line. Tanks can be defeated; you know they can be hit. It’s about numbers, it’s about the replacement of items — so if something gets broken you can fix it. So can it make a change? Yes, but only in huge numbers. That’s why we talk about upping them and scaling them up right now.
Marcus Faber speaking with Ukrainian military / photo: Twitter Marcus Faber
Politician saw the current Ukrainia weapons / photo: Twitter Marcus Faber
— But if combine all the tanks that international partners promised to Ukraine like Leopards, Challengers, Abrams, will it be enough or no?
— By now it will not be enough. By now it’s like more than 100 tanks. Yes, according to the Ukrainian military, the need is about 300. I would say a lot of them will get destroyed. So the number of 500 is something that hopefully can be reached this year. But for this other countries have to drop in as well. So Greece for instance has 500 Leopard 2 battle tanks, Turkey has 500 Leopard 2 battle tanks, and Germany has 300 of them. Other countries have some of them as well. Poland ordered a lot of new South Korean K2 battle tanks. So maybe they can also spare some of the Leopard 2. These are all things that have to be done this year.
Right now it’s not enough countries participating, not enough tanks they promised and still they have to deliver what they promised. Just today I heard that the Netherlands saying they can’t buy the Leopard 2 that they actually leased by now, so they can’t deliver them. So for them, it’s getting complicated. So no, right now it’s not enough.
— Also, I would like to ask about air defense, especially it is very important because again a massive attack took place on our cities. So what are the further plans of Germany on providing air defense systems to Ukraine?
— I think we have done something about that, the Gepard tanks really did a good job and still doing it and we start producing more ammunition now. So there will be replacements in ammunition as well. So this will work. We have delivered one IRIS-T system by now. We will deliver three more this year, the next one coming pretty soon. And all these systems need ammunition as well. This is a problem because we can’t scale the rocket deployment and production as fast as the Russians are attacking Ukrainian cities.
And then we will deliver a Patriot system that will be very much help. I hope we have a lot of ammunition and will give the one that is running out of expiry date pretty soon. But obviously, Ukraine will use it pretty fast. So there’s not a problem for Ukraine, but there’s no use for us to store them for years and years. So there’s enough ammunition for the Patriot system. These are all helpful for Ukraine, but it’s all point defence. So it’s not enough to protect the whole country of Ukraine, but just the major cities, and certain parts of the front line. But it does help, yes, and with the help of other partners such as the US, such as Sweden, probably it will make a difference.
Interview in Ukrainian available by the link: Танки Leopard та ППО від Німеччини для України, питання винищувачів і необхідність нарощення виробництва боєприпасів.