General Umberto Rossi at the time of the mission in Afghanistan and, in the background, the Russian tanks in action in Ukraine, with more difficulty than expected
“Defensive weapons? They do not exist: it is a definition invented only for political purposes, to settle one’s conscience”
After nearly three months, the war in Ukraine shows no sign of abating. Nor are the fears stirred up by its consequences on the economy. To better understand what is happening, affaritaliani.it met a real authority in the military field: Umberto Rossiformer Air Force general with 42 years of service, as well as Italian representative to NATOmission coordinator in Afghanistan and then under the European Commissionwhere with the DG Move he took care of the project Single European Sky, aimed at unifying the rules for the use of the airspace of the member countries. His experience is full of truly illuminating anecdotes and considerations, but his gaze is projected towards the future and the choices of ecological transition that can no longer be postponed.
When Putin invaded Ukraine, many were betting that he would conquer it in days, if not hours. Why is the situation today still so intricate?
“Well, I don’t know who could have bet on such a short war duration, even though the military power of the Russian Federation is disruptive. On the pitch, things are not exactly like this and the signs of lack of clarity, if not of confusion, appeared immediately evident. First, the goal: the famous ‘denazification’ should have involved taking control of the capital Kiev, to oust Zelensky and replace him with a ‘puppet’ government. After about 10 days, however, it became clear that it would not be an easy goal to achieve, so the Russians diverted their operations to the South / East of Ukraine “
Who is more to blame than this confusion, Putin or the general staff of the Russian army?
“On the one hand, the ability of the political leadership to concretely define the objective of the war is being questioned and, on the other, that of the military leadership to act consistently. When a war begins, it is always for a determined will, but then there are often adjustments in the course of work. There has been much talk of the poor ability of Russian intelligence to fully perceive Ukraine’s operational capabilities and probably some errors have occurred, but this can only be properly assessed after the war is over. Instead, what we can already say today is that Russia has never talked about strategies to limit the collateral damagesas it should happen in adherence to the founding principles of war law and related international conventions “
What are the merits of the Ukrainian resistance?
“In the meantime, let’s say that the resistance is not only from the armed forces, but from all of Ukraine. Zelensky is doing an excellent job, keeping the entire population anchored to one goal. Ukrainians, more or less young men and women, go to fight voluntarily and show a pride that makes a difference. The Russian army also operates outside its own territory and therefore there are problems of logistics and support for operations, having to stock up on food and provide for the right exchange of forces. Furthermore, on the ground there is not this great disproportion in favor of the Russians, in terms of the number of soldiers, while there is certainly in terms of quantity and type of armaments. The goal of taking control of cities (especially the most populous ones) is achieved by sending men to the field. Mariupol and Odessa may also be conquered by the Russians, but will they be able to keep them? The evaluations must be postponed to the medium term, now it is premature “
The tenacity of the Ukrainians is supported by the weapons sent by Westerners, a question that causes much discussion: does the distinction between “offensive” and “defensive” weapons make sense?
“The only sense of this discussion is of a political nature. Let’s say things as they are: the difference does not exist. It all depends on the type of use made of it and Ukraine today has to defend itself against brutal aggression, so it needs adequate weapons. Even a simple transport truck can be very useful in such a theater of war. However, it seems to me correct to say that the rules of engagement for these armaments must be precisely defined, for example by providing for the exclusion of trespassing from Ukrainian territory or the use of weapons for operations not authorized by the conventions. Having said that, it is a discussion that I willingly leave to politicians “
There is also a risk that, at the end of the war, the weapons we send will end up in the wrong hands, perhaps on the black market. It is said that it also happened in Afghanistan, a scenario that you know well: is this really the case?
“You have to do a little bit of real politik: problems are faced one at a time. Undoubtedly, the means of transport left by the Americans in Kabul today are in the hands of the Taliban, which can also be seen in the television images. It is normal, as well as saying that war is a bad thing, which should never be confronted. However, when the time comes, it is necessary to take the courage to make choices. Yes: the weapons could fall into the wrong hands, but these are assessments that, however understandable, should not affect today’s choices “
It has been said that Putin would have decided to invade Ukraine also because he was comforted by the weakness of the West, which certainly did not make a good impression in Afghanistan. Is it a correct interpretation?
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