NOTICE | EDITORIAL: Parts are parts

The 1960s book “Russia at War, 1941-1945” by Alexander Werth might be the last book you will ever need to read on the Eastern Front during World Catastrophe.

One scene stands out, as do a few others in this book: Russian soldiers stand in the smoldering ruins of Stalingrad and venture out to see what the surrounded Germans have left behind in their haste to (try to) escape. Russian infantry found an old abandoned British tank. Most certainly from Dunkirk.

Back then, it was easier to rearrange equipment for your employees to use.

Today, not so much. As proven by another war in what had been the Eastern Front.

Imagine a mechanic used to banging on an old Mustang to move gears, pedals, and wheels toward the same goal. Now imagine this mechanic giving a 2022 car with computer sensors and backup cameras and automatic steering warnings…. Give him a broken laptop drive and keyless starter, and watch his reaction.

It’s a bit like what the Ukrainians are currently experiencing in their great patriotic war.

The Ukrainians need our weapons. In other words, Western weapons. They need artillery, ammunition, guided missiles and anti-aircraft equipment. But when a dozen or more countries all send their own gear and materials, things can get confusing.

The Wall Street Journal quotes the Royal United Services Institute in London: “The current approach of each country donating a battery of weapons piecemeal is quickly turning into a logistical nightmare for Ukrainian forces, with each battery requiring training, maintenance and logistics pipeline.”

It’s a problem of calibres, but not only of calibres. Without the corresponding ammunition, artillery pieces are just expensive and ineffective infantry movers.

Western powers supply, for example, M777 towed howitzers from the United States and Canada. And self-propelled howitzers from France. And the Panzerhaubitze 2000 from Germany. And AHS Krab from Poland.

“None of these systems has so much in common,” an official told the Journal. “Ammo should be interchangeable etc., but it’s not.”

Then you have all the training for the different pieces of equipment. You cannot form a battery of soldiers on the towed howitzers and then give them the pilotable type to fight. Each different piece of armament has its own set of necessary spares that must be brought to the front in a different supply chain. A Polish-made square peg will not fit in an English-made round hole.

NATO has tried to solve this problem over the years with something called “Stanags”, which standardize ammunition for weapons. But, according to The Journal, “NATO has over 1,000 Stanags that set common military standards for processes and materials, but it’s up to each ally to decide which one to implement…”.

Someone told us that it was not a (multi-)governmental operation.

Ukraine’s president and his first lady are telling Westerners how much they need and appreciate military support. But what they need is more of the same. That is, gear that can be used together and the expertise to keep it all on.

Otherwise, all the heroism shown by Ukrainians these days will not translate into victory on the battlefield. Or freedom for their country.

Surely someone at NATO is working on this ops order.

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