Some states want to support Ukraine directly on site. But that would only lead to World War III. Because the arms industry cannot deliver supplies quickly enough, there is only one way to save the country.

Some people can’t wait – a number of Western states are considering using their own military forces to provide logistics, training and air defense in Ukraine alongside their Ukrainian partners.

Ostensibly, this would solve a whole range of problems. Western logistics facilities behind the battle line would radically shorten the long routes from repairs in neighboring countries to the front. Weapon systems and vehicles could be repaired quickly and would be quickly available for combat.

Retired Colonel Ralph D. Thiele is Chairman of the Politisch-Militärische Gesellschaft e.V., President of EuroDefense (Germany) e.V. and CEO of StratByrd Consulting. During his military career, he was employed in important national and international, security and military policy, planning and academic positions, including in the planning staff of the Minister of Defense, in the Private Office of the NATO Supreme Commander, as Chief of Staff at the NATO Defense College, as Commander of the Center for Transformation and as Director of Teaching at the Bundeswehr Leadership Academy.

Training by Western instructors near the front would save time, focus on the situation on the ground and provide the Ukrainians with personnel reserves within reach in military emergencies. Western air defense for Ukrainian airspace from Poland would provide protection for the Ukrainian rear area, where weapons production and repairs take place, reserves are formed, Western shipments of weapons and ammunition arrive and refugees could also seek shelter.

So much for the theory. In practical terms, this means that the Western military units deployed for this purpose take on key tasks of the Ukrainian armed forces. They will become a party to the war and, in the foreseeable future, the target of Russian attacks.

That would then be the beginning of direct Western participation in the war – a war participation that the majority of the German population does not want. And neither is the German Chancellor. Olaf Scholz (SPD) sticks closely to the US President in his assessment. For Joe Biden, participating in the war is the entry into World War III. And he doesn’t want that.

Hybrid Warfare: Future and Technologies

Given the increasingly porous Ukrainian front and the lack of rosy prospects for support from the West – it will take until 2027/2028 for the arms industrial base to implement the “turning point” – it is time for ceasefire negotiations rather than for an expansion and intensification of the fighting.

The example of air defense shows how difficult the situation is. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, full coverage of Ukraine requires 25 Patriot systems – around eight times the current Ukrainian arsenal and more than twice what American Patriot manufacturer Raytheon can produce in an entire year. In fact, Ukraine currently has only three Patriot squadrons, one of which was recently downgraded by a Russian airstrike.

Russia is taking advantage of Ukraine’s weak air defenses to take out strategic targets such as air defense systems and power plants in Ukraine’s rear area. This in turn increases the vulnerability of Patriot systems, as they must work collaboratively with other air defense systems to be successful. Left to their own devices, they easily fall victim to increasingly sophisticated Russian drones. As such, Ukraine’s vulnerability to air threats will only worsen over time.

While US industry is unable to produce the expensive Patriot interceptor missiles in large quantities in the foreseeable future, Russia is constantly procuring Shahed drones, producing Iskander or Kinchal missiles and equipping its aircraft with inexpensively upgraded glide bombs the Soviet era. Even the European allies cannot close the Ukrainian gap. In addition to systems already deployed such as IRIS-T, Patriot and Stinger, Germany will soon send radar systems to detect low-altitude threats and a system to intercept drones. While this support is helpful, it is far from enough to reduce the inferiority of Ukraine’s air defense.

Just as Ukraine requested Leopard and Abrams tanks only to realize that they were not survivable on the battlefield, Patriot systems are not a panacea to address Ukraine’s extreme vulnerability. A positive outcome to this conflict for Ukraine is not possible with military help. And direct military intervention by the US risks a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

What should I do? A turning point in the arms industry is needed. The West needs time for this. Given the precarious military situation in Ukraine, a ceasefire for Ukraine is becoming urgent. The alternatives are wishful thinking.