Germany to send 1000 anti tank missiles to Ukraine
Germany to send Ukraine weapons in historic shift on military aid
Until Saturday, Germany had a longstanding practice of blocking lethal weapons from being sent to conflict
Germany on Saturday reversed a historic policy of never sending weapons to conflict zones, saying the Russian invasion of Ukraine was an epochal moment that imperiled the entire post-World War II order across Europe.
The decision was an abrupt change in course, coming after Berlin clung to its initial position for weeks despite the rising Russian menace and pressure from EU and NATO allies.
On Saturday, Berlin finally bowed to that pressure, and to the reality that Russia is encircling Ukrainian cities and threatening to topple the government in Kyiv.
From its own stockpile, the German government will send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems to Ukraine. The government has also authorized the Netherlands to send Ukraine 400 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and told Estonia it ship over send nine howitzers.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “It threatens our entire post-war order. In this situation, it is our duty to do our utmost to support Ukraine in defending itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army. Germany stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”
A government spokesperson said the weapons will be delivered “as soon as possible.”
Until Saturday, Germany had stuck to its longstanding practice of not permitting lethal weapons that it controlled to be transferred into a conflict zone.
That stance bewildered some European officials, even more so after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion and launched missile strikes on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
Germany’s shift comes as numerous Western allies are mobilizing to send Ukraine more guns, ammunition and even anti-aircraft defense systems as Russian forces bear down on major Ukrainian cities.
The reversal could mean a rapid increase in European military assistance for Ukraine, as large portions of the Continent’s weapons and ammunition are at least in part German-manufactured, giving Berlin legal control over their transfer. Yet Berlin’s changing stance does not necessarily mean all requests for arms shipments will be approved, as each case is decided individually.
Before Saturday’s turnaround, senior Ukrainian officials had been complaining bitterly for weeks about Germany’s refusal to allow arms shipments to bolster Ukraine’s defenses.
Estonia, in particular, had said it wanted to send old howitzers but was prevented from doing so because Germany was withholding its approval. Estonia bought the weapons from Finland, which gave its sign-off, but Germany also has to OK the transfer because it originally sold the howitzers to Finland.
At the time, Ukrainian and some officials from EU countries expressed outrage. And in response, Germany said it was sending 5,000 helmets and a field hospital to Ukraine, a meager contribution that has been the subject of some derision considering that Germany is the biggest and wealthiest EU country.
But the dispute over the howitzers erupted nearly a month ago, and now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has undertaken a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the need to supply Kyiv with arms and ammunition is urgent. Russian tanks have advanced on the Ukrainian capital, which is also under fire from Russian missiles. Paratroopers and other Russian forces are trying to infiltrate the city, and local officials have warned residents that fighting is underway on the streets. Many have taken refuge in subway stations.
Germany’s resistance lingered in recent days even as other European countries, the U.S. and NATO started mobilizing in recent days to send military equipment and weapons to Ukraine.
Poland has started sending ammunition by land, while Estonia and Latvia on Friday said they were beginning to truck fuel, Javelin anti-armor weapons and medical supplies to the Ukraine border for hand-off to Ukrainian forces. Elsewhere, the Czech Republic said it would send guns and ammunition, and Slovakia said it would send ammunition, diesel and kerosene.
On Saturday, more countries started chipping in.
The Netherlands said it will send 200 Stinger anti-aircraft defense systems to Ukraine — often the top-requested type of military aid among Ukrainian soldiers and officials (apart from Western powers sending their own planes and forces to fight with Ukraine). And Belgium announced it would supply Ukraine with 2,000 machine guns and 3,800 tonnes of fuel.
Across the Atlantic, the United States on Saturday also upped its ongoing military assistance to Ukraine, authorizing up to $350 million to help bolster Ukraine’s defenses, funding that will include “further lethal defensive assistance.”
In addition to its stance on weapons shipments, Germany has also taken flack from some allies for its opposition to barring Russia from the SWIFT international payment system, which European countries notably use to buy energy from Russia. While there was some initial resistance across the EU to such a ban, the opposition has rapidly dwindled following the invasion and amid pressure from Ukraine. EU countries like Poland are now publicly leaning on Germany to follow suit.
Against this broader backdrop, officials from several EU member countries had expressed fury and disbelief that the German government dragged its feet on giving blanket permission for the supply of lethal weapons and ammunition.
For weeks, Germany defended its position as part of a post-World War II policy aimed at preventing bloodshed. But others pointed out that the stance meant weapons stockpiled across Europe could not be sent to Ukraine
While the laws can be complicated, the manufacturing country often retains some legal authority over resales or donations of arms to third parties. “Throughout Europe, there are armories filled with weaponry,” one official from a Western EU country said.
The restrictions often also apply to jointly manufactured war materiel, a particular complication given extensive Franco-German partnerships in the defense sector.
“The problem in Europe is that a lot of it is supplied by German manufacturers, and Germany so far is withholding consent,” the official said. “That instantly limits the available stores in Europe.”
On Friday, Germany was still standing by its initial reluctance. Germany’s chief government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said his country had not adjusted this policy in response to the outbreak of war, nor the attack on the Ukrainian capital. “I think the federal foreign minister and also the chancellor made it clear yesterday that the German government’s position on this has not changed due to the legal regulations that exist,” Hebestreit said.
A German official added that it was inaccurate to say Berlin was blocking anything because no further requests had been received. Other countries disputed that assertion.
A senior Central European official insisted that Europe must move now. “Now is the time to help as much as we can,” the official said. “There are people dying and [there] will be more if we don’t do what is the bare minimum,” the official said, adding: “It is a question of survival for Ukraine.”
Sources from Reuters and Politico