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Germany, UK boost defense ties after Berlin talks

April 24, 2024

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with German German chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin and praised Germany for being one of the biggest defense spenders in Europe and for aiding Ukraine during Russia's attacks.

Rishi Sunak and Olaf Scholz shake hands after a bilateral meeting in February 18, 2023
Rishi Sunak and Olaf Scholz after a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in February 18, 2023Image: Anna Szilagyi/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced initiatives to boost defense ties between the Germany and the United Kingdom on Wednesday.

The announcement was made in a joint press conference during Sunak's first visit to Berlin since becoming prime minister 18 months ago, and a day after he met NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Poland.

What did Sunak and Scholz say on UK-Germany cooperation?

The plans included the joint development of Remote-Controlled Howitzer 155mm Wheeled Artillery Systems (RCH 155).

The leaders also discussed collaboration on energy and renewables, with Scholz saying Berlin planned to carry out a study on the feasibility of trading hydrogen between the two countries.

"The UK and Germany are European powerhouses," Sunak said in a statement. "Together, we are stronger — whether that is defending against Russian aggression or driving economic growth and technological advance."

During the press conference, Scholz stressed that an aid package approved by the US Senate does not free European countries from the responsibility to continue supporting Ukraine.

He said Berlin sought to work with London on the Europe-wide air defense project called the European Sky Shield Initiative , which is aimed at plugging holes in air defense capabilities.

Scholz added that there was no change in Germany's opposition to sending Ukraine long-range Taurus missiles. Berlin has long opposed the deliveries, arguing that they could hit targets deep within Russia.

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Ukraine

Security situation and war in Ukraine high on agenda

Germany is Ukraine's second-biggest supplier of military aid after the US and has been pushing other countries to supply Kyiv with additional Patriot defense systems to repel Russian attacks.

Though Scholz has faced criticism for refusing to send Taurus long-range missiles, he has led efforts to supply Kyiv with more Patriot systems under the NATO framework.

In March, Berlin confirmed a €1.3 billion ($1.38 billion) order for four Patriot air defense systems, with the first one expected to be delivered by the end of 2025. Earlier this month, Germany pledged a third Patriotsystem. 

"Germany and the UK are the two largest defense spenders in Europe and are the two countries which have been at the forefront of providing support to Ukraine," Sunak said in Poland on Tuesday.

"I'm confident that that will continue, and we are actually in the process of strengthening our defense and security cooperation with the Germans," he added.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted many European countries to increase defense spending, with EU officials hoping to see a more efficient collective effort rather than multiple national policies.

Earlier this year, the European Commission unveiled ambitious plans for a €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) defense industry program aimed at boosting weapons production and procurement and reducing reliance on US armaments.

On Tuesday in Warsaw, Sunak announced that the United Kingdom would raise defense spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030, higher than NATO's target of spending 2%.

rm,sdi/sms (Reuters, AP) 

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