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Germany's Scholz calls for more Ukraine air defense

April 26, 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Ukraine's European allies to "look at their stocks" and provide air defense systems to Ukraine. Germany recently announced it would send a new Patriot missile battery.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both spoke about the need for more air defense systems in UkraineImage: Hannes P. Albert/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday again urged European allies to ramp up their commitment towards strengthening Ukraine's air defense capabilities.

Speaking during a joint press conference in Berlin with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Scholz highlighted the importance of Patriot air defense batteries amid Russia's continued drone and missile attacks on Ukraine's cities, towns and critical infrastructure.

The Patriot guided missile system is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly emphasized Ukraine needs more air defense to fend off Russian attacks. 

"I would like to take this opportunity once again to ask many of our friends in Europe to ask them to also check their stocks to see if there's any way they can help, that they also do something in this respect to support Ukraine's air defense,” said Scholz.

Ukraine's need for Patriot missile batteries

Stoltenberg praised the role Germany was playing in support of Ukraine. Germany is the second-largest supplier of military support to Ukraine after the US. 

"You just decided to send a third Patriot system to Ukraine and I strongly believe that other allies should follow the example of Germany." Stoltenberg stressed.

The Patriot weapons system being fired at the NATO Missile Firing Installation, in Chania, Greece in 2017
Patriot missile systems can shoot down enemy rockets, planes and cruise missiles Image: Sebastian Apel/U.S. Department of Defense/AP/picture alliance

Other European countries including Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden also have Patriot systems.

Spanish media quoted government sources as saying the country ruled out sending launchers for the surface-to-air systems and would only provide missiles for the Patriot defense system.

Meanwhile, Greece has turned down Ukraine's request for a Patriot system arguing that it needs it for its own defense.

Later on Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US would provide a $6 billion tranche of weapons to Ukraine, including Patriot air defense systems. 

German contribution to European security 

Stoltenberg also emphasized the overall contribution Germany makes to European security. 

"You are strengthening your presence in the eastern part of the alliance, deploying a brigade to Lithuania. Your jets are patrolling the Baltic skies and Germany has committed 12,0000 troops to steadfast defender, the largest NATO exercise since the Cold War," Stoltenberg said.

The NATO chief said Germany's increased defense spending to 2% of GDP "matters for all allies."

Stoltenberg welcomed the US approval of military and financial aid for Ukraine, while also highlighting the contributions being made by the UK and the Netherlands.

"It is our responsibility to turn these contributions into deliveries quickly," Stoltenberg said.

Germany, however, continues to hold back on sending the Taurus long-range missile system. Chancellor Scholz has argued such a move would bring Germany into direct conflict with Russia. 

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Ukraine

Ukraine's allies meet virtually 

Meanwhile the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group — a coalition of 50 countries — gathered for a virtual meeting on Friday.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy discussed Ukraine's need for Patriot missile systems, of which he said seven were needed to defend his country.

"We urgently need Patriot systems and missiles for them," Zelenskyy said. "This is what can and should save lives right now."

In remarks made on Friday to the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke of the "extraordinary coalition of nations of goodwill," which he said "has held together throughout two years of Putin's flagrant aggression, and his contempt for human rights and decency."

Austin spoke of Ukraine's "dire need of more air defense systems" and said "it urgently needs more interceptors," which would be a priority during talks.

"If Ukraine fell under Putin's boot, Europe would fall under Putin's shadow," Austin warned.

Olaf Scholz Hosts NATO Chief Stoltenberg in Berlin

kb/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters)