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Ukraine asks Germany for 'defensive' weapons

February 4, 2022

Unlike its NATO allies Britain and the US, Germany has refused to send arms to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from possible Russian aggression. Kyiv wants Berlin to change that policy and send weapons.

A Ukrainian soldier holds a Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon in the snow
Britain says it has delivered 2,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, Kyiv would like weapons from Germany as wellImage: Pavlo Palamarchuk/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Ukraine has sent an official request to the German government for support in the form of "defensive" weapons, according to a newspaper report.

In a letter cited by Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Ukrainian Embassy appealed to Berlin for a swift response, given the "extremely tense security situation and the threat of Russian aggression."

Moscow has deployed tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine's border, leading to fears it is planning to invade its smaller neighbor. NATO has also warned of large numbers of Russian soldiers amassing in Belarus.

Russia denies it is planning an invasion. It has demanded a number of security guarantees from the West, including that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and that the military alliance pull back its forces from eastern Europe.In response to the Russian demands, NATO and the United States have said both points are non-starters and instead offered further talks on missile and troop reductions.

In the letter quoted by the Süddeutsche, Ukraine makes a number of specific requests for "defensive" material, including medium-range anti-aircraft missile systems, portable surface-to-air missiles, anti-drone rifles, electronic tracking systems, night vision equipment, surveillance cameras and ammunition.

Kyiv is seeking "immediate assistance in the urgent acquisition" of "weapons systems of a defensive nature," the letter says, according to the newspaper.

Germany rules out weapons deliveries

NATO allies the US, the UK and the Baltic states have sent arms to Ukraine. But Germany has made it clear it will not follow suit. So far, Berlin has offered 5,000 protective helmets and said that it favors a diplomatic solution.

The German government, made up of the center-left SPD, the Greens and the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP), have a restrictive arms export policy that does not allow weapons deliveries to crisis regions.The same policy was in place under the previous coalition led by Angela Merkel. Yet 2021 saw record arms exports worth €9.35 billion euros ($10.65 billion).

But there have been calls for a rethink of Germany's arms export policy.

"Let's open a debate on whether Germany should have a shift in this position," Viola von Cramon, a member of the European Parliament for the Greens and vice chair of the parliament's Ukraine delegation, told DW.

She also said Germany should take a harder line with Russia, and voiced concerns about Turkey's offer to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv.

"I'm more concerned that in the end an autocrat, a non-democrat like [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan will get more influence in this region, in Ukraine, than we Europeans," she said. "It's clearly in our interest to keep Ukraine on this Western integration path."

Double strategy in Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this week defended the decision not to send weapons to Ukraine and said his government was pursuing a double strategy: promising crippling sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine and offering talks over ways to calm the situation.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, deputy chairperson of the FDP parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, told DW weapons exports wouldn't make a big difference anyway.

"We have a situation in which the Ukrainian armed forces are militarily inferior to the Russian armed forces by a factor that could never be made up by arms deliveries," he said.

"We have offered support for their cyberdefenses, we have offered military training to officers from the Ukrainian armed forces, we have sent a field hospital to Ukraine, we are supporting the country economically and politically, so there are a number of ways in which Germans support Ukraine, its territorial integrity, its political sovereignty," he said.

In Germany, 71% of people said they opposed providing German weapons to Ukraine and 20% were in favor, according to an Infratest dimap poll conducted for the German ARD public broadcaster and published Thursday.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is due to travel to Ukraine next week, while Chancellor Scholz will head there later in the month,, after visiting US President Joe Biden next week.

Ukraine's weekend warriors prepare for battle

nm/sms (AFP, dpa)