Germany Breaks With NATO Allies to Rebuff Ukraine's Pleas for Weapons

Berlin has rejected calls to provide Kyiv with weapons in a week in which the U.K. and the U.S. reiterated their commitment to helping Ukraine's military amid soaring tensions over a buildup of Russian troops by its border.

German defense minister Christine Lambrecht told the newspaper Welt am Sonntagthat there was "consensus in the federal government" that arms deliveries to Ukraine are "currently not helpful."

Ukraine's ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, said this week his country needed vessels to defend its Black Sea and Sea of Azov coasts from a Russian invasion, telling German press agency DPA that German ships "are among the best in the world."

While Lambrecht said Berlin is "standing on Kyiv's side," she said her country would not extend military support for Ukraine and emphasized other help it would provide, such as a field hospital worth €5.3 million euros ($6 million).

"We must do everything to de-escalate the situation," she said, pointing out that Germany had also delivered respirators to Ukraine and injured Ukrainian soldiers are being treated in German hospitals.

The rebuff has angered Kyiv, which summoned German ambassador Anka Feldguzen, to Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.

The foreign ministry said in a statement it took exception to comments by the Commander of the German Navy, Kai-Achim Schönbach, that Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014, will never return to Ukraine, nor will the country ever meet NATO's membership criteria.

"There is also deep disappointment with the German government's position on not providing Ukraine with defense weapons," Kyiv said, according to a translation.

"Today, more than ever, the firmness and solidarity of Ukraine and its partners are important to curb Russia's destructive intentions."

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had rejected similar Ukrainian requests for arms with Baerbock citing historical reasons during a visit to Kyiv, suggesting that Germany's role in World War Two made it a sensitive matter, Defense News reported.

While Germany's new government pursues a more restrained arms-export policy, some politicians there have argued that preventing a war should be taken into account.

Meanwhile, on Saturday the U.S. announced that a shipment of "lethal aid" had arrived in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv which included ammunition for "front line defenders."

It is the first part of a $200m security support package approved last month by President Joe Biden in December.

"The United States and its allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine," the U.S. embassy in Kyiv said.

The statement on Facebook added that Washington and its NATO allies were committed to helping Ukraine "bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression."

U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced this week that Britain would provide Ukraine with "light armor defensive" weapons and training. Neither the U.S. nor the U.K. have said they would provide troops.

The Baltic NATO member states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—all said they would send weapons to Ukraine.

Russia has denied it has plans to invade Ukraine and is awaiting a written U.S. response to its security demands which include a guarantee that Kyiv will never join the alliance.

Lambrecht said Moscow's demand was a "red line" for the alliance, saying "there is no Russian veto-right for membership to NATO."

However, beyond this, she said, "there is readiness from the West to speak with Russia and to take its interests into account."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after a meeting with Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov on Friday suggested there would be further U.S. talks with Moscow aimed at calming tensions.

Ukrainian serviceman
A Ukrainian servicemen during military exercises with NATO near Lviv, Ukraine, on September 24, 2021. Germany has said it will not provide military support to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. YURIY DYACHYSHYN/Getty