Zelensky visits the troops at the front and presents medals to their members

European military aid to Ukraine raises widespread controversy among allies

At their extraordinary summit in Brussels last Thursday and Friday, EU leaders achieved an exceptional feat by unanimously agreeing to provide Ukraine with €50 billion worth of “public” financial aid over four years (2024-2027). After the success of collective pressure on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the file is almost closed, until another file is opened, which member states must commit to Kiev for the current year and the following years.

European leaders at a consultative meeting in Brussels yesterday (AFP) with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in attendance

The aid was proposed strongly against the background of Ukrainian complaints of a decrease in Western military support, which is not enough to fill the shortage of ammunition, and the need for modern weapons systems of the Ukrainian forces, especially long-range missiles and missile systems needed to protect Ukrainian airspace.

German pressure

German Chancellor Olaf Scholes spoke to reporters in Brussels after the European Summit (AFP) earlier this month.

The importance of the European role is becoming increasingly apparent in the context of the US administration's ongoing sanctions against Ukraine's proposed $61 billion aid package. As several US representatives and senators close to former President Donald Trump put up obstructions. Hence, the significance and symbolism of President Joe Biden's message to European leaders to thank them for the large financial aid they have approved for Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron is on his way to attend the EU leaders' meeting at the European Union headquarters (AFP) in Brussels on Thursday.

The current tension within the European community is over how to distribute the burden of military aid to Kiev. Statements by German Chancellor Olaf Scholes over the past three days, whether in front of the Bundestag or in Brussels, have shed light on a controversy that Europeans undoubtedly want out of the limelight. But the German side seems to have wanted to blow up the issue and publicly put the Europeans ahead of their responsibilities.

Since he became president, Schulz has shied away from fiery statements, preferring quiet communication and cutting corners. But what he said before the Bundestag was definitive. After recalling that Germany provided half of European military aid to Ukraine, second only to the United States, he put it into words: “We can't rely on Germany alone…and we have to do the bulk of it. It, it can't.” Enough is enough for Ukraine. We want more countries to actively participate in support. Schulz warned against reaching a situation where Germany appears to have no capacity or is bound, and it would be “arrogant to believe that we can do it alone”. “This is not the case. We need unity and solidarity,” was his conclusion.

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French President Macron marches soldiers on the occasion of his visit to a naval base in northwestern France on January 19 (AFP)

Schulz called on the Union's departments to present a clearer picture of the aid and contribution of the Union's 26 countries. Berlin announced that it has earmarked 7 billion euros from the federal budget for military aid to Kiev for 2024, once again demonstrating its improved position at the European and global level.

Where is France located?

The German official's words were based on statistics collected by the Kiel Institute, named after the city in northern Germany, since the outbreak of the Ukrainian war. According to these figures, Germany ranks first in Europe (and second only to the US), with 17.1 billion euros in aid to Ukraine, followed by Britain with 6.6 billion.

European companies are joint third, while Norway comes in fourth with 3.6 billion, Denmark in fifth with 3.5 billion, and then Poland with 3 billion euros. A surprise comes from France, which comes in 15th place with military aid of no more than 533 million euros. It is noteworthy that Italy with 690 million euros and other European countries with smaller economies such as Finland and Slovakia follow in terms of ranking.

Macron and Sunak on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi last September (AFP)

German criticism from the start was mainly aimed at France, but also at Italy and Spain, the third and fourth largest economies in the EU. The problem for Paris, which has the second largest economy in Europe, is that it wants to be a leader and play an influential role in providing support to Ukraine. It does not match the military assistance it provides or what it says and publishes. The reports, the latest from President Emmanuel Macron, in a speech to students at a military college in Sweden, reiterated that “Russia must.” A war against Ukraine is unwinnable.

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In light of these data discrediting the French initiative, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu attacked the German company's statement, saying “the data it relies on cannot be trusted, and in fact all these arrangements are false”. According to the French official, the Kiel initiative was “based only on declarations made by the European parties, not on what was actually achieved”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and French President Emmanuel Macron in Granada (AFP)

According to LeCorno, Paris “delivered everything that was promised, while many countries announced their willingness to provide aid, and then it was not forthcoming, or it became clear that some of it was unusable.” A French defense source said the Kiel arrangement did not take into account the training of defensive systems, or maintaining their readiness, insisting that Paris had always provided systems “ready for immediate use”.

Paris disputes the German company's figures

In the face of Kiel's figure, the French government took refuge behind a report prepared by the Senate and published last November, which put the total value of French aid at 3.2 billion euros, including 1.7 billion euros for arms and ammunition and one billion euros. Euros as a contribution to the so-called “European Facilities for Peace” fund » Buy Kiev weapons, 300 million to train Ukrainian forces.

In his press conference at the Elysee Palace on the evening of January 16, President Macron announced that he will visit Ukraine this February. On the same occasion, he indicated that Paris and Kiev were working on finalizing a “security agreement” similar to the one British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak signed last month with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

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EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell confirmed that European military aid to Ukraine will reach €21 billion this year (Photo from EU)

In the same context, Macron said that dozens of advanced “Scalp” missiles and hundreds of bombs weighing between 250 and 1,000 kilograms can be converted into missiles capable of reaching a distance of 70 kilometers to the Ukrainian forces.

Two days later, Paris hosted a meeting of ministers from several countries involved in the so-called “Rammstein Group” that supports Ukraine militarily. The aim is to help Ukrainian ground forces get the weapons and ammunition they need at a time when they are complaining about Russian superiority, to launch an “artillery alliance” managed by Paris and Washington. Forces in the current “position war” between the two sides.

Before that, France succeeded in convincing the German side to share responsibility for the “Air Defense Group” under German-American administration. After Macron, Sébastien Lecornu announced during a meeting in Paris that he had delivered 6 “Caesar” cannons to Ukraine and decided to give 50 million euros to Kiev to buy 12 additional cannons of the same model. The factories are capable of producing 60 cannons worth 250 million euros, “which seems to me within the reach of various Allied budgets.” LeCorneau also urged French ammunition exports to Ukraine three times, a thousand units per month in the first year of the war, and 3,000 shells by January.

Paris has made several announcements in recent days, expressing its interest in showing its presence in the support provided to Ukraine. However, a better benchmark would be to declare its contribution for the current year. During the recent Brussels summit, EU foreign and security policy chief Joseph Borrell said that Ukraine could receive up to 21 billion euros in European military aid this year, a significant increase compared to the 28 billion euros provided. In 2022 and 2023.

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