European countries pick up pace of support to Ukraine

Germany and Poland increase aid as EU catches up US in military aid against Russia

Lithuanian military aid is unloaded from a C-17 Globemaster III plane at an airport in Ukraine in February. Reuters
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European countries including Germany and Poland have raised their level of support to Ukraine and have collectively caught up the US in providing military and financial aid, new figures show.

Germany is now Ukraine’s third-biggest military backer if funding for Kyiv to buy defensive equipment is included – although it drops to ninth if countries are ranked by direct delivery of arms and weapons.

Poland and its Baltic allies are the top donors to Ukraine when adjusted for the size of their economies, with Estonia leading the way by offering 0.8 per cent of national income in aid to the besieged country.

However, others such as France and Italy have made few new commitments in recent weeks and dropped down the table in the Ukraine Support Tracker, which is maintained by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

Ukraine has kept up unrelenting demands for heavy military equipment such as tanks and rocket launchers to fend off a Russian offensive which is now in its tenth week and focused on capturing the eastern Donbas region.

“We are observing an increased willingness by governments to offer support to Ukraine and to do so transparently,” said the institute’s research director Christoph Trebesch after the figures were updated on Monday for the first time since mid-April.

“Taken together, the contributions of EU countries currently reach the magnitude of US aid, which should be expected given the geographic proximity to Ukraine.”

The balance will change again if the $33 billion aid package proposed by US President Joe Biden, which would dwarf America’s previous commitments, is approved by Congress.

The $10.8bn of American aid provided since January makes the US by far the biggest single-country donor in that time, followed by Poland and non-EU member Britain, the tracker says.

That covers military, financial and humanitarian aid given directly to Ukraine, although includes neither private donations nor indirect costs such as the absorption of millions of refugees in Poland.

As far as desperately sought military aid is concerned, 31 countries are known to have offered support to Ukraine by either shipping weapons directly or providing money to buy arms.

Germany, which has taken heavy criticism for what many see as the slow pace and opaque nature of its military support, says it has drawn up a list of equipment that Ukraine can order from its arms manufacturing industry.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has offered €1.3 billion ($1.37bn) in some form of military aid, the table shows, putting it behind only the US and Poland and ahead of fellow G7 countries Britain and Canada.

Mr Scholz won plaudits on Sunday for an unusually impassioned speech in which he faced down pacifist hecklers and told them their calls to withhold weapons from Ukraine were outdated.

But Germany is lower down the table when it comes to direct arms shipments to Ukraine, having offered only €140 million ($147m) of such support – behind the US, Poland, Canada, Britain, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia and Italy.

Ministers have blamed this on shortages in German army stocks after years of underinvestment and on the training that would be needed for Ukrainian troops to operate modern Nato equipment.

Germany and some of its allies such as Britain have sought to get familiar Soviet-era equipment into Ukrainian hands by promising to refill the stocks of former Eastern Bloc countries if they donate to Ukraine.

Western officials believe the donations and heavy Russian losses mean the mismatch between the two armies is not as great as had been feared before the invasion began.

But Ukraine rejects the notion it could not handle modern equipment and has urged its allies to pick up the pace of weapons deliveries.

“The support provided to Ukraine has grown steadily in the second month of the war,” said Mr Trebesch.

“However, the total amount of aid provided, especially by larger countries, is still modest compared with the sums mobilised in previous crises … or even compared to the support packages that countries put together for their own populations, for example to cushion energy price increases.”

Updated: May 02, 2022, 10:17 AM