Germany is under increasing pressure from European allies for its long-standing refusal to supply arms to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian attack.
Britain on Monday fired short-range anti-tank missiles for Ukraine while escaping German airspace. British Defense Minister Ben Wallace signaled to lawmakers that more military aid and additional security aid were likely to come in light of Russia’s “increasingly dangerous behavior” on the borders of Ukraine, where the Kremlin has amassed more than 100,000 troops.
Wallace said there is “a valid and genuine cause for concern” that Russia is planning an invasion. Russian officials have denied they have any such plans, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Wednesday ahead of talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that “the sense of threat to Ukraine is unprecedented.”
Ukraine is increasingly frustrated with Germany on the issue of military supplies. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov complained last month that Berlin had vetoed the purchase of anti-drone rifles and anti-sniper systems from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, calling the action “very unfair”.
Later, Berlin relied on blocking the purchase of anti-drone rifles after concluding that they were not non-lethal weapons. Kiev is scrambling to address shortages in military equipment and capabilities, but Berlin worries the arms supply could be seen by Moscow as provocative and could lead to Russian escalation.
Reznikov has warned that the prospect of facing Putin from a position of power was misguided.
“Not provoking Russia – that strategy doesn’t and won’t work,” he said last month.
Ukraine is buying weapons through deals with the United States, Britain, Lithuania, France and Turkey, which has been supplying armed drones.
Anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems, electronic warfare kits and cyber defense equipment are high on Ukraine’s shopping list. Ukraine is also keen on procuring surface-to-surface missiles that can strike multiple targets simultaneously.
The Biden administration last month approved $200 million in additional defensive security aid to Ukraine and US officials said Wednesday that the White House was weighing new supply options to try to raise costs for Russian President Vladimir Putin, If they should decide to attack. Fearing that Russia is intent on a major offensive, the administration is considering providing more Javelin anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missile systems to the Ukrainian military.
The anti-tank missiles that Britain flew over Ukraine this week are capable of taking out a tank from 800 meters away from shoulder to shoulder. They are lighter than Javelin anti-tank missiles and can be used in more tight spaces. According to British newspaper reports, British anti-tank missiles were flown into Ukraine via Danish and Swedish airspace and not on a direct route over Germany, it was speculated that this was done to avoid opposition from Berlin. went.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the British Parliament’s Defense Committee, said he expected other European allies to “follow our lead before temperatures drop and cold conditions actively make an invasion possible.”
But while NATO allies are unanimous in rejecting Russian demands for Ukraine to never join a Western coalition, divisions among them extend as far as what Western sanctions should be imposed on Russia if an invasion begins.
Current and former Western diplomats say there is widespread agreement among Western powers about sanctioning Russia in the event of a military incursion, but there is no final consensus on the details.
German authorities told business newspaper Handelsblatt on Wednesday that they are protesting the cutting of Russian banks and financial institutions from the SWIFT global money transfer system, which is used by more than 11,000 banks and financial institutions to make and receive cross-border payments. is done to. They say they want targeted economic sanctions against big Russian banks, rather than keeping Russia out of using the transfer system.
Germany’s fear is that ousting Russia from SWIFT would encourage Russia and China to develop rival networks. They also fear that such a move would cause significant economic damage to European companies doing business with Russia. Russia is the fifth largest trading partner of the European Union, and the value of European assets in Russia is approximately $350 billion.
US officials, who have raised the possibility of excluding Russia from SWIFT, say no sanctions option is off the table.
As Western allies continue to debate what military supplies they should send to Ukraine and what sanctions they should impose, concerns are growing in the Baltic countries about Russia’s planned military exercises with its ally Belarus .
Russian troops and military hardware, including S-400 surface-to-air missiles, have been arriving in Belarus over the past week. According to Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvidas Anouskas, the exercise is a direct threat.
“In the current situation, we see the entry of Russian forces into Belarus not only as a destabilizing factor in the security situation, but also as a more direct threat to Lithuania,” Anusukas said in a Facebook post. .
“I will soon meet with the ambassadors of nine NATO countries who are actively contributing to the strengthening of Lithuania’s security,” he said.
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