Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday 13 April 2024


 Ukraine’s calls for air defence help rejected

Henry Foy in Brussels, Guy Chazan in Berlin and Christopher Miller in Kyiv · 13 Apr 2024

European capitals have rebuffed demands from Kyiv to send their air defence systems to Ukraine, after a week of relentless missile and drone bombardments from Russia that destroyed critical energy plants.

Ukraine has long warned that it needs urgent air defence supplies to protect itself against an overwhelming number of Russian rockets targeting its power and heating infrastructure.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stepped up pleas this week for US-made Patriot batteries, castigating Kyiv’s western partners for “turning a blind eye” as the capital region saw the destruction of its largest power plant.

Speaking at the Three Seas Summit in Vilnius on Thursday, he said

Ukraine had fallen into a “routine” in which it suffers Russian air attacks and then pleads for more air defences from western partners who promise to provide them but have failed to deliver.

“Missiles are striking every day, and every day we hear that Ukraine will receive new air defence systems. Every day Russian terrorists cut off the electricity to Kharkiv and our other cities, and every day we hear that new aid is coming soon,” Zelenskyy said. “The reality must finally match the words.”

EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said it was “inconceivable” that western countries could not provide seven extra Patriot batteries to Ukraine, given that they had about 100 in their arsenal they could spare.

Ukraine is lobbying for Patriot systems in Poland, Romania and Spain to be shipped, two people familiar with the talks told the Financial Times. “They only need seven,” one person said. “But it’s complicated.”

European capitals have said they do not have plans to send more systems to Ukraine, arguing that they need to retain defence capabilities.

Germany has given two Patriot systems but made clear this week that it will not provide any more. “We will not be able to offer any more systems for the time being,” a defence ministry spokesman said on Monday.

That stance has angered some in the opposition Christian Democrats. Norbert Röttgen, a CDU MP and member of the Bundestag foreign affairs committee, has said Berlin could give Ukraine two more Patriot systems, especially as those lent to Poland and Slovakia have now been returned.

“That would make a real difference for the people in and around Kharkiv,” he said on X. “It would save lives.”

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock last week told lawmakers in the Bundestag that talks were continuing with other partners in Europe and worldwide to find spare Patriot systems.

“There are actors worldwide that have the systems,” she said. “They don’t want to give them directly [to Ukraine], but via third parties. That’s something we’re working on intensively to try to achieve that as quickly as possible.”

She explained that eastern European Nato countries still had defence requirements which meant that “Germany can’t and shouldn’t simply say we’re going to take this air defence system out” without consulting privately with their governments.

The Ukrainian demands have put a spotlight on strategic minimum levels of defence capabilities.

No comments:

Post a Comment