In the weeks leading up to Friday’s conference of the two dozen nations of the Ukraine Contact Group at the U.S.-run Ramstein Air Base in southwest Germany, there has been a steady trickle of information about what military hardware allies were planning to send to the war-torn nation to help bolster its defenses and launch counteroffensives to repel Russia’s invasion.
For most participants who attended Friday’s meeting, the most coveted outcome eluded them. No agreement was reached that would allow the various countries that owned and operated German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks to send these vehicles to the Ukrainians. Western tanks have long been one of Kyiv’s key requests and are now widely viewed as essential to allow the Ukrainian military to retake more territory in the coming months.
The frenetic pace of reporting ahead of the meeting often had the air of an auction house, with NATO countries desperately trying to outdo one another for the extravagance of their aid packages and the fanfare with which they’re announced. As at all auctions, what may pass for a public display of friendly one-upmanship masked a backroom fandango of heated argument, last-minute dealmaking and broken promises.
“If all other countries had contributed in the same way as Denmark, the Ukrainians would be in a much better position right now,” Danish Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen boasted in regard to his country’s astounding disclosure that it was donating its entire stock of 19 CAESAR 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine.
The Danish contribution of a French-made weapon, one Ukrainian soldiers have classed as an artillery prize on the battlefield, was announced Thursday, on the eve of the Ramstein meeting. Ellemann-Jensen’s remark, one European diplomat told Yahoo News, was not an idle one. For months, smaller, less wealthy countries, particularly those geographically closer to Russia, have been trying to persuade, cajole or shame their bigger, wealthier allies, particularly those at a safe distance from Russia, into doing more for Ukraine. (To put Copenhagen’s commitment in perspective, France, a country with 11 times the population of Denmark and which manufactures the howitzers, has sent only 18 CAESARs to Ukraine.)
“We hear about how difficult it is for some of our allies to source ammunition or deplete their stocks of certain platforms to help Ukraine,” the European diplomat said. “Well, some of us are emptying our arsenals entirely, leaving us far more vulnerable to a Russian attack.” [Continue reading…]