Germany uses veto to block weapons shipments from Nato allies, amid fears they could provide a pretext for Russian aggression
By Justin Huggler. BERLIN. 14. December. 2021
Angela Merkel blocked the US from selling arms to Ukraine to defend itself against a possible Russian invasion, it has emerged.
Details published in the German media appear to confirm Ukrainian claims that Mrs Merkel’s government effectively vetoed Nato allies from supplying weapons to Kyiv.
Under the former chancellor, Germany twice intervened to stop the US and Lithuania from delivering weapons that Ukraine had already paid for through a Nato procurement scheme.
Ukraine is racing to upgrade its military capabilities amid US warnings a Russian invasion may be imminent, and has turned to bilateral deals with allies including the UK as it seeks to get around the German veto on any sales through Nato.
Mrs Merkel’s government continued to block the US from supplying rifles until she stood down as chancellor last week, according to details published by Bild newspaper.
“They are still building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and at the same time blocking our defensive weapons. It is very unfair,” Oleksii Reznikov, the new Ukrainian defence minister, told the Financial Times at the weekend.
The new German government under Olaf Scholz has yet to comment on the reports and it is unclear whether it intends to continue the policy.
Annalena Baerbock, the new German foreign minister, has already said the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not be allowed to go ahead if there is any Russian “escalation” over Ukraine.
Germany had a longstanding and publicly declared policy of blocking sales to Ukraine by its own arms industry under Mrs Merkel, over concerns they could inflame tensions or provide a pretext for Russian aggression.
But it now appears the former chancellor’s government went further, actively blocking its Nato allies from supplying Kyiv with weapons.
The shipments in question were Barrett M82 precision rifles from the US and EDM4S-UA anti-drone rifles from Lithuania.
They had been ordered and paid for through Nato’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), the main logistics agency for Nato members.
As it is a Nato agency, all members of the alliance have an effective veto on deliveries to third countries.
Germany and the Netherlands both acted to block the delivery of the American rifles in May, but the move was instigated by Mrs Merkel’s government, according to Bild.
“The fact that the Netherlands stood on the side of Germany against the rest of Nato happened on instructions from Berlin,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed insider as saying.
The report also claimed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine personally pleaded with Mrs Merkel to drop the veto when she visited Kiev in August, but she rebuffed him.
Germany eventually dropped its veto on the Lithuanian anti-drone systems in Mrs Merkel’s final days as chancellor, but it continues to block the delivery of rifles from the US.
There are indications Mr Scholz’s new governmen may take a different stance.
Robert Habeck, the vice-chancellor and business minister, has openly called for Germany to end its blockade on arms sales to Ukraine in the past.
“In my opinion, weapons for self-defence and can hardly be denied to Ukraine,” Mr Habeck said in May.
“Ukraine is not only fighting for itself here, it is also defending Europe’s security. Ukraine feels abandoned in terms of security policy, and it is abandoned.”
The comments were particularly striking as Mr Habeck is a leader of the German Green Party, which has traditionally opposed all arms sales.
He was in opposition at the time he made the comments, but as business minister he now has control of approving or rejecting weapons exports.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin accused the European Union of “hysteria” on Tuesday over new sanctions against Wagner,a Russian private security company.
EU foreign ministers agreed new sanctions on Monday against the company, which is accused of working to destabilise Ukraine and African countries.
The Russian foreign ministry said Moscow may respond to the “unfriendly” move.