Gaps in Arms Supplies to Ukraine Point to Countries’ Divergent Strategies


Beyond logistical issues, the uneven flow of arms to Ukraine hints at differences among allies about whether Russia should be punished or eventually accommodated.

BRUSSELS — There is the war on the ground in Ukraine and the war over weapons supplies, on which the first war depends.

In the weapons war, there is a significant disparity between the flood of arms supplied by Britain, Poland and the United States, and what the rest of Europe is providing, which has raised the persistent question of whether some countries are slow-walking supplies to bring about a shorter war and quicker negotiations.

Those whispers, coming most loudly from countries on NATO’s eastern flank, closest to the war, have not stopped despite the very public visit to Kyiv in June by some of Europe’s top leaders — from France, Germany and Italy — aimed at reassuring the Ukrainians of their support.

If anything, the suspicions have intensified, as the economic pain of the war is felt more deeply in the West, the conflict enters a new phase of attrition and concerns ebb that the fighting will spill into Western Europe — unless, perhaps, Russia feels cornered and humiliated.

Taken as a whole, the West is providing Ukraine “just enough” weaponry “to survive, not enough to regain territory,” said Ulrich Speck, a German foreign-policy analyst. “The idea seems to be that Russia should not win, but also not lose.

“What countries send and how slowly they send it tells us a lot about the war aims of Western countries,” he added. “And it becomes even more important now because Ukraine is more dependent on Western arms.”

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Western European nations blame logistics and a reluctance to deplete national stockpiles for their slow contributions. Beyond that, there are also broad divisions in European strategic thinking about whether Russia should be punished, isolated or, eventually, accommodated.

New data from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, which has been regularly tracking bilateral contributions of money, weapons and aid from all countries to Ukraine, show that the major shortfall between promises and deliveries of weapons comes from the countries of Western Europe, especially Germany.

The figures are current through July 1 and given in euros, but roughly the same in dollars since the currencies are at parity. They are not perfect, given that some countries, like France, which is shown to have promised and delivered only 160 million euros’ worth of equipment, prefer to keep most of the details of their deliveries secret.

They also show the United States has announced considerably more military aid — 6.37 billion euros — than has been delivered so far. But even so, the amount Washington has delivered — 2.4 billion euros — is more than any other country.

By contrast, Germany, which has faced sharp criticism for slow deliveries, has delivered only 290 million euros of equipment while promising 620 million.

It lags even Poland, which has promised and delivered 1.8 billion euros; and certainly Britain, which has delivered 1 billion euros’ worth of its promised 1.12 billion.

Much of the weaponry delivered by Poland and other countries formerly under Soviet occupation came from Soviet-era stockpiles.

Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

West European officials argue that they are reluctant to deplete their own arsenals, given the requirement of self-defense. (Germany, for instance, has only some 250 working tanks right now, down from the thousands West Germany had during the Cold War.)


But not all are convinced.

“The Kiel numbers are quite shocking, to be honest,” said Guntram Wolff, an economist and the new director of the German Council on Foreign Relations. European support levels are below 0.2 or 0.3 percent of gross domestic product, he said. “On the one hand, it’s a lot of money, but it’s also quite small given what’s at stake” — given Russia’s effort “to take over another country in Europe.”

The numbers underscore that Germany and France, in particular, have a different strategic aim than Washington, believing that a nuclear-armed Russia is too big and dangerous to be defeated in any significant way, and that its president, Vladimir V. Putin, should not be cornered.

In a controversial French television documentary showing some behind-the-scenes footage of President Emmanuel Macron and his advisers dealing with the outbreak of the war, their shock and bewilderment are clear after Mr. Putin lies to them, four days before the invasion, about being open to another round of diplomacy.

Mr. Macron has said twice that “Russia must not be humiliated,” upsetting the Ukrainians. But the footage shows him repeating that thought on a train leaving the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, even after he and the German, Italian and Romanian leaders visited President Volodymyr Zelensky in mid-June.

At the end of the film, “A President, Europe and the War,” Mr. Macron says he worries about “a growing tone, more Anglo-Saxon, saying that we must annihilate Russia, weaken it permanently.”

Julien De Rosa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But that is not Europe’s aim, he said. “We are here to help Ukraine win, to protect its territory and its independence. We are not here to fight against Russia, even less to annihilate it.”

His words infuriated the Ukrainians as well as the Central Europeans, who want Russia weakened and Mr. Putin humiliated.

For Pierre Vimont, a former French ambassador to Washington and former senior E.U. official, European countries are divided into three rough camps.

There are those like Britain, Poland and the Baltics looking to isolate Mr. Putin and the Russians, too, for being complicit in the war; those like Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands revisiting the idea of Cold War containment, talking of constraints; and those countries, like France, Germany, Hungary and Italy, “who hope at some point for an opportunity to launch a new dialogue with Russia, not immediately, but to be ready.”

The divisions will remain, Mr. Vimont said. “There is not much appetite for a Russian strategy.”

If there is to be one, Washington must lead it, but seems as confused as everyone else. “No one has a real idea of how to handle this situation now,” Mr. Speck said. Unlike in 2014, when Germany organized the Minsk process to stop the war then, he said, “there is no one driving a diplomatic process.”

As the war settles into a protracted artillery battle with little terrain won or lost, the threat that Russia will attack Western European countries is rapidly fading, said Claudia Major, a defense expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

That is leading to a certain complacency, coupled with the growing economic impact of sanctions on higher inflation and lower growth.

Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Comparing estimates for European growth and inflation last autumn with those issued on Thursday, projected growth is down roughly 4 percent to only 2.7 percent this year and 1.5 percent for 2023. Projected inflation is up to 8.3 percent this year and 4.6 percent for 2023. There are worries about recession.

When Russia invaded, there was popular shock and fear, and the German swing toward more military spending, its “Zeitenwende,” was more about self-defense than about helping Ukraine, which was not expected to put up such a good fight, Ms. Major said. “It was 100 billion euros for us, not for Ukraine,” she said.

There was more optimism in the second phase, when Ukrainian forces beat back the Russians from Kyiv and Western weapons shipments transitioned from anti-tank missiles, so useful then, to tanks and artillery.

But now, she said, there is the “attrition phase, and we in Western Europe are more optimistic that the war won’t arrive in Germany but will stay in Ukraine.”

Those countries closest to the battle have emptied their stocks to give to Ukraine, she said, “and we, in Germany and France, who can do more, are reluctant to do so.”

For Mr. Speck, Germany and France are trying to manage two risks. First, that Russia wins, feels more emboldened and then moves on Moldova, Kazakhstan and perhaps even the Baltics. So there is a recognition that the West must help Ukraine, but within limits.

Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Because there is “an equal fear” of escalation, he said, if “Russia feels pushed against a wall, cornered and humiliated.” Washington shares that fear, but it is stronger in Paris and Berlin, because they are closer. “So it’s threat perception and a calculation about the scenarios they fear.”

Still, however difficult the domestic situation now, Western Europe is weaning itself from its dependency on Russian coal, oil and gas, and it will not go back, both for economic and security reasons.

So Mr. Putin’s efforts to wait out and divide NATO and the European Union will ultimately fail, said Nathalie Tocci, director of Italy’s International Affairs Institute. “The Russian invasion is so extreme and obscene it will keep consensus,” she said, “because we don’t have an alternative.”


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