Germany will increase a military support fund for foreign countries to €2 billion, of which a large share will go to Ukraine to help it purchase weapons, Finance Minister Christian Lindner announced late Friday.
Lindner wrote on Twitter that Germany will increase its Ertüchtigungshilfe — a financial support tool to strengthen military and security forces in partner countries — to €2 billion, adding that “the funds will largely benefit Ukraine.”
The fund was €225 million last year. The increase in foreign military aid will be part of Germany’s supplementary budget for this year, Lindner said, adding that Chancellor Olaf Scholz “had requested this.”
Lindner’s tweet followed earlier reports by Reuters and German media that more than €1 billion of the aid would go to Kyiv. Ukraine expects a large Russian military offensive in the east of the country and has urged Western allies, including Germany, to provide it with heavy weapons like tanks, artillery, helicopters and fighter jets.
Germany has sent Kyiv military supplies including grenades, anti-aircraft rockets, machine guns and ammunition, but not heavy weapons.
The European Union decided last week to massively increase financial support for Ukraine’s military to €1.5 billion. Part of that support, which is also supposed to allow Kyiv to buy weapons, is financed by Germany. It’s unclear how much of the fresh money that Lindner announced is actually new and how much of it Germany would have provided anyway under Berlin’s EU commitments.
Lindner’s announcement follows growing criticism of the German government, and specifically Scholz, over hesitancy to supply Ukraine with tanks and other heavy weapons.
Prominent lawmakers from Germany’s ruling coalition, which consists of Social Democrats, Greens and Lindner’s liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), have urged Scholz to allow such deliveries.
But the issue is politically tricky. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck told POLITICO on Thursday that there were concerns among NATO allies that deliveries of modern tanks could mean that Western countries “become [Russian] targets themselves.” The Czech Republic is already shipping older Soviet-era tanks to Ukraine.
The newly announced financial support could allow Kyiv to directly buy tanks from German defense companies like Rheinmetall, although it is still unclear whether Scholz and Habeck would approve such sales.
German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, who is from the FDP, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that delivering heavy German weapons to Ukraine was feasible from a legal point of view without entering the war.
Ukraine is waging a permitted defensive war against Russia, Buschmann said, “so if it exercises its legitimate right of self-defense, supporting it by supplying weapons cannot lead to becoming a party to the war.”
He added that this was not just his personal view, but that of the German government.