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Under fire: France insists it’s no slacker on military aid to Ukraine

Under fire: France insists it’s no slacker on military aid to Ukraine

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Under fire: France insists it’s no slacker on military aid to Ukraine

PARIS — There’s no such thing as love; only proof of love.

Accused by Germany of not pulling its weight on aid to Ukraine, France struck back over the weekend by publishing for the first time a list of the military kit delivered to Kyiv between the start of the war and December 31.

According to the French, their military aid is worth €2.6 billion, much more than the meager €635 million calculated by the Kiel Institute, a German think tank that compiles an authoritative list of which country is pledging what to Ukraine. That index shows Germany is far and away the biggest European military aid donor to Ukraine — promising €17.7 billion.

“France has opted for operational efficiency in its military aid to Ukraine: promise what you can deliver, deliver what you can promise,” tweeted Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu.

French arms deliveries have been the focus of a growing rift between Paris and Berlin, with German officials publicly voicing frustration with France’s smaller military aid. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly called for an audit of national contributions amid discussion on how to calibrate an EU fund for reimbursing countries for their military donations to Kyiv.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion last week that Western troops might be deployed to Ukraine has deepened disagreements between the two countries. 

French officials meanwhile privately express frustration that Germany is refusing to send its Taurus long-range cruise missiles, something that would match France and the U.K., which have handed over their similar SCALP and Storm Shadow missiles. 

Challenging Kiel

French officials including Lecornu have long been critical of the Kiel Institute’s methodology, arguing that the German organization uses pledges and not actual deliveries to calculate countries’ contributions. Last week, the French armed forces minister told lawmakers he’s encouraging French think tanks to come up with their own rankings. 

Measuring effectiveness is very difficult. French advocates argue that a single SCALP missile, worth an estimated €850,000, has much more battlefield impact than a German Leopard 2 tank costing more than €10 million.

There’s also a question of how many aid promises are actually fulfilled.

Half of the West’s commitments on military gear don’t arrive in time, Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov complained last month, giving weight to France’s claim that there’s a difference between words and deeds.  

The French list of weapons delivered includes 1,002 AT4 anti-tank rocket launcher systems, 30 Caesar self-propelled howitzers, two Rattlesnake NG air defense systems, six Mistral missile systems and one medium-range surface-air/terrestrial system (SAMP/T) Mamba. 

To reach the €2.6 billion figure, France calculates the cost of replacing the material — if it’s not replaced, as is the case for some older donated armored vehicles, then it’s not taken into account in the final amount.

However, big-ticket equipment such as Crotale and Aster surface-to-air missiles, Mistral missiles and SCALP long-range missiles are not itemized in the ministry’s rundown of donations over concerns it would provide Russia with intelligence on stocks.

French officials also insist Ukraine aid shouldn’t come at the French army’s expense.

“The cardinal principle is not to damage our capabilities. By supporting Ukraine, we have never stripped the army of any operational capacity,” a French armed forces ministry official told reporters Friday.

France’s list also doesn’t include weaponry for this year — more SCALP missiles, hundreds of bombs, 12 Caesars and 100 kamikaze drones are expected, and France signed in mid-February a €3 billion bilateral security deal with Ukraine.

In its own bilateral security deal with Ukraine signed last month, Germany promised a new €1.1 billion military support package.

Also not counted is Macron’s announcement that Paris would contribute to a Czech initiative to buy 800,000 artillery shells from outside the EU to help Ukraine — a significant shift in the country’s usual emphasis of investing in Europe’s military capabilities.

However, while countries including the Netherlands and Belgium have already announced contributions, Paris still has questions before signing a check to non-EU countries such as India or South Korea. It wants to know whether Prague is talking about actual off-the-shelf ammunition that can be delivered in weeks or rather about “production capacity,” in which case France would rather invest in European companies. Macron will travel to Prague on Tuesday.

The Kiel Institute stands by its figures, which are based on public announcements cross-referenced with publicly available information on national stocks. 

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference last month, Christoph Trebesch, who runs work on the think tank’s database covering military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, said the team missed just nine Caesar artillery platforms in its earlier analysis of donations.

Laura Kayali and Clea Caulcutt reported from Paris. Joshua Posaner reported from Berlin.  

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