Germany blocks Estonia from transferring weapons to Ukraine

  • 2022-01-23
  • STT/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Germany is blocking North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally Estonia from giving military support to Ukraine by refusing to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported to Kyiv as it braces for a potential Russian invasion, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Unlike the United States, United kingdom, Poland and other allies, the German government has declined to export lethal weapons directly to Ukraine. German officials said the impasse results from a longstanding policy regarding arms exports to tense regions.

"The principle governing arms exports is always the same -- whether they come directly from Germany or from third countries -- and no permission has been issued at this stage," a German government spokesman said, according to the newspaper. "It is not possible to estimate the outcome of the process at this moment," he added.

"This is an early test for the new chancellor to show that his coalition can respond to an international crisis," said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, a Washington policy research center. "If he can't make this kind of modest change in the law, it calls into question his foreign policy leadership skills."

An Estonian government official said that his government is still trying to persuade Germany to change its mind.

"Hopefully we will get the approval from Germany," Kristo Enn Vaga, adviser to the Estonian defense minister, said. "Estonia has shown that we want to help Ukraine in practical terms in any way we can."

At issue with Estonia are exports of the D-30, a howitzer that fires a 122-mm shell around 20 kilometers. The howitzers, originally made in the Soviet Union, were stationed in former East Germany. After German reunification, Berlin exported the guns to Finland in the 1990s, which then passed them on to Estonia in 2009, Estonian, Finnish and German officials said. 

At the time, Estonia paid 31 million kroons for 42 howitzers and the related ammunition. Similar weapons are being used by several dozen countries, including Ukraine, which has close to 150 of them, according to various sources, Postimees reports.

Esa Pulkkinen, who was director of the defense policy department of the Finnish Ministry of Defense at the time, told the Finnish broadcaster at the end of December 2021 that the ministry had received Estonia's request for permission to send the artillery units to Ukraine. 

 A spokesman for the Finnish government said that the procedure was a mere formality unrelated to the current situation in Ukraine. 

Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet, Latvian Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks and Lithuanian Minister of Defense Arvydas Anusauskas issued a press statement in support of Ukraine on Friday, noting that they had received the necessary approvals from the United States to send weapons and are continuing cooperation to send weapons to Ukraine quickly.

"Today, Ukraine is maintaining the front line separating Europe from military conflict with Russia," Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet was quoted by spokespeople as saying.

With the United States' approval, Estonia will provide Javelin anti-armor missiles, while Latvia and Lithuania will provide Stinger antiaircraft missiles and other equipment to bolster Ukraine’s defensive military capabilities, officials from those countries said. The granting of assistance follows the agreement of the US government to transfer US-produced equipment to Ukraine.

"The Baltic states will continue to cooperate in order to deliver weapons to Ukraine quickly," the ministers said. They also expressed hope that there will never be a need for Ukraine to actually use its weapons systems and that Russia will change its aggressive attitude.