Germany urges dozens of allies to send air defence systems to Ukraine

Germany has written to dozens of countries including Gulf Arab states to plead for more air defence systems for Ukraine, saying Kyiv needed urgent help to protect its cities, troops and critical infrastructure from the “murderous onslaught” of Russian missiles.

In a letter to other Nato members, a copy of which was obtained by the Financial Times and confirmed by Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and defence minister Boris Pistorius said they were launching a global initiative aimed at plugging the gaps in Ukraine’s air defences.

A “wide range of non-Nato partners” had also been approached, they added. Officials declined to identify those countries.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister who is the frontrunner to become Nato’s next secretary-general, said he believed European members of the alliance were prepared to provide funds to acquire air defence systems for Kyiv.

“We know the amount they need and we know that we should be able to get that done,” Rutte said on Wednesday at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. “We know that many countries have Patriot [anti-missile] systems but maybe do not want to deliver directly. We can buy from them and we can deliver to Ukraine. We have the money available. It’s crucial.”

Ukraine has warned it is struggling to halt a multipronged and intensifying Russian offensive. In their letter, the German ministers said Russia was trying to destroy Odesa — the Black Sea port city, which they described as Ukraine’s “economic lifeline” — and the north-eastern industrial centre of Kharkiv, while a wave of attacks on energy infrastructure had caused even more damage than during the winter of 2022-23.

“It is up to us to help Ukraine defend itself against this murderous onslaught,” they said, calling on Germany’s partners to join the initiative, known as Immediate Action on Air Defence.

“We appeal to you to take stock of all [the] air defence systems in your arsenals and consider what could be transferred to Ukraine, whole systems or parts of them either permanently or for a limited period,” they said.

Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, left, and defence minister Boris Pistorius urged other nations ‘to help Ukraine defend itself’ © Kay Nietfeld/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

In a statement to the FT, Kuleba said Kyiv was “very grateful to Germany for its leadership on the issue of air defence for Ukraine”.

“Not only has it provided its own Patriot system and missiles, but our German friends are actively looking for ways to engage other countries that may help,” he said. “We urge all of them to reciprocate the German call.”

Officials in Kyiv said Kuleba held discussions on scouring the world for available systems with Baerbock at Nato headquarters in Brussels earlier this month. Germany co-leads a “Capability Coalition Integrated Air and Missile Defense” for Ukraine with France and the US.

“We know we need to do more than we are currently doing to support Ukraine. That is especially true for all capabilities required for air defence,” Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said at the Brussels summit.

Scholz noted that Germany had decided to send Ukraine a third Patriot system from its arsenal.

“We want to also encourage others to do the same and look what possibilities exist in their own stocks to improve Ukraine’s possibilities for defence,” Scholz added. “It’s about doing this quickly now.” 

Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, warned on Saturday that the situation on the eastern front had “significantly worsened” in recent days.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made repeated calls for Ukraine’s western partners to provide more air defence systems. After a Russian missile attack destroyed the largest power plant in Kyiv last week, he pleaded for the US Congress to approve a much-needed $60bn military assistance package.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson has said he planned to hold a vote on the Ukraine aid package at the weekend, despite opponents in his own Republican party threatening to oust him over the matter.

The latest appeals came after a Russian missile attack on Chernihiv, a city 150km north of the capital Kyiv, on Wednesday. The strikes on a densely populated residential neighbourhood killed at least 17 people and injured more than 60 others, according to authorities.

“These innocent people would not have been killed or injured if Ukraine had sufficient air defence capabilities,” Kuleba said. “Ukraine’s partners have the necessary means to help us save Ukrainian lives.”

Baerbock and Pistorius said the IAAD initiative would primarily seek to procure more US-built Patriot systems for Ukraine as they had proven most effective against Russian ballistic missiles.

German defence ministry spokesman Arne Collatz said Russia’s use of “glide bombs” fired far behind Ukrainian lines increased the need for “more long-range weapons” such as Patriots.

In addition to three Patriot systems, Germany has donated Gepard anti-aircraft gun tanks and four Iris-T air defence systems. Officials said Berlin would send more Iris-Ts later this year. 

Germany was also scouring the world for other defensive units that could prove useful to Ukraine, such as the French-Italian SAMP/T and US-Norwegian Nasams surface-to-air systems, officials said.

Rutte said some Nato allies wanted reassurance they could replace their anti-aircraft equipment before handing it to Kyiv.  

“Another issue obviously is what is the absolute minimum requirement of air-defence systems we need to keep for ourselves . . . [but]the priority should be at this moment with Ukraine,” Rutte said.

He met outgoing Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, along with Mette Frederiksen and Petr Fiala, the Danish and Czech premiers, to discuss the issue.


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