© Reuters. A view shows residential buildings heavily damaged by ongoing Russian military strikes in the frontline town of Avdiivka, amid the Russian attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, November 8, 2023 . Radio Free Europe/radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via
By Andrew Gray
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s plan to spend up to 20 billion euros ($21.4 billion) in military aid to Ukraine faces resistance from EU countries and could not survive in its current form, diplomats say.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, proposed in July that the bloc create a fund of up to 5 billion euros a year over four years, as part of broader Western security commitments aimed at support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.
But as EU defense ministers prepare to discuss the plan in Brussels on Tuesday, diplomats say several countries – including EU heavyweight Germany – have expressed reservations about the commitment such large sums years in advance.
The EU and its members have been among the largest donors of military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February 2022, providing weapons and equipment worth some 25 billion euros, according to the bloc’s diplomatic service.
Borrell’s proposal was an effort to put support on a longer-term basis, creating a reserve for Ukraine aid within a larger fund, the European Peace Facility, used to repay EU members for military assistance to other countries.
“I’m not going to declare it dead yet. But of course, improvements can always be made,” a senior European diplomat said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Germany has had a lot of questions…and rightly so. We’re talking about a lot of money.”
The debate over military aid comes as EU countries also discuss a proposal to give Ukraine 50 billion euros in economic aid.
The EU also faces challenges on other aspects of its military aid to Ukraine.
Many officials and diplomats say the bloc will struggle to meet its goal of supplying Kiev with a million artillery shells and missiles by March next year.
And Hungary has been blocking 500 million euros in Peace Facility payments to EU members intended for aid to Ukraine for months, following Ukraine’s blacklisting of a bank Hungarian, OTP.
Since the bank was removed from the blacklist, Hungary has insisted it wants guarantees that it will not return.
EU governments have stressed that long-term EU military aid must be coordinated with the security programs that individual EU countries negotiate with Kiev, making it difficult to set a price while these negotiations are underway.
At an EU summit last month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the focus should now be on such bilateral deals.
Some EU members have also said they would struggle to make significant long-term commitments while national budgets are tight.
“For certain member states, there is the reality of public finances,” declared a second European diplomat.
A third EU diplomat said the likelihood of Borrell’s initial proposal being adopted was declining, but many countries still wanted engagement at the European level.
Three diplomats suggested the EU could end up deciding to stick to its commitments year after year, rather than signing up for a larger amount spread over four years.
($1 = 0.9359 euros)