LONDON — It “wouldn’t be appropriate” for Western allies to fulfill all of Ukraine’s requests for weaponry, the British prime minister said Friday.
Boris Johnson was speaking at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz following their first in-person meeting in London, hours after Berlin declined to send Marder tanks to Ukraine, arguing that Germany needs them for its own defense needs.
The U.K. will send over £100 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine, including more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, and an extra 800 anti-tank missiles and precision munitions “capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target,” Johnson announced. The new British package also includes helmets, night-vision devices and body armor.
However, Johnson said the West will not be able to meet all of the weaponry requests submitted by Ukraine, because it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to supply some of that equipment to Kyiv.
Asked if Britain would send its own tanks and armored vehicles to Kyiv, Johnson replied: “I’m in principle willing to consider anything by way of defensive weaponry to help the Ukrainians protect themselves and their people.
“I think it’s important that we should be giving equipment that is genuinely useful and is operable by Ukrainians, that’s our consideration,” he said. “It may be more useful to support the Ukrainians by backfilling and allowing some of the former Warsaw Pact countries to supply some of their own armor in the way that you’ve been seeing.”
Scholz agreed with Johnson, saying allies “must always look at what can be used effectively.”
“The fact is that we are trying to supply weapons that are useful and can be used well … the successes that the Ukrainian army has achieved so far show that these are particularly effective weapons: anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, munition.”
Scholz also said the criticism directed at French President Emmanuel Macron over his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin was “unjustified,” and added that Macron “has shown great commitment” to achieving peace in Ukraine.
Russian forces have abandoned “a lot” of tanks, vehicles, and artillery in a “hasty” withdrawal from northern Ukraine, according to a Western official.
“It has been a pretty hasty withdrawal by Russian forces and there’s a lot of Russian equipment which has been abandoned in that hasty withdrawal and that’s only going to exacerbate the challenge they have in terms of the refurbishment and reconstitution of their forces as they remove them both into Belarus and into Russia.”
They added: “Some of it is kind of unclear as to why it’s been abandoned because you might have thought some of these vehicles are still usable … and I think there’s something around the collapse of morale and the collapse of the will to fight.”
Closer than ever
At the press conference, the British premier applauded Germany’s “seismic decisions” to decrease its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, saying sanctions against Russia are “not easy for any of us.”
Scholz said the sanctions imposed against the Kremlin so far were “highly effective.” He also defended Germany’s timetable for reducing reliance on Russian fossil fuels, despite accusations of moving too slowly to break that dependence.
“We are doing all we can and we are doing a lot. I think it is a very strong decision that we took to go away from the use of fossil resources … This will take place in approximately 20 years and this will be a very tough agenda, to make it clear,” Scholz said.
Despite ongoing EU-U.K. wrangling over post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland, Johnson said Britain’s bilateral relationship with Germany has become “even more vital” since Russia invaded Ukraine, and that the U.K. and Germany share “exactly the same conviction that Putin must pay” for his attack.
The pair discussed talks to smooth the implementation of the controversial Northern Ireland protocol, but Johnson declined to elaborate on the contents of their discussion or to rule out suspending the agreement, which is part of the Brexit divorce deal.
The two leaders announced their respective Cabinets will hold regular meetings as part of a bid to improve their bilateral relationship, confirming a POLITICO report from September. The first meeting will take place at the beginning of next year, Scholz said.
“We both share our conviction that our relations are good,” Scholz said.