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Some European allies send weapons to Ukraine while Germany holds back

ASMA KHALID, HOST:

President Biden says there is, quote, "total unanimity" on the question of the threat posed by Russian forces massed on Ukraine's borders. His comments came after a video call with NATO allies earlier today. Joanna Kakissis reports on which allies are sending military aid to Ukraine and which are not.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Let's start with the northern European countries known as the Baltic States. Estonia is sending javelin anti-armor missiles to Ukraine, while Latvia and Lithuania are shipping Stinger anti-aircraft missiles after receiving approval from the U.S. to transfer the weapons. These three nations have an unhappy history with the Soviet Union. Earlier this month, Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas, listed Russian aggression as Europe's top defense concern.

KAJA KALLAS: We see Russia putting together forces and making moves that are detrimental to the security of the whole Europe.

KAKISSIS: It's an alarm the Baltic States have sounded for years. Lithuania's former foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, says few have heeded the warning.

LINAS LINKEVICIUS: There were voices saying, let's be flexible - let's make diplomacy work. But it's important to understand that when we are dealing with Russia, words are not working.

KAKISSIS: He says that's why the Baltic States were quick to send aid.

LINKEVICIUS: It's not just about Ukraine. It's about bigger issues, right? It undermines the European architecture, basically. So we have to face jointly this challenge, and this is definitely the only way to go.

KAKISSIS: NATO member Turkey has already shipped anti-tank drones to Ukraine, prompting Vladimir Putin to express displeasure in a phone call with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Britain has sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, as well as troops to train Ukrainians in their use. Over the weekend, the British government accused Russia of trying to set up a puppet government in Ukraine.

Jack Watling is a research fellow specializing in land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute in London. He says relations between London and Moscow have soured precipitously since 2018, when Russian agents were accused of poisoning British residents with nerve gas.

JACK WATLING: We're in a world in which Russia feels that it can conduct chemical weapons attacks on British soil with impunity and in which it can invade its neighbors. So long as that is the case, relations will be strained, and it is in Russia's power to reverse that.

KAKISSIS: Germany is not sending weapons to Kyiv. It says this would only inflame tensions with Russia. Instead, Germany is sending a field hospital through Estonia. This dismays Constanze Stelzenmuller, an expert on Germany and security issues at the Brookings Institution.

CONSTANZE STELZENMULLER: It suggests that we're going to fight with each other over sanctions and over weapons deliveries. But you can have a field hospital with the obvious implication that it is going to be needed. But we're not even willing to send personnel with it, so we're sending it through a third party. I mean, I'm ashamed of that.

KAKISSIS: Cathryn Cluver Ashbrook, of the German Council on Foreign Relations, explains that Berlin has historical reasons for its hesitancy.

CATHRYN CLUVER ASHBROOK: The Germans have been highly reluctant to send any type of lethal weaponry into countries in which Germany had a military presence in World War II and committed, arguably, war crimes.

KAKISSIS: Germany has instead tried to use other bargaining chips to dissuade Russia from invading, including threatening to pull the plug on the natural gas pipeline from Russia, called Nord Stream 2.

CLUVER ASHBROOK: The fact that the German government has danced around a number of these issues just presents a disunified, a broken diplomatic strategy by the West. And I'm sure that that makes somebody like Vladimir Putin in Moscow very happy.

KAKISSIS: Today in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the weapons coming into Ukraine have raised tensions. And he accused the West of hysteria.

For NPR news, I'm Joanna Kakissis.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.