France pledges to send up to $3.2 billion in military aid to Ukraine this year

In the agreement, which followed similar deals Kiyv has reached with Britain and Germany, France also pledges to provide more military equipment, in particular for air defence

February 17, 2024 01:39 am | Updated 02:45 am IST - PARIS:

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky attend a joint press conference after signing an agreement.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky attend a joint press conference after signing an agreement. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed Friday in Paris a 10-year bilateral security agreement with France hours after he officialized a similar one with Germany. The agreements send a strong signal of long-term backing as Kyiv works to shore up Western support nearly two years after Russia launched its full-scale war.

Mr. Zelensky was greeted at the Elysee presidential palace by President Emmanuel Macron.

The agreement provides an additional package worth 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in military aid this year, the largest annual amount France has given to Ukraine since the war began.

“The outcome of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine will be decisive for our interests, our values, our security and our model of society,” Mr. Macron said.

”Yes, we must further invest” to support Ukraine “at a greater scale and in the long term,” he added.

Mr. Zelensky’s stop in France comes after he met earlier in the day in Berlin with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said Berlin was providing another 1.1 billion-euro ($1.2 billion) package of military aid, including 36 howitzers, 120,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and two more air-defense systems.

Mr. Scholz described the long-term security accord as a “historic step.” Ukraine signed last month its first such bilateral agreement with the U.K.

Also read: U.S. rejects Putin’s suggestion of Ukraine ceasefire, sources say

Mr. Zelensky said more deals were in the works with other countries. “Ukraine has never yet had more valuable and stronger documents,” the President said.

The security agreements appear aimed primarily at sending a message of long-term solidarity as Ukraine has gone back on the defensive in the war, hindered by low ammunition supplies and a shortage of personnel.

“Two years after the beginning of this terrible war, we are sending a crystal-clear message today to the Russian president: we will not ease off in our support for Ukraine,” Mr. Scholz said. He put his country’s deliveries and pledges of military aid so far at a total 28 billion euros.

Both the French and the German agreements, valid for 10 years, underscore Paris and Berlin’s intention to provide “long-term” military support to Ukrainian security. They say Ukraine and its partners “will work together on ensuring a sustainable force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring future aggression in the future.”

In case of future Russian aggression, Germany, like France, “would provide Ukraine as appropriate, with swift and sustained security assistance” and modern military equipment as needed, as well as seeking agreement on imposing “economic and other costs on Russia,” the agreements state. They go on to state that Ukraine “will continue to implement an ambitious reform program,” which is essential to its ambitions to join the European Union and NATO.

The agreements follow commitments by the Group of Seven most advanced economies, which include Germany, France and the U.K., at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July. The Group of Seven vowed at the time to provide weapons and military equipment, including combat air power, as well as more military training for Ukraine’s beleaguered army.

On Saturday, Mr. Zelensky is set to attend the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of high-ranking security and foreign policy officials, where he plans meetings with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, among others.

European allies are appealing to the U.S. Congress in recent days to approve a package that includes aid for Ukraine, a $60 billion allotment that would go largely to U.S. defense entities to manufacture missiles, munitions and other military hardware that are being sent to the battlefields in Ukraine. The package faces resistance from House Republicans.

Mr. Scholz traveled to Washington a week ago to underscore the urgency of releasing U.S. funding. After meeting Mr. Zelensky, he renewed his appeal for Congress to release the aid.

“The U.S. is a great power, and its support is essential to the security of Ukraine and its ability to defend itself,” the German leader said. “We are making our contribution, too, but that of the U.S. should not be underestimated.”

Mr. Zelensky said he thinks the majority of the American population supports his country’s cause. “I expect that the United States will not ‘drop out,’” he said. “I expect that in all of this a pragmatic American approach to us, protecting the security of the world, will be found.”

Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the U.S., and Mr. Scholz has called recently for other European countries to step up with more weapons deliveries.

France announced last month more planned deliveries of its Caesar artillery system to Ukraine and committed to deliver 3,000 155mm shells per month this year as well as around 40 additional long-range Scalp cruise missiles.

Mr. Zelensky made one previous visit to Berlin since the Russian invasion in February 2022, in May last year. Friday’s trip will be his third to Paris since the invasion, following visits in February and May 2023.

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