German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addresses the media during a press conference Feb. 16, 2022, in Berlin, Germany.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock addresses the media during a press conference Feb. 16, 2022, in Berlin, Germany. Getty Images / Hannibal Hanschke-Pool

Germany Defends Its Support for Ukraine Amid Criticism: ‘We Have Different Roles’

Germany’s lack of aid presents an opportunity for Putin, GOP Rep. Michael Turner said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock defended the country’s support of Ukraine on Friday amid continued criticism that Berlin has not done enough to assist troops facing a potential Russian invasion.

Baerbock said Germany has very strict arms control laws that only allow weapons sales to NATO and European Allies, after restrictions were imposed on its military after World War II. Because of those laws, Germany has refused to send weapons to Ukraine, and has blocked other allies from sending German-made equipment to Kyiv. However, Baerbock said Germany is supporting Ukraine in other ways, including giving Kyiv money to stabilize the economy and participating in diplomatic negotiations alongside France, Russia, and Ukraine through the Normandy Format

“We are not all the same, even though we are standing side by side. We have different roles and we have different history,” she said at the Munich Security Conference. “Our responsibility after the second World War was that never again from Germany there will be war, and never again there will be genocide.”

However, Germany is the world’s fourth largest weapons exporter, behind only the United States, Russia, and France. German weapons exports hit a record high of more than 9 billion euros in 2021, with Egypt as the top recipient of German arms, despite its human rights abuses. Germany has also loosened its rules before, including in 2014, when it sent arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed that Germany and the U.S. are working together closely, even as they approach the crisis in different ways. He also commended Germany speaking with “moral clarity” about what is happening on the Ukrainian border.  

“We have been acting in a complementary way, bringing different things to the table that all add up to the solidarity that has been very effective,” Blinken said.

This transatlantic togetherness that has happened as a result of Russia’s threatened military strike will last regardless of Moscow’s next move, Blinken predicted. 

“I really think the last months in particular have concentrated minds in a way they have perhaps not been concentrated in recent years. I don’t think we’re going to lose that concentration in the weeks or months ahead,” he said.

Despite these claims of unity, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have slammed Germany for not supporting Ukraine with weapons and equipment. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told constituents last month that Germany is “missing in action” and “doing far less than they need to.” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also said Germany refusing to allow allies to send German-made equipment to Ukraine “makes no sense.” 

The latest criticism is from Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who said that if NATO played by the same rules that Germany is following now, members of the alliance would not have come to Germany’s aid when Russia occupied part of the country at the end of the World War II.

“As they give this fiction of ‘we’re together but we’re not,’ our NATO allies, with Germany as a big dissenter, are not being able to act with the type of consensus that NATO requires,” Turner said at a Hudson Institute event. “It really shows an opportunity for Putin and it shows our weakness.”

Turner said Germany’s lack of support for Ukraine goes so far that the United Kingdom did not even ask Berlin to fly through its airspace to deliver anti-tank weapons to Ukraine because it believed officials would say no. Pilots instead flew a longer route, through Danish airspace. 

Turner was heading to Munich for the conference after the Hudson Institute event, where he’ll join a delegation of nearly 50 lawmakers, according to a spokesperson for the conference. Some of the attendees include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who traveled to Kyiv on a congressional trip last month.

“We are in a truly precarious moment,” Murphy said in a statement. “I’m glad to be part of this bipartisan congressional delegation traveling to Europe to show Putin that the United States and our allies stand united in support of the Ukrainian people.”