Germany on Saturday announced its largest weapons package yet for Ukraine, promising more tanks, armored vehicles and substantial air defense systems as a widely anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive looms.
The 2.7 billion euro package, or about $2.95 billion, amounts to roughly as much as Germany’s total military aid contribution to Ukraine since the war began and was announced as Ukrainian officials have said they are in the final stages of preparations for a counteroffensive. But Germany’s defense ministry did not specify when the new weapons would be delivered to the battlefield.
“We all wish for a speedy end to this terrible war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people, which is in violation of international law,” Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said in a statement on Saturday. Noting that no end to the conflict was in sight, he added: “Germany will provide all the help it can — as long as it takes.”
The package — which includes 30 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks, 20 armored infantry fighting vehicles, four Iris-T SLM air defense systems, 100 armored fighting vehicles and 200 drones — represents a stunning turnaround for a country that was harshly criticized in the early months of the war for not delivering enough aid to Ukraine. Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, spent months equivocating over a decision to send and allow other countries to export German-made battle tanks that was ultimately made in January, with a package that eventually included 18 Leopard 2A6 tanks.
Still, Germany was one of Kyiv’s top donors even before the announcement on Saturday, with roughly 2.75 billion euros worth of weapons sent to Ukraine since President Vladimir V. Putin’s full-scale invasion of the country 15 months ago.
In recent days, Kyiv’s forces have made advances near the key eastern city of Bakhmut ahead of the widely anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive. While Russia’s pro-war bloggers have been quick to claim those moves suggested that Ukraine’s long-anticipated counteroffensive had begun, Ukrainian officials have downplayed the advances and described them in more local terms.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, in an interview with the BBC this week, said Ukraine wanted more weaponry and ammunition to arrive before it would begin the offensive.
Germany’s defense ministry would not specify any schedule for delivery of the weapons in the new package. Some of the items on the list take months to build and supply. Others, like the armored infantry vehicles and battle tanks, might be able make it to the front lines much sooner.
The announcement came the day before Mr. Zelensky was to be awarded the prestigious Charlemagne Prize, which has been bestowed by the German city of Aachen since 1950 to someone who has done the most to promote European unity. Its previous recipients have included Winston Churchill, Pope Francis, Angela Merkel and Bill Clinton.
This year, the judges’ decision to award the prize to Mr. Zelensky and the people of Ukraine underscored both how the war in Ukraine has united Europeans and the irony that Ukraine is not a part of the European Union, despite strong entreaties by Kyiv to join.
Whether Mr. Zelensky, who was in Rome on Saturday meeting with Italian leaders including Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, would appear in Germany to collect the prize was uncertain.