European officials told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday that divisions between NATO members on how much support to provide Ukraine have been growing in recent weeks.
On one side, Western European nations led by France and Germany are reluctant to send Ukraine heavy weapons, have maintained dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and are calling for a negotiated solution to end the war.
On the more hawkish side are the US, Britain, and nations in northern and central Europe, including the Baltic states, Poland, and the Czech Republic. These nations want to put more advanced weaponry in Ukraine’s hands and are against talks with Russia, and some have discouraged Kyiv from negotiating a peace deal with Moscow.
The more hawkish view was expressed by Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins in an interview on Monday. Karins told Politico that “Russia must lose” and warned some of his fellow EU members were wrong to push for a “peace at any cost.”
“The main goal of ours has to be that Russia loses — and the other side of the coin is that Ukraine wins the war. Anything short of that means we have a very bad security situation in Europe,” Karins said.
If Ukraine were to negotiate a peace settlement with Russia at this point, it would mean Kyiv would have to drop its claim to Crimea and recognize the independence of the Donbas breakaway republics. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has rejected the idea of ceding any territory to achieve peace.
As the war grinds on, Russia is making significant gains in the Donbas, and the leaders of France and Germany appear skeptical that Ukraine would be able to push Russia back. Other European heads of state want to send Ukraine weapons they think are necessary to reverse Russia’s gains.
“Every phone call, ministers from the north of Europe and central Europe are getting more and more angry,” a Czech Republic official told The Wall Street Journal. “This is destroying the unity. It’s precisely what Putin wants and what the French and Germans are giving him.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under growing pressure to send heavy weapons to Ukraine. So far, Germany has sent lighter arms to Ukraine and only made two arms deliveries between March 30 and May 26. Scholz has pledged to send Gepard anti-aircraft tanks, which are reportedly expected to be shipped in July, but hasn’t said he would send heavier battle tanks.
Scholz has defended his approach by warning of the dangers of sparking World War III and nuclear war, which the US and its hawkish allies don’t appear to be taking into consideration. Scholz’s caution is popular as a poll taken in early May shows 70% of Germans favor the way he is handling the situation.
While there are fractures in NATO, the US is still poised to support Ukraine against Russia in the long term as President Biden recently signed a $40 billion aid package for the Ukrainians. The EU also continues to take steps to cut off Russian energy even as Europeans are feeling the economic pain. On Monday, the EU agreed to a Russian oil ban with some exemptions for pipeline deliveries.