Europe to Use Frozen Russian Profits to Arm Ukraine, Scholz Says

BERLIN — Ukraine’s backers will use windfall profits on frozen Russian assets to finance arms purchases for Kyiv, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said following a meeting with his French and Polish counterparts aimed at showing unity after weeks of friction. 

At a joint news conference in Berlin, Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk reaffirmed their support for Ukraine, whose ammunition-starved troops face their toughest battles since the early days of Russia’s invasion two years ago. 

European support has become increasingly key as U.S. President Joe Biden has been unable to get a big Ukraine aid package through Congress and much of his foreign policy energy is focused on the war in Gaza. 

Scholz said the leaders had agreed on the need to procure more weapons for Ukraine on the global market and to boost the production of military gear, including through cooperation with partners in Ukraine. 

“We will use windfall profits from Russian assets frozen in Europe to financially support the purchase of weapons for Ukraine,” Scholz said as he listed European Union efforts to increase support for Ukraine. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called last month for the EU to consider using such profits to “jointly purchase military equipment for Ukraine.” 

The Commission is expected to make a concrete proposal in the coming days. 

Some EU member countries such as Hungary have signaled reservations about the idea, according to diplomats in Brussels. But Scholz’s comments suggested he is confident that EU countries will ultimately approve the proposal. 

Scholz said the leaders also agreed on the need for the Ukraine Defense Contact group — a U.S.-led group of some 50 countries that provide military support to Ukraine — to set up a coalition to provide long-distance artillery to Kyiv. 

A proposal to set up a long-range missile coalition had already been agreed to in Paris on February 26. It was unclear whether Scholz’s comments referred to this or how Germany, which has opposed sending its long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine, would participate. 

Defense ministers from the contact group are set to meet early next week at the Ramstein U.S. Air Base in Germany. 

Macron reiterated his warning that it was not just Ukrainian but European security at stake. 

“We will do everything as necessary for as long as needed so that Russia cannot win this war,” Macron said. “This determination is steadfast and implies our unity.” 

He added that the three leaders had agreed on the need to reinforce support for Moldova, which says Russia is trying to destabilize it through a “hybrid war.” 

He said the three leaders had agreed to never initiate an escalation with Russia, a possible way to downplay talk of sending Western ground troops to Ukraine, which has irked Germany. 

The meeting of the so-called Weimar triangle — Germany, France and Poland — came after weeks of tensions, in particular between Scholz and Macron, that had alarmed officials in Kyiv and across the continent. 

A hastily arranged summit in Paris last month had aimed to give fresh impetus to stagnating Western efforts to help Ukraine repel a full-scale Russian invasion that has entered its third year. 

Instead, Macron’s refusal to rule out deploying Western troops to Ukraine triggered a dressing down from Scholz. 

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told Reuters that “indecision and uncoordinated action” among Kyiv’s allies was leading to “grave consequences.” 

“Russia starts to get cocky and begins to believe that it can quantitatively squeeze Ukraine,” he said. “Ukraine, in turn, is experiencing a severe shortage of specific resources, primarily shells, and is partially losing the initiative.” 

Tusk said the meeting on Friday showed “that some malicious rumors that there are differences between European capitals are very exaggerated.” 

Tusk, who is seeking to revitalize the Weimar Triangle after eight years of nationalist rule in Warsaw, said Macron and Scholz had accepted his invitation to meet again in early summer to present their next joint plans. 

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