Europe declines to supply Ukraine with Patriot anti-aircraft systems

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Volodymyr Zelensky, alongside other Ukrainian officials, has consistently urged Western allies to supply more US Patriot air defense systems in recent months. 

Photo by Sean Gallup

In late March, Zelensky emphasized Ukraine’s need for at least five of these anti-aircraft missile systems [SAMS]. By April, following attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure by Russian missiles and drones, he increased this number to seven. By May, he requested two more to help defend Kharkiv. 

Germany stepped up to assist by pledging to deliver the third of its 11 Patriot systems. They also attempted to facilitate further deliveries from other nations. Unfortunately, no other countries responded to this initiative. Despite German leaders spending a month trying to persuade their counterparts, European nations have been hesitant to supply these critical systems to Ukraine, as reported by sources familiar with the discussions to Politico.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

Fear of scarcity

The primary concern for refusal stems from the lack of their own air defense systems, causing fears of leaving their nation inadequately protected. 

Key discussions with allies were spearheaded by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. While the German plan includes various air defense systems, U.S. systems have demonstrated the highest efficacy, even downing Russia’s so-called “miracle weapon,” the hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. Furthermore, Ukrainian forces are already well-trained in operating these complexes.

Photo credit: Janek Skarzynski/AFP

Biggest deficit

Air defense systems are Ukraine’s “biggest deficit,” as Ukrainian President Zelensky emphatically mentioned on May 14 during U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit. Just a week later, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock echoed this sentiment in Kyiv, asserting that the delivery of additional systems was an “absolute priority.” She highlighted that Germany has pledged 1 billion euros toward sourcing air defense systems for Ukraine. However, this does not address the pressing need for the systems to be delivered urgently. 

“There is no unity among the European leadership and among the main actors,” stated Nico Lange, a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis and a former chief of staff to the German defense minister. “There is no sense of urgency, but rather some relief that the Americans have resumed supplies.” 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The cost of Patriot missile systems, which is around $1 billion, is a significant factor. Moreover, countries are hesitant to compromise their own air defense capabilities, according to Fabian Hoffmann, a missile technology expert at the University of Oslo.

Promises but no concrete answer

Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that Poland has no reservations. Meanwhile, Spain and Greece have declined to redeploy their systems, although Madrid has agreed to provide Kyiv with missiles. In a recent meeting at the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden requested assistance from Romania. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis assured that he would discuss it with the country’s Supreme Defense Council.  

Photo by Anthony Sweeney

“We need to understand what we can offer and what we can get in return because it is unacceptable to leave Romania without air defense systems,” Iohannis stated.  

Switzerland, which had previously ordered five Patriot batteries from the United States, has not shown any intention to send decommissioned systems to Ukraine. Discussions in Bern concluded without results, as reported by the NZZ newspaper in early May.


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