Updated Feb 27, 2022 - World

EU to purchase and deliver weapons to Ukraine in historic first

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of $500 million worth weapons to Ukraine, marking the first time in the bloc's history that it will send arms to a country under attack.

Why it matters: Longstanding policy taboos are falling across the EU because of Vladimir Putin's unprovoked assault on Ukraine. The new weapons program, which will be funded through the European Peace Facility, was announced Sunday alongside new sanctions on Russian aircraft, state media and the Belarus economy.

The latest: The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during the Q&A portion of a press conference that member states will provide fighter jets to Ukraine, not just ammunition.

  • "[Ukrainian Foreign] Minister Kuleba has been asking us that they need the kind of fighter jets that the Ukrainian army is able to operate. And we know what kind of planes, and some member states have these kind of planes," Borell said, in what's likely a reference to Soviet-era jets possessed by Eastern European countries.
  • He did not immediately provide more details.

What they're saying: "I will today propose to use the European Peace Facility for two emergency assistance measures — to finance the supply of lethal material to the Ukrainian army, as well as urgently needed fuel, protective equipment and medical supplies," Borrell announced.

  • "President Zelensky's leadership and his bravery, and the resilience of the Ukrainian people, are outstanding and impressive. They are an inspiration for all of us," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, calling the new policy a "watershed moment."
  • The news was met with celebration on official Ukrainian Telegram channels, which touted it as another sign that the Western world is united against Putin's aggression.

Driving the news: In addition to the centralized EU program, individual member states are taking their own steps to provide Ukraine with military aid and humanitarian assistance.

  • Germany, which had come under intense criticism for refusing to export weapons to Ukraine during the military buildup, reversed its position and said it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine.
  • Sweden, an EU member that is not in NATO and has historically maintained a neutral position in global conflicts, said it will send 5,000 anti-tank weapons, 5,000 helmets, 5,000 body shields and 135,000 field rations — as well as $50 million in funding directly to the Ukrainian military.
  • Denmark will transfer 2,700 anti-tank weapons and allow volunteers to join a foreign brigade to fight with Ukraine.
  • Belgium is sending an additional 3,000 machine guns and 200 anti-tank grenade launchers, Zelensky tweeted Sunday.
  • Hungary said it would not provide arms to Ukraine but committed to sending 100,000 liters of fuel and 28 tons of food, according to Ukrainian authorities.

The big picture: NATO said Sunday that Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the U.K. and the U.S. "have already sent or are approving significant deliveries of military equipment to Ukraine."

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