Things are not looking good for France and Germany. It was recently discovered that the two countries who are also supporting figures in Ukraine’s war against Russia had exploited a loophole in the EU-wide embargo on arms shipments to Russia implemented in 2014. Germany and France’s exploitation of the loopholes was exposed by The Telegraph in a recent report.

The EU-wide embargo was implemented following the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, which was also met with support from the US. The measure came after the shootdown of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 last July 17, 2014, which was met with outrage from the international community.

At that time, it was expected that French and German weapons and engineering exports would be harmed. However, the sale of 2 French Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia was not affected due to the principle of non-retroactivity. The deal was worth £1 billion (~US$1.270 billion) and was signed in 2011. Delivery pushed through, much with the EU’s discontent. On the other hand, Germany’s engineering, energy, and computer industries took a hit as the EU banned exports that had anything to do with the development of Russia’s military. This was later watered down, to a ban on items with direct military use.

From left to right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Putin,_Macron,_Merkel,_Zelensky_(2019-12-10)_01.jpg
From left to right: Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

However, it was discovered that France continued to issue arms export licenses to Russia after the embargo had taken effect. French companies were found to have exported €152 million (~US$163.30 million) worth of military equipment to Russia from 2015 to 2020, with 70 companies involved in the sales. These included an unknown number and types of missiles, aircraft, rockets, bombs, vehicles, explosives, navigation systems, torpedoes, and other military equipment. The French also sent thermal imaging cameras to Russia for some 1,000 tanks and navigation systems for attack helicopters, bomber jets, and fighter jets.

In response, France said that these weapons sold to Russia were under contracts that “concluded before 2014,” which would fall under the principle of non-retroactivity. These contracts have since concluded, according to The Telegraph, with the flow of weapons to Russia “gradually” dying out.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin at a meeting Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz in the Kremlin in Moscow (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Putin-Scholz_meeting.jpg
President of Russia Vladimir Putin at a meeting with Federal Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz in the Kremlin in Moscow (Kremlin.ruCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Germany, a country that is heavily criticized by the West at the moment, also landed in hot water. It was found that it exported icebreaker vessels, rifles, and special protection vehicles that were classified as “dual-use equipment” to Russia worth €122 million (~US$131.07 million). Berlin defended their weapons sales to Russia after disclosing that Russia agreed they were only for “civilian use” and that the exports would not have gone through if they knew they would be used for the war.

In fact, Investigate Europe had found out that France and Germany were Europe’s top arms exporters to Russia at €152 million (~US$163 million) and €121.8 million (~US$130.6 million), respectively. Other EU member states have also been found to exploit the loophole after the European Commission discovered that €350 million (~US$375 million) worth of hardware was exported to Russia. These countries include Italy, which sold Lynce all-terrain military vehicles to Russia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Finland, Slovakia, and Spain.

However, France and Germany remain the top weapon exporters to Russia among the identified EU countries, accounting for 78% of the total exported weapons to Russia combined.

As a result of their actions, the European Commission closed the loophole used by these countries to continue exporting to Russia by banning dual-use equipment. However, the damage has been done as these weapons are more than likely being used to attack Ukraine today.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who just won his reelection bid against nationalist-populist Marine Le Pen, received flak for their export to Russia and was accused of appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, it was the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who received the most criticism as the news of their arms shipment broke out.

Germany has received backlash from its international allies and its own people for its failure to supply heavy weapons to Ukraine. Since the beginning of the invasion, Scholz has been extremely hesitant to hold Russia accountable for its actions, clearly holding back the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from economic sanction talks. It was later forced to halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from functioning upon international pressure and internal talks with President Biden.

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According to the German leader, their country’s weapon stocks were far too depleted to send Ukraine heavy weapons and would leave them exposed. It was also hesitant to approve the transfer of German-made weapons to Ukraine from other countries, which requires approval from Germany as included in their contracts as they have a long-standing policy of not exporting arms to active war zones.

However, to Germany’s limited credit, they have sent a total of €83 million worth of stocks to Ukraine (stocks which are mostly unidentified), €1.4 billion to help Ukraine buy weapons, and an additional €400 million to Kyiv. Germany has even given Ukraine a list of weapons they could choose from. However, the Ukrainian side has revealed that no heavy weaponry is on the list, and none of the weapons they actually need are included.

So far, the German government remains timid and reluctant to support Ukraine with heavy weaponry. This is seen with the laggard implementation (or lack thereof) of German tank manufacturer Rheinmetall’s proposal to give Ukraine 50 Leopard 1 tanks, as announced earlier by Rheinmetall’s chief executive Armin Papperger. The final decision on the tanks was said to be delayed as Germany did not want to be rushing ahead of its allies in providing Ukraine with heavy weaponry.

As we all know, Germany is not rushing but is lagging with its help toward Ukraine. Other countries have already provided usable heavy weaponry for Ukraine, with the latest one being Slovenia which worked with the Germans to provide Ukraine with Yugoslav-made M-84 tanks. In the deal, Slovenia would send 30 to 40 units of M-84s in return for German tanks and Marder and Fuchs APCs.

Countries such as the United States, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Slovakia have already sent numerous support packages and donations of military equipment to help the Ukrainian Armed Forces fight the Russian advance in Donbas. Of all these countries, the United States remains the top supporter and donor of military equipment to Ukraine, with the most recent military packages including specially made Phoenix drones as part of the new $800 million military aid package, 155mm howitzers, and Mi-17 helicopters among other equipment.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken had also announced that they traveled to Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Following their meeting, the two US officials announced a new $322 million in new foreign military financing to Ukraine, making the total number of US military and security assistance to Kyiv $4.7 billion.