WASHINGTON — The Baltic states have received approval from Washington to send American-made weaponry to Ukraine to help the country fend off a potential Russian invasion, according to a Jan. 21 joint statement by the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The announcement is the latest effort by select NATO allies to shore up Ukraine’s defenses, as Russian troops continue massing along the border between the two nations. Alliance governments fear Moscow is planning an invasion, which Russian officials have denied.
Estonia is donating an unspecified amount of Javelin anti-tank missiles, while Latvia and Lithuania are providing Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and related equipment, according to the statement. The U.S. government, as the weapons’ country of origin, approved the transfer, it added.
“Today Ukraine is at the forefront of separating Europe from the military conflict with Russia,” Estonian Defence Minister Kalle Laanet said. “Let’s face it: The war in Ukraine is ongoing and it is important to support Ukraine in every way we can so that they can resist the aggressor.”
Formerly under Soviet Union rule, the Baltic nations are wary of Russian attempts at recreating a sphere of influence reminiscent of Cold War geography. The three countries became NATO members in 2004, putting them under the alliance’s mutual-protection umbrella that candidate nation Ukraine does not formally enjoy.
“Today we have all the necessary approvals from the U.S. to send the weapons,” Laanet said. “With this we show that we support Ukraine not only with words but also with deeds. The allies are united, but there is always a need for those who show initiative. Estonia is definitely one of those countries.”
Estonia has a separate request pending to send another set of its weapons to Ukraine: decades-old Soviet howitzers. The artillery pieces were fielded by East Germany, absorbed into the German arsenal after reunification and given to Finland before ending up in Estonia. That means Berlin and Helsinki must approve a transfer.
As of Friday evening, the German government had yet to decide on the issue. A Defence Ministry spokesman told Defense News the question is now the subject of an interagency review and must be coordinated with the Finnish.
A reporter’s question about an expected timeline was left unanswered.
Germany so far has stuck to its guns in rejecting support to Ukraine through lethal equipment, though the matter has become the subject of heated debate in policy circles there. Still, leaders in Berlin have assured Kyiv of their backing, vowing to work through diplomatic means to resolve the standoff.
Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.