Who is doing most to help Ukraine against Russia?
- EU Investment
- October 12, 2022
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IN THE eighth month of Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian cities are again being bombarded by missiles. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, is crying out for more weapons, especially air-defence systems. Western leaders and Japan have promised to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes”. But some countries are doing a lot more than others to help the country defend itself.
According to the latest reckoning by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German research outfit that tracks assistance to Ukraine, America has provided more military and economic aid than any other country, and more than European countries collectively. There are also big differences within Europe. When support is measured as a share of GDP, the Baltic states and Poland are straining hardest of all (see chart).
The calculations are fiddly. For instance, researchers must try to disentangle overlapping promises, and distinguish between arms and funds pledged and those which have actually been delivered. They also need to estimate the value of military kit taken from existing stocks.
Nevertheless the report published on October 11th shows that, between January 24th (one month before the latest invasion) and October 3rd, America accounted for 56% of the total commitments. This compares with 40% from European countries collectively. (The figure includes EU members and institutions; other European members of NATO, such as Britain and Norway; and Switzerland.) The gap is starkest when it comes to military assistance, more than two-thirds of which has been provided by America and about one-quarter by Europe.
America’s economy is, admittedly, the largest in the world (at market exchange rates). When calculating assistance as a share of economic output, however, it still outstrips European countries. They have committed, respectively, 0.25% and 0.19% of GDP thus far.
Differences within Europe are sharp, too. Latvia and Estonia have made commitments equivalent to about 1% of their annual GDP to Ukraine. These Baltic states have small economies. But Poland’s contribution equates to 0.6% of its GDP. By this calculation, three other countries—Lithuania, Norway and Slovakia—contribute more than America does.
With commitments worth 0.24% of GDP, Britain is not quite the champion of Ukraine it claims to be. Other European heavyweights—Germany (0.17%), Italy (0.15%) and France (0.15%)—are miserly by comparison.
European countries say they provide other important forms of aid, notably by caring for some 4.5m refugees who have fled Ukraine. Again, the burden falls mainly on the front-line states. A rough-and-ready calculation suggests that refugees have so far cost Poland a further 0.71% of GDP. Refugees account for only 0.08% of Germany’s annual economic output and 0.01% of Britain’s.
Decades of under-investment in defence means that Europe’s armouries are not as well stocked as America’s. That has implications for how much heavy weaponry—tanks, armoured vehicles, howitzers and multiple-rocket systems—they can send. Looking at the share of national stocks donated to Ukraine, the Kiel Institute finds that Norway has been most generous (it has pledged about 24% of its arsenal), followed by the Czech Republic (17%) and Poland (13%).
A shortage of weapons should not prevent Europe from providing money, which Ukraine also needs. The European laggards are denying Ukraine the means to defend itself—and Europe—from Russia. They also risk weakening America’s readiness to keep helping. The Economist’s model forecasts that Republicans will retake the House of Representatives in the midterm elections next month. Their America-first wing is noisily hostile to Ukraine. Democrats and mainstream Republicans will probably ensure that Congress keeps allocating the billions of dollars of aid that Ukraine needs. But their job will be much harder if European friends and allies do not take up a fair share of the burden. It is, after all, Europe’s security that is most gravely at risk. ■
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