(CNN Spanish) – The photo took a long time to arrive, but it finally happened. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz sit at the same table as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
It happened this Thursday: The leaders of two major European Union economies traveled to the Ukrainian capital accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Since the war began on February 24, many world leaders and ministers – including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Polish President Andrzej Duda, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken – have visited Kyiv, which was under siege at the start of the invasion.
However, Macron and Schulze took more than four months, and this delay coincides with a more moderate stance by both countries in their support of Ukraine after the Russian invasion. But his visit also comes in the context of Ukraine’s application to join the European Union, which Germany, Italy, France and Romania have said they support.
“The next few weeks, as we know, will be very difficult. I want to support them and be on their side,” Macron said Thursday in a “Message of European Unity addressed to the men and women of Ukraine.”
“We support Ukraine with our arms supply, and we will continue to do so as long as Ukraine needs our support,” Schultz said.
The position of Paris and Berlin
Ukraine receives military and political support from the West from day one. The United States and European countries are the main suppliers.
France and Germany shipped weapons and were shipping more, but they also resisted certain shipments and systems, delaying deliveries and toning down their rhetoric.
“We must not insult Russia so that, on the day when the fighting stops, we can build a ramp to get out through diplomatic means,” said Macron, who announced his intention to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow.
The French president was one of the last world leaders to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow before the war. It was February 8, when the build-up of Russian troops on the border announced the result of February 24.
At that meeting, Macron said he was able to find a point of agreement with Putin on the crisis: “It is up to us to jointly agree on concrete and specific measures to stabilize the situation and de-escalate tensions.”
Two weeks later, Russian tanks crossed the border.
On the other hand, Schulz has been more resolute in his words in the face of what he sees as a “historic moment of transition”. “Putin must not win his war, and I am convinced he will not,” he said in April.
But his government has been criticized for its concrete measures to support Ukraine, and for its continued dependence on its energy imports from Russia.
Before the war, Germany was the destination of 11% of Russia’s oil exports (second only to China as a buyer), 16% of its gas exports, and 7% of its coal exports.
Because of this dependency, Germany and Europe – as a whole the main buyer of energy from Russia – did not completely cut off their imports after the war, opting instead for partial and gradual reductions until the end of the year.
Germany has also been criticized for its cooperation with Russia on the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, which was promoted by Schulz’s predecessor, Angela Merkel. Under pressure from his allies, Schulze announced that he had stopped certifying the pipeline the day before the invasion.
Zelensky criticized both countries for their stances on the war, even suggesting that they amounted to trying to placate Vladimir Putin.
“We need Chancellor Shultz to assure us that he will support Ukraine, and he and his government should choose not to do a balancing act between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but to choose what is their priority,” the Ukrainian president told the radio station. German ZDF earlier this week.
Zelensky said Monday, during a speech in which he pledged to release all territories occupied by Russia.
Zelensky also referred to Germany’s argument that it could not export more advanced weapons because Ukrainian soldiers had not received sufficient training.
“I’ve heard many times from certain countries that they don’t want to give us weapons quickly because our soldiers are not technically ready. But the trainers and our teachers will make them ready,” he said.
In an interview with the Financial Times in early June, Zelensky said of Macron that “to be a leader, you don’t have to think of yourself that way, but you have to act like that.”
What weapons did Germany and France send?
In the case of Germany, Schulz at the beginning of the war rejected the possibility of sending weapons to Ukraine, agreeing only to send humanitarian aid and medical equipment. The decision was consistent with Berlin’s policy of not arming conflict areas.
But as his allies rushed to send military aid to Ukraine, Schultz took the first turn just days after the war, agreeing to supply “defensive” weapon systems, such as the Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank missiles.
Months later, Berlin agreed to send Gepard anti-aircraft systems – anti-aircraft guns mounted on a tank chassis – and Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled guns. During his visit on Thursday, Schulz also referred to the Iris-T air defense system.
But these systems have not yet arrived in Ukraine – Ukrainian crews are being trained – and Kyiv insists they also need offensive weapons, such as tanks and armored personnel carriers, to be able to carry out counterattacks.
In this regard, Reuters reported in April that the defense company Rheinmetall had applied to the German government for permission to export 100 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and 88 Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine. Berlin has not yet announced a decision.
That same month, German Foreign Minister Annallina Barbock said her country was limited in the weapons it could send to Ukraine “quickly and without delay” but would provide “training and maintenance.”
“We have supplied the Stingers anti-tank weapons [sistemas de defensa aérea] And many other weapons that we haven’t talked about publicly.”
France, for its part, agreed in April to send Caesar self-propelled guns and Milan anti-tank missiles, among other systems.
Meanwhile, the United States on Wednesday announced a new $1 billion military aid package to Ukraine, which includes 18 howitzers, 36,000 shells and two Harpoon coastal defense systems.
As of April, US military aid to Ukraine was about $3.4 billion.
With information from Jake Tapper.