Belgium officially announces 'largest military aid package' to Ukraine

Belgium officially announces 'largest military aid package' to Ukraine
Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo pictured during a press conference of the federal government on new aid to Ukraine, Friday 27 January 2023, in Brussels. Credit: Belga/ Laurie Dieffembacq

Belgium's Federal Government on Friday decided to send a €92 million military aid package to Ukraine, which will include old army vehicles and trucks, thousands of machine guns and dozens of anti-tank missiles.

It is the "largest military package of aid that our country has decided so far," as it is being combined with the previous €146 million aid package that includes "fuel and ammunition, but also anti-tank guns and machine guns," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said during a press conference on Friday.

Up until now, Belgian supplies to Ukraine have mainly consisted of protective equipment and weapons to a lesser extent.

The move comes after Germany recently announced it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, while the US will send its Abrams and the British will send its Challengers. Belgium, however, has no intention of following suit, as the army has not had Leopard tanks since 2014.

Still, Defence Minister Ludovine Dedonder insisted at the same press conference that Belgium must continue helping Ukraine in whatever way it can. "We cannot allow [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to invade a neighbouring country. The people of Ukraine need our support to defend themselves."

She added that democracy was at stake, which is "why we need to help by providing military equipment to permit Ukraine to defend itself against the invasion and to defend its citizens."

The weapons partly come from Belgium's existing stock while another part was purchased, explained Dedonder, adding that she will not give any further details about the specific type of weapons that Belgium will supply. "I am aware that some other countries do communicate about this, but we will not do so. Whoever does, is playing with our security considerations."

The Belgian army will also deliver jeeps and trucks to Ukraine. "All these vehicles are operational or will undergo the necessary repairs before delivery. This delivery will start very soon." Belgian soldiers will also be deployed in training and in military hospitals.

Concerns over equipment

There are concerns regarding the type of equipment Belgium is sending to Ukraine. According to VTM News, the delivery to Ukraine will include 80 Iveco LMV Lynx vehicles and 150 Volvo trucks that the Belgian army is phasing out due to defects. De Standaard reported a press release from 26 February 2021 which said that those trucks "offered no or insufficient protection to the crew."

In response, Dedonder's cabinet told the newspaper that the equipment Belgium is sending to Ukraine is "operational and deployable."

"The Defence Ministry is looking at what is possible in function of its own stocks and with the Belgian industry. We also look at material that will be replaced in the short term. But it goes without saying that brand new equipment, which we do not yet have but which has been ordered, is more modern and safer than older equipment that is being taken out of circulation by the Ministry of Defence."

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"You cannot give what you do not have: it is that simple," Dedonder said in De Morgen separately. "The Belgian army had to undergo years of austerity. Our stocks are almost empty. And what is left, I must keep for my own troops. They also need to be stocked."

In addition to military packages, Belgium has blocked €191 million in Russian financial transactions as well as decreased the trade of Russian diamonds to Belgium, according to De Croo.

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