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Germany pledges defense spending boost as EU vows to send arms to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz participates with U.S. President Joe Biden. (Leigh Vogel/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)

The day after Germany said it would send weapons to Ukraine as it battles Russian invaders, Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to boost the country’s defense spending, signaling a major shift in defense policy.

Germany will create a E100 billion ($113 billion) “special fund” for its military and up defense spending to 2 percent of its GDP, Scholz told a special session of parliament on Sunday.

“We need aircraft, we need ships, and we need soldiers who are well-equipped…for their missions,” he said. “This can be done for our country as big as we are, as important as we are, in Europe.”

If Germany reaches the 2 percent level, it will become the 11th NATO nation to reach the guideline established in 2014. In 2021, Berlin spent about 1.5 percent of its GDP on defense, according to NATO figues.

“We need to invest considerably more in the security of our country in order to defend our liberty and our democracy,” Scholz said.

The increase in defense spending would mark a major shift in Germany, which for decades has resisted military budget increases.

Meanwhile, countries across Europe are pledging more weapons and assistance to Ukraine.

“For the first time, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and equipment to a country under attack,” European Union President Ursula von der Leyen said. “This is a watershed moment.”

In addition, the 27-nation EU will close its airspace to Russian planes. Norway, the United Kingdom, and Canada also said they would shut down their airspace to Russian planes. The United States has not banned Russian airlines.

The EU has also banned Russian state-owned media and announced new sanctions against Belarus, from whose territory Russian invasion forces have flowed.

Finland, which is not a member of NATO, has sent bulletproof vests and emergency medical equipment to Ukraine, Reuters reports. Helsinki has reportedly allowed Estonia to give Ukraine Soviet-era howitzers previously received from Finland.

Portugal said it would send Ukraine “waistcoats, helmets, night vision goggles, grenades, various ammunition, portable radios and G3 automatic rifles.”

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity on Sunday morning, would not say how the U.S. and its allies were getting military assistance to the Ukrainians.

“We don’t have any indications that there’s been a blockage or impediment to continued assistance coming from the west to [the] Ukrainian armed forces,” the official said. “That support continues to flow not just in the United States, but from other nations as well… [and] it’s accelerating.”

Also on Sunday, Turkish officials said they would limit the passage of Russian warships through the strait that connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, but also that they could not prevent ships from returning to their home ports.

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