Every week, economist Andre Frank and his team at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy analyze a mountain of publicly available information on Western aid to Ukraine. In his pioneering Ukraine Support Tracker project, are attempting to independently calculate the true value of military equipment, humanitarian contributions and financial aid sent to the country in response to the Russian invasion.
In November, they found that the European Union had surpassed the United States in total commitments for Ukraine, with Germany in second place.
The biggest challenge facing economists is separating the financial value of military aid from the 100 billion euros ($106 billion) of Western aid that has been delivered or promised to Ukraine so far..
It is not an easy task, since the official declarations are full of holes. That includes those provided by the German government, which regularly updates a list of military equipment being delivered.
“At first glance, it seems very transparent, because the amounts are included,” Frank tells DW. “But we want to put a monetary value on deliveries to Ukraine” to map the real cost of aid, he said.
That is especially difficult for Germany. During the last 10 months of the war, Berlin contributed military equipment from Bundeswehr stocks that were long since out of service or written off, thus having no current valid monetary value. An example is the Gepard anti-aircraft tank, which dates from the Cold War.
Create a price list
So far, 30 of these tanks have been delivered from Germany and are helping the Ukrainian army defend against Russian missile attacks. According to Kyiv, this has great military value.
The economists at the Kiel Institute are constantly developing and updating their own “price list” for military items and other aid deliveries, in order to be able to count the financial value of the support. After in-depth consultation, they have valued a Gepard tank, for example, at $1.2 million. The Polish T-72 tanks, which hail from the Soviet era, are valued at $1.6 million each.
It is even more complicated to calculate the cost of smaller items. Another example is the delivery of sleeping bags, said Andre Frank. Some of them are used in humanitarian efforts and some are intended exclusively for Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines.
The Ukraine Support Tracker lists the value of past military aid and other promises from Germany at more than 2.3 billion euros, while the German government’s early December list puts that figure at 1.9 billion euros. The true number could actually be even higher, Frank said.
“We assume that the level of German military aid is even higher than what we are currently spending,” Frank said, describing his task force’s conservative accounting. For example, the German government did not provide any data on the extent of ammunition deliveries for the latest generation IRIS-T SLM air defense system.
The equipment appears to have served to protect the region around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv from Russian missile attacks for months. This can be concluded from the social media posts from Ukrainian government circles about the Russian rockets being successfully shot down. Kyiv does not disclose operational details of the Ukrainian army.
The Russian military has been attacking the Ukrainian energy system with heavy shelling every week for the past few months. An IRIS-T missile costs $616,000 on the world market.
“Depending on how many rockets there are, this of course can add up to a lot,” Frank said. “But again we have the situation where the official information we have from Germany doesn’t give us the opportunity to estimate an overall value.” How many defensive missiles the Ukrainian air defense has fired with the IRIS-T system so far, and how many will continue to be delivered, is unclear. “There is no way we can accurately resolve this using the available official sources,” he said.
The so-called “ring exchange” also makes calculations difficult: Eastern NATO states such as Slovakia or Slovenia hand over their old Soviet tanks to Ukraine and receive military equipment from Germany in return. The Kiel economists cannot track all items that have reached Ukraine indirectly.
Most of the military aid comes from the US.
However, they are convinced that their calculations are very close to the reality of war. “Even if we overestimate the value of some individual weapons or other assets,” Frank said, “it will even out elsewhere.”
In terms of bilateral deliveries of military equipment, the US remains by far the largest supporter of Ukraine with an estimated value of €23bn, followed by the UK with €4.1bn and Germany with €2.3bn. EUR million.
It is easier to get an overview of the total amount of aid to Ukraine, incorporating all the contributions made by Western states that support the country: humanitarian aid, financial aid, and military equipment combined. With their decision to help Ukraine with another 18 billion euros from January, the EU states and institutions are outperforming the US.
Europe will then support Kyiv with a total of €52 billion, compared to €48 billion from the US and committed until November 20, 2022.
This article was originally written in German.
While you’re here: Every Tuesday, the DW editors round up what’s happening in German politics and society. You can subscribe here to receive the weekly Berlin Briefing email newsletter.