Ukraine: EU meets to develop plan for rapid shipment of ammunition to Ukraine

STOCKHOLM: European Union (EU) defense ministers on Wednesday discussed plans to loot their stockpiles to urgently send one billion euros worth of ammunition to Ukraine and place joint orders to ensure supplies keep flowing.
Western supporters of Ukraine warn that Kyiv faces a critical shortage of 155mm howitzers as it fires thousands every day in its fight against a relentless Russian offensive.
Ministers meeting their Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov in Stockholm were discussing a three-pronged action to meet Kyiv’s immediate needs and strengthen Europe’s defense industry in the longer term.
“Our number one priority is air defense systems, as well as munitions, munitions and more munitions,” Reznikov said as he arrived for the meeting.
The first part of the plan, as set out by the EU’s foreign policy service, envisages using one billion euros ($1.06 billion) from the bloc’s common budget European Peace Facility to get member states to send shells to their stockpiles in Kyiv within weeks.
Ukraine’s European allies have already depleted their shelves, committing some €12 billion in military support, including €3.6 billion from the common fund.
One wonders how many shells Europe can spare without making itself too vulnerable, and defense ministers were expected to provide details.
“I don’t know what the stock level is, that’s why we are here together,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
The second part of the plan is to pool requests from the EU and Ukraine to place massive joint orders that would incentivize ammunition producers to increase their capacity.
The move represents a significant shift for the 27-nation bloc, as Russia’s war has accelerated efforts to further coordinate defense.
The Baltic state Estonia initially offered to spend four billion euros on a million shells for Ukraine and wants more new funds to be committed.
But EU officials say the money to cover Ukraine’s needs could come from another billion euros already in the common kitty.
“It’s not enough because we need a million rounds, and it should be around four billion euros,” Reznikov said.
“We need more.”
EU officials say they hope to agree on a firm plan to send ammunition to Ukraine at a meeting of foreign ministers on March 20.
– ‘War economy mode’ – EU countries debate whether the bloc’s central defense agency or more experienced member states should negotiate contracts, given their firm desire to avoid seeing the process slowed down by bureaucracy.
There is also a vexing debate over buying ammunition from outside the bloc, as some argue the priority should be speed rather than helping European industry.
“If there are further deliveries from other states, I don’t think we should rule that out,” Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson said.
“I think the focus should be on helping Ukraine and how best to do that.”
More generally, it is clear that after years of declining post-Cold War investment, there is still a long way to go to get EU defense companies to scale up production rapidly.
“We are at a decisive moment in our support for Ukraine and it is absolutely mandatory that we move towards a kind of war economy,” said European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton.
“We absolutely have to make sure that we can significantly increase our capacity to produce more in Europe,” he said.
But German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said calls to put Europe’s economy on a war footing went too far.
“It would be a fatal signal” since it would mean that “we subordinate everything to the production of arms and ammunition”, he said.
“We, the European Union and Germany, are not at war.”

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