European Union nations have acknowledged that they risk failing to provide Ukraine with the ammunition they promised to help Kiev stave off a Russian invasion and regain its territory.
Earlier this year, EU leaders promised to provide 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine’s front line by spring next year, in what would have been a major increase in production. But the 27-nation bloc, for more than half a century steeped in a message of “peace, not war” and sheltered under the American military umbrella, is finding it difficult to get the goods.
“The million will not be reached, we have to accept it,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said before a meeting of EU defense and foreign ministers in Brussels.
Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said it was crucial to increase ammunition supplies.
“Look at Russia. They are producing more today than ever. They are receiving projectiles from North Korea. “Europe cannot say that… ‘Russia and North Korea can deliver and we cannot,'” she said.
About 300,000 bales have been delivered so far from existing stocks in the EU. With the rest becoming increasingly difficult to achieve before spring, Latvian Defense Minister Andris Spruds insisted that the original goal should not be taken too literally.
“Well, of course, 1 million bullets are symbolic. I think aspiration and ambition are important,” she stated.
On the battlefield, however, the presence of ammunition is the only thing that counts.
In Ukraine’s war with Russia, 155mm artillery shells play a vital role. The daily consumption of 6,000 to 7,000 projectiles highlights its strategic importance. The acquisition of 1 million such projectiles could ensure Ukraine’s stability for at least half a year, providing a substantial advantage in sustained operations and battlefield flexibility, observers said.
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton insisted the industry could reach the industrial production target of 1 million cartridges. “But now it is up to member states to make their requests.”
However, Member States blame the producers.
“We have all signed contracts. We have made joint acquisitions. So now the industry has to comply. It has to step up its game to produce more,” said Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren.
Breton acknowledged that the EU’s overreliance on so-called soft power and decades of sagging budgets in many European nations had left the bloc exposed.
“As you well know, this is history, certainly the dividend of peace. It is true that we lowered our production capacity a little, even significantly, but the industrial base is still there” to increase production again, he stated.
One way to get more ammunition, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said, was to redirect current EU exports and prioritize Ukraine.
“About 40% of the production is exported to third countries. So maybe what we have to do is try to move this production to the priority country, which is the Ukrainians.”
Illia Novikov contributed from Kyiv, Ukraine.