BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union (EU) must find ways to quickly provide thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine or face the prospect that it might lose the war against Russia, top EU diplomats warned yesterday, as ammunition stocks in national EU armories dwindle.
“The most important, pressing issue today for the Ukrainian army is to have a continuous flow of ammunition,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before chairing a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers. “If we fail on that, really, the result of the war is in danger.”
Borrell spoke as United States (US) President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine.
Borrell said that Russian forces are firing about 50,000 rounds of artillery each day and that Ukraine’s supplies must be lifted to the same level. Other estimates suggest that Ukraine is firing up to 6,000-7,000 artillery shells daily, around a third of Russia’s total one year into the war.
Most sought after, Borrell underlined, are 155mm artillery cartridges.
Borrell said that discussion would focus on ways to make joint purchases of ammunition and use a special EU fund to provide extra financing. However, the defense industry requires solid, long-term orders to stand up and expand its production lines and cannot simply ramp up supplies overnight.
Last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the waiting time for the supply of “large-caliber ammunition has increased from 12 to 28 months”, and that “orders placed today would only be delivered two-and-a-half years later”.
Estonia, which shares a border and long history with Russia, is driving the EU and its NATO allies to provide 1 million artillery shells, at an estimated cost of EUR4 billion.
“Russia uses daily (what) the European Union produces per month, and in the current military industry capabilities, we can reach the need of Ukraine (in) around six years, so this is fully unacceptable,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told reporters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed to his Western allies to quicken their military support, warning that delays would play into Russia’s hand as the invasion approaches its anniversary on February 24.
NATO believes that Russia has launched a long-anticipated offensive in recent weeks, raising the intensity of attacks in eastern Ukraine while building up forces in the south. Officials have said that Ukraine is likely to launch its own counteroffensive in the spring.