The war in Ukraine has now entered its second year, with no end in sight. As Russia’s assault intensifies and Ukraine’s ammunition supplies dwindle, the European Union is scrambling to increase military support for the embattled nation.
EU Proposes Expanding €5 Billion Military Aid Fund
Last week, the European Commission put forward plans to reform the European Peace Facility (EPF), the bloc’s €5.1 billion fund for providing Ukraine with weapons, equipment and military training (Bloomberg). The proposed changes would make it easier to use EPF money for supplies like ammunition and tank parts, while also raising the fund’s ceiling to ensure sufficient financing for Kyiv’s needs in 2023.
The move comes after repeated warnings from Ukrainian leaders about dwindling stocks of shells and other key munitions as the war with Russia enters a grinding phase dominated by intense artillery battles. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated that ammunition shortages threatened to “paralyze” Ukraine’s defense, making it imperative that European capitals step up.
|Key Facts About the European Peace Facility
|Size: €5.1 billion
|Main purpose: Funding provision of military equipment, supplies and training to Ukraine
|Contributions: Individual EU member states
|Proposed reforms: Ease restrictions on using funds for certain supplies; raise ceiling to ensure financing for Ukraine’s military needs through 2023
In addition to expanding the EPF, Borrell has urged the bloc to increase overall defense spending to bolster both Ukraine and Europe’s own military capabilities. However, big boosts to countries’ individual military budgets could prove politically difficult amid recession fears.
Pressure Mounts as NATO Allies Struggle to Arm Ukraine
Kyiv’s Western backers have already provided billions in missiles, armored vehicles and other hardware to aid Ukraine’s defense. But delivering weapons is proving increasingly difficult as Ukraine rapidly expends ammunition while NATO members contend with shrinking stockpiles and limited arms production.
At a meeting of Ukraine defense contact group last week, the U.S. warned that commitments to send certain weapons are going unfulfilled. While over 30 countries have pledged tanks, few have arrived in Ukrainian hands so far.
“We recognize the tremendous amount of assistance our allies and partners have provided, but we must be honest in saying it has not been enough or not fast enough,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
U.S. lawmakers approved $45 billion more in Ukraine aid last month after lengthy negotiations, but europen allies are now urging quicker action as they ramp up their own military support.
EU Aims to Produce 1.3 Million Artillery Shells This Year
Industry leaders warn that arming Ukraine has left NATO countries with critically low stockpiles of ammunition like 155mm artillery shells, which Ukrainian forces are firing at a rapid pace to counter Russian attacks.
The EU aims to significantly boost regional production capabilities to help fill the gap. Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has said European factories could produce 1 million to 1.5 million artillery shells this year for delivery to Ukraine.
Reaching that target would require a massive industrial mobilization, as EU plants currently produce only about 200,000 shells a year combined. But EU officials say ammunition makers are ready to work 24/7 to meet demand if they obtain the needed financing and raw materials.
Brussels Launches Audit of EU Weapon Transfers
Amid questions over whether European states are fully delivering on their promises, the European Commission has also launched an audit of arms transfers to ensure pledged weapons are actually reaching Ukraine.
The review aims “to make sure that what was promised actually reaches the destination,” said EU spokesperson Peter Stano last week. It will examine potential delivery gaps and bottlenecks for weapons provided from EU members’ existing stocks or newly purchased from industry.
Kyiv has warned for months that promised weapons like German and French air defense systems were severely delayed. The audit results could increase pressure on laggard countries if significant discrepancies emerge between public pledges and actual arms transfers.
Calls Mount for Ramped Up Defense Spending
Russia still retains marked advantages in sheer numbers of troops and weapons systems like tanks and artillery. To ensure Ukraine prevails, NATO military officials say allies must commit to longer-term increases in defense spending to backfill depleted stocks.
“If we are in a war of attrition, we have to have sufficient ammunition to help Ukraine win,” said NATO Dep. Sec. Gen Mircea Geoana. “This is a wake up call for all of us.”
At a Parliamentary Assembly meeting last week, lawmakers approved a resolution calling on EU states to meet their NATO defense spending commitments of 2% of GDP “without delay” while working to reach 3-5% in the coming years. That would mark a major shift for many countries well below those targets.
Outlook: Mounting Pressure to Break Delivery Logjams
With Russia preparing a major offensive in eastern Ukraine, time is running short to arm Kyiv with the vast firepower needed to repel intensifying attacks. As European ammunition stockpiles dwindle dangerously low, efforts to boost regional production could soon clash with growing calls to backfill NATO’s own diminished reserves.
Against that backdrop, the coming months could see even greater pressure on European capitals to follow through on security assistance pledges, while emergency measures like the proposed EPF reforms aim to keep weapons and aid flowing despite massive logistical hurdles. Much still depends on swift, coordinated action to ease equipment shortages before Russia can take advantage.
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