Allies in Ukraine are running out of stockpiles and are looking for alternatives to continue sending artillery pieces to Kiev.
Even with the mobilization of the West and the support of the NATO military alliance, Ukraine is still facing difficulties on the battlefront. One of the biggest challenges at the moment is the shortage of ammunition. In other words, the Ukrainian army is firing far more ammunition than Western arms companies are capable of producing.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday (Feb. 13) that the military alliance is increasing its ammunition stockpile targets amid the rapid depletion of its stockpiles.
“The war in Ukraine is consuming a huge amount of ammunition,” Stoltenberg said on the eve of the Ukraine contact group meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, attended by representatives from more than 50 countries. “Ukraine’s ammunition spending is many times higher than our current production rates. This puts our defense industries under pressure,” he stressed.
Currently, ammunition factories are working at full capacity and delivery times are enormous. For example, those ordering large caliber bullets today have to wait 28 months for delivery.
“Initially, we covered Ukraine’s huge needs only with our stocks. But we can’t go on like this,” said the Secretary General. “We need to produce more to supply the Ukrainian forces, while at the same time ensuring that we have enough ammunition to defend every inch of the Alliance’s territory.”
For Stoltenberg, NATO members, in addition to discussing new shipments of heavy armaments – and even tanks and jets – must ensure “that the Ukrainian army can also use the weapons that have already been delivered and have sufficient ammunition, fuel and spare parts.”
Search for alternatives
Ammunition resupply has been a concern for Ukrainian and Russian forces for months. DW’s Kiev correspondent Nick Connolly spoke with Ukrainian commanders who said they were having to make “very difficult choices” about ammunition use.
“I’ve met commanders of shells, of artillery pieces, who have told me they don’t know how long they’ll be able to keep doing their job, whether they’ll be forced to withdraw and move away from positions and wait for more ammunition,” Connolly said.
“Right now, we’re seeing Ukraine and its allies looking around the world, looking for artillery ammunition options in places as far away as Pakistan and South Korea,” he explained.
“We’ve had reports of searches for Soviet-caliber munitions of Pakistani manufacture and of U.S. troops being asked to send munitions to Europe and Ukraine that were stockpiled in South Korea.”
Germany to produce ammunition for Gepard tanks
According to German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, the country will resume producing ammunition for the anti-aircraft tankGepard, a model that was sent to Ukraine. “The contracts for the production of ammunition have been signed,” Pistorius said. The ammunition is produced by the Rheinmetall armaments group.
He emphasized that the decision was also taken so that there is no dependence on Switzerland, since the neighboring country has refused to allow domestically produced ammunition for the Gepard tanks supplied by Germany, justifying its “neutral” status.
Asked about a possible Russian offensive in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said it had already begun. “We see no sign that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is preparing for peace,” he said, pointing out that Moscow is sending thousands of new soldiers to the front “to compensate for the lack of quality with quantity, even if it leads to considerable losses.”
Stoltenberg also said he expected the possible supply of aircraft to Ukraine to be a topic of discussion this Tuesday (Feb. 14) in Brussels.
After the West’s endorsement of sending tanks, Kiev has stepped up its appeal for combat aircraft. The issue is also expected to be discussed at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) this week.
MSC chairman Christoph Heusgen, former foreign and security policy advisor to former German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, told DW that in his opinion it is important for politicians to ask for military advice on the issue.
“Instead of putting up stumbling blocks, I think we have to look at what is needed,” Heusgen said. “When you talk to military experts, they say that in a war like this, you need a combination of various weapons. (…) I think that should be a military decision,” he pondered.
Ukraine puts pressure on
Andrij Melnyk, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, told German broadcaster ARD that Kiev believes that a decision by Western allies on the delivery of fighters “is only a matter of time.”
“We hope that the Germans, that the German government, will not draw red lines now (…), but will respond to what is important for us,” Melnyk emphasized.
“Unfortunately, time is playing against us,” he said, adding that the longer the debate on fighters is delayed, the harder it will be for Ukrainian forces to fight on the front lines
The NATO meeting is also expected to discuss future military alliance spending on armaments – for example, whether the 2% target should be raised to 2.5% or even 3%.
There is also the question of how the underwater infrastructure can be better protected, i.e. pipelines and power lines that lie at the bottom of the sea and are possible targets, as happened with Nord Stream.
Brazil denies request for weapons
Brazil recently denied a request to send weapons to help Ukrainian troops fight the Russian invaders.
“Brazil has no interest in passing the ammunition to be used in the war between Ukraine and Russia. Brazil is a country of peace, our last contentious issue was the Paraguayan war. And, therefore, Brazil does not want to have any participation, even indirect,” said President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during Scholz’s visit to Brazil at the end of January.
Lula said that Kiev and Moscow should return to the negotiating table, criticizing the fact that too little is heard about the discussions around a peace agreement.
Scholz, in turn, said that Russia must first pull its troops out of Ukrainian territory so that such negotiations can take place.
*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***