EU says it’s now on track to get 1m Ukrainian ammunition – POLITICO
BRUSSELS – The EU has sent Ukraine 220,000 rounds of ammunition since pledging in March to supply the war-torn country with 1 million shells in 12 months, putting the bloc on the right track to achieve his goal, top European diplomat Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.
Yet questions remain about whether EU countries can keep up. The ammunition supplied so far is taken from existing stocks, and EU countries will soon have to move to joint procurement of new ammunition for Kyiv, while building the capacity of defense industries, to continue making donations – a more difficult prospect.
Still, Borrell said, current totals are promising.
“The latest numbers are actually much better than what we had just 10 days ago,” he told reporters after a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, adding that EU countries had also sent 1,300 missiles to Ukraine since the March engagement.
The total value of the donations is around 860 million euros, according to officials familiar with the matter. The EU has pledged to repay around half of this value and set aside €1 billion for this effort.
The total donations represent a significant jump from last week, when EU officials said countries gave Ukraine 650 million euros worth of supplies under the plan, a mere 50 million euros more than in April.
The previous announcement had raised concerns about whether the bloc was delivering on its promises to help keep Ukrainian soldiers supplied as they try to keep the Russian invaders at bay. Ukraine has constantly warned that its ammunition stocks are running out as the war drags on. In April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged EU countries to speed up deliveries.
Ultimately, the EU plan is to supply Ukraine with ammunition and missiles in three phases.
The current phase is simply to donate all the supplies that countries can do without. The second phase will then see countries band together and jointly purchase new ammunition for Ukraine from defense companies, allowing for larger and cheaper orders. The third phase aims to increase Europe’s overall capacity to produce military supplies.
In addition to the €1 billion set aside for current donation repayments, the EU has also earmarked €1 billion for upcoming joint ammunition purchases. But there are financial incentives for all three phases.
The deadline for submitting claims for reimbursement of donations is the end of May, although officials have pointed out that governments have an additional six weeks to send invoices.
Borrell said it’s no surprise receipts are pouring in as the deadline approaches.
“It’s normal,” he said. “Often we find that the greatest amount [of invoices] just comes at the end.
And he repeated: “At this rate, we will be able to reach our goal of 1 million” laps.
Yet some diplomats doubt that Europe’s defense industry has the ability to ramp up production in time, despite constant reassurances from Brussels. That anxiety was present on Monday when defense ministers arrived for their meeting.
“To reach 1 million rounds for Ukraine, everyone has to do more,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told reporters.
Pevkur’s German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, also expressed some skepticism.
“It remains to be seen, it’s something producers will have to answer,” he said. “It doesn’t depend on whether we want to place orders and pay for them. It only depends on whether and over what period it can be produced.
The answers will come soon. EU countries say they are running out of supplies to donate, forcing them to turn to new purchases soon.
“We sent Stingers [missiles] in Ukraine even before [the] the war has started,” Latvian Defense Minister Ināra Mūrniece told reporters. “And just recently I announced that all of our remaining Stingers would be sent to Ukraine.”