The European Union’s plan to provide Ukraine with a million artillery shells by March 2024 is facing significant challenges, according to German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius. In a press briefing ahead of an EU defence ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Pistorius expressed concerns that the target of one million rounds will not be met.
The EU had previously made a “historic decision” to provide Kyiv with a million 155-mm shells within a year, as a show of support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. However, Ukrainian forces have been struggling with shortages of weapons and materiel, which have hindered their defense efforts.
One of the reasons for the delay in this year’s highly anticipated summer counter-offensive, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky, was the lack of weapons and ammunition. Ukrainian officials have highlighted the stark disparity in firepower, with Russian forces reportedly firing 25,000-30,000 shells of different types daily, while Ukraine’s military can only manage a fraction of that number.
To address this gap, 25 EU member states, along with Norway, signed a fast-track deal to supply Ukraine with additional ammunition. The plan involved utilizing existing stockpiles and joint purchases. This effort marked a departure from the traditional approach of individual defense decisions by EU countries, signaling a more united approach to support Ukraine.
However, Minister Pistorius clarified that he had never personally promised a million shells, and doubts had been raised about the feasibility of such a goal. Unfortunately, those doubts have now been vindicated. Despite the political will within the EU to assist Ukraine, bureaucratic hurdles and limitations in the defense industry’s production capacity have impeded progress.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested that Europe’s defense industry needed to realign its priorities, with less focus on exporting products to other countries. On the other hand, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the commitment of Western allies, including the UK and US, to ramp up production. He expressed encouragement that Germany and other EU member states were also improving their efforts.
The Pentagon has been playing its part as well, reporting plans to produce 28,000 shells per month, with a target of reaching 57,000 shells by next spring. The aim is to assist Ukraine in maintaining the momentum of its counter-offensive and replenishing US stockpiles.
Meanwhile, the intensity of attacks from Russian forces on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine has escalated, particularly in cities like Donetsk, Kupyansk, and Avdiivka. The strategic town of Avdiivka, which overlooks Russian-held Donetsk, has experienced heavy damage with not a single building remaining intact. Its geographical positioning is vital, as it provides a clear view of Donetsk, making it a key objective for the Russian forces.
In a separate incident, three people were killed and 15 others wounded in Russian shelling in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region. These incidents serve as a grim reminder of Ukraine’s precarious position on Europe’s frontline in the ongoing conflict.
As Ukraine continues to rely on external support to defend itself against Russian aggression, the challenges faced in fulfilling the EU’s commitment to supplying artillery shells underscore the urgent need for improved defense industry capabilities and streamlined cooperation among EU member states in supporting Ukraine’s defense forces.
1. Why is the EU unable to meet its pledge of providing Ukraine with a million artillery shells?
The EU is facing challenges due to bureaucratic obstacles and limitations in the defense industry’s production capacity. Moreover, doubts about the feasibility of the ambitious target were also raised.
2. How is Ukraine affected by the shortage of weapons and ammunition?
Ukrainian forces have been struggling with shortages, which have hindered their defense efforts in the war with Russia. The lack of firepower has delayed important military operations, allowing Russian forces to maintain an upper hand.
3. What steps have other countries taken to support Ukraine’s defense efforts?
Countries like the UK, US, and Germany have stepped up their production of artillery shells to assist Ukraine. NATO allies have also shown their commitment to providing aid and ramping up production to help Ukraine maintain its counter-offensive.
4. Why is Avdiivka strategically important in the conflict?
Avdiivka’s geographical location offers a clear view of Russian-held Donetsk, making it a crucial vantage point. The town’s strategic significance has made it a primary target for Russian forces.
– Reuters [reuters.com]