Ukraine is firing more ammunition on the battlefield than Western governments are able to supply it with, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has revealed. The Norwegian politician admitted this was putting European and the U.S. economies “under strain,” but said there was a “strategy” to fix this.
Within months of the conflict being launched in Ukraine, military commentators were pointing to “the return of industrial warfare,” noting that “the rate of ammunition and equipment consumption … can only be sustained by a large-scale industrial base.” Kyiv looked to the West to provide this base, telling Washington in February last year: “I need ammunition, not a ride.” But the West has long suffered from its own stockpile issues, which have been made all the more clear by Russia’s invasion.
Talking in Brussels, Mr. Stoltenberg this week said:
The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production. This puts our defence industries under strain.
Reports suggest that Ukrainian forces are firing around 6,000 artillery rounds every day, compared with the 20,000 fired by Russia. Pointing to the ongoing “battle of logistics,” the NATO chief accepted that “we have a challenge. Yes, we have a problem,” but he said, “we have a strategy to tackle that.”
Supply issues in the UK, as an example, have seen its army, recently downgraded from top to second-tier, run out of ammunition in just eight days in a 2021 online war simulation and, following the invasion of Ukraine, forced to buy equipment from a third party to send to Kyiv due to its own low stocks. The U.S., too, which has criticised Britain’s declining power, is now unfit for combat due to its military storage being “uncomfortably low,” according to one Washington defence official. These deep-rooted deficiencies raise questions over the feasibility of any such “strategy” for boosting Ukraine’s situation regarding ammunition.
U.S. Army General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has also this month pointed to ammunition struggles in the West (and, in turn, in Ukraine). He said:
The scale of this war is out of proportion with all our recent thinking … but it is real and we must contend with it. … Production capacity remains vital.
The NATO chief highlighted that waiting times for some large-calibre ammunition have increased from 12 to 28 months, over which period of time much is likely to have changed in Ukraine.