BRUSSELS – The EU has sent Ukraine 220,000 rounds of ammunition since it pledged in March to supply the war-stricken country with 1 million shells over 12 months, putting the bloc on track to hit its target, it said EU senior diplomat Josep Borrell on Tuesday.
However, questions remain about the ability of EU countries to keep up. The munitions supplied so far are being drawn from existing stocks and EU countries will soon have to move to jointly procure new munitions for Kiev, while increasing the capacity of defense industries, to keep donating – a more challenging prospect.
Still, Borrell said, the current totals are promising.
« The latest data is actually much better than what we had just a dozen days ago, » he told reporters after a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels, adding that EU countries also sent Ukraine 1,300 missiles since the March commitment.
The total value of the donations is around 860 million euros, according to officials close to the dossier. The EU has promised to repay about half of that value and has earmarked €1 billion for the effort.
The donation total represents a significant jump from last week, when EU officials said countries had provided Ukraine with €650 million in supplies under the plan, just €50 million more than previously. April.
The earlier announcement sparked concerns that the bloc was delivering on its promises to help keep Ukrainian soldiers supplied as they try to hold off invading Russians. Ukraine has consistently warned that its ammunition stockpiles are running low as the war drags on. In April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged EU countries to speed up their deliveries.
Ultimately, the EU plan is to supply Ukraine with munitions and missiles in three stages.
The current stage is to simply donate whatever supplies countries can spare. The second phase will then see the countries come together and jointly purchase new munitions for Ukraine from defense firms, allowing for larger and cheaper orders. The third phase aims to expand Europe’s overall capacity to produce military supplies.
In addition to the €1 billion earmarked for ongoing donation repayments, the EU has also set aside €1 billion for upcoming joint purchases of ammunition. But there are financial incentives for all three phases.
The deadline to apply for reimbursement of donations is the end of May, although officials have stressed that governments have another six weeks to send invoices.
Borrell said it’s no surprise that receipts are coming in as the deadline approaches.
« This is normal, » she said. “Often we see that the larger amount [of invoices] it comes right to the end.
And he reiterated: « At this rate we will be able to reach the goal of 1 million » strokes.
However, some diplomats doubt that Europe’s defense industry has the ability to expand production over time, despite constant reassurances from Brussels. That anxiety was present on Monday when defense ministers arrived for their meeting.
“To reach 1 million shells for Ukraine, everyone has to do more,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told reporters.
Similarly, Pevkur’s German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, has expressed a degree of skepticism.
« That remains to be seen, it’s something producers will have to respond to, » he said. “This does not depend on whether we want to place orders and pay for them. It just depends on whether and in what period of time 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 earlier [the] war has begun,” Latvian Defense Minister Ināra Mūrniece told reporters. « And quite recently, I announced that all of our remaining Stingers will be sent to Ukraine. »