EU Member States have agreed to deliver one million new artillery shells to Ukraine over the course of the next 12 months, several delegations confirmed on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign and defence ministers in Brussels on Monday.
To purchase the shells, the EU approved the allocation of €2 billion, laid out in a three-phase plan that will supply the Ukrainian army with at least one million 155mm shells to replenish dwindling strategic stocks in EU countries. Some of these have almost been exhausted.
The details of the decision on the delivery and joint procurement of ammunition to Ukraine are specified in a council note which was approved by the foreign affairs council after a joint session with the EU defense ministers. This so-called Jumbo-meeting follows the informal council meeting with High Representative Josep Borrell on 8 March in Stockholm.
The three-track decision consists of three intertwined and parallell actions. First, the Council calls on the EU member states to urgently deliver ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition to Ukraine and, if requested, missiles, from their existing stocks before 31 May 2023.
In the second track, to compensate the member states for the deliveries of ammunition which they might need themselves and to replenish their stocks, the Council calls on them to jointly procure 155mm ammunition and missiles in the fastest way possible before 30 September 2023 through an existing project managed by the European Defense Agency (EDA).
In the third track, in the longer term, the Council invites the Commission to present concrete proposals to urgently support the ramp-up of manufacturing capacities of the European defence industry.
A senior EU official admitted at a recent technical briefing that the stock level of ammunition is a problem for the EU and that EU member states need a guarantee that their stocks will be replenished soon. But he also stressed that by delivering ammunition to Ukraine in its war of defense against Russia's aggression, the EU member states are caring for their own security.
EDA is currently setting up the project arrangements for joint procurement and will use a fast track procedure without tendering but the lead time is still up to one year, according to a senior official at EDA.
With the front line now mostly stationary, Ukraine’s need of artillery shells is huge and figures in media vary between 90,000 and 200,000 shells per month. The US has already sent or pledged to send over a million 155-millimeter shells and also used its stockpiles of shells in Israel and South Korea to deliver the shells.
As the battle for the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut intensifies, the needs of the Ukrainian army continue to grow. Notably, Ukrainian forces are in need of new supplies of artillery shells to compete with Russian bombardment. Ukrainian authorities have repeated their calls for increased deliveries of heavy equipment, including aircraft, to help hold off Russian invaders.
"To win the peace, Ukraine needs to win the war," High Representative Borrell commented in Stockholm. The shells might arrive in time for Ukraine to keep the lines but to launch an offensive or counter-offensive against Russia it will also need more tanks and armoured troop or combat vehicles.
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According to the Kiel Institute's tracker of support for Ukraine, EU institutions have committed €3.1 billion in military aid for Ukraine, €1.6 billion in humanitarian aid, and €30.3 billion in financial aid. EU countries and EU institutions have collectively provided €54.9 billion in government support to Ukraine.