Ukraine’s Defense in Peril as Western Ammunition Supplies Deplete Rapidly

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In the face of a full-throttle invasion by Russia, Ukraine unyieldingly launches thousands of shell attacks each day in a desperate act of territorial defense. Alarmingly, however, the storehouses of ammunition supplied by Western military powers are drying up, as vocalized in grave concern by both the UK and NATO.

Adm Rob Bauer, NATO’s highest-ranking military official, visibly troubled during his address at the Warsaw Security Forum, noted that “the bottom of the barrel is now visible”. The urgency to bolster production by defense manufacturers was accentuated given this alarming reality.

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It was disclosed that the vast majority of the shells being deployed by Ukraine were generously supplied by NATO. Decades of persistent underinvestment have reduced the ammunition stockpiles of NATO countries to a precarious halfway mark, forcing them to lend their support to Ukraine from these dwindling resources.

Bauer underscored the urgency for large quantities, dismissing the just-in-time, just-enough economic model these liberal economies have cultivated over the last three decades as ineffective in times of war. “The armed forces cannot operate with such rationing when a war is ongoing.”

The UK Defence Minister, James Heappey, echoed these apprehensions, describing the Western military stockpiles as “looking a bit thin”. He urged NATO allies to honor their commitment to allocating 2% of their national wealth towards defense. His compelling argument was simply put, “If it’s not the time now – when there is a war in Europe – to spend 2% on defence, then when is?”

Heappey stressed the need to be combat-ready at all times, stating that the just-in-time operational model undoubtedly fails in such scenarios. Regardless of dwindling stockpiles, he urged resilience, emphasizing the imperative need to “keep Ukraine in the fight tonight and tomorrow and the day after and the day after”.

Commenting on the unremitting cycle of giving, he firmly asserted that continuous efforts must be made towards rebuilding stockpiles. Heappey subtly highlighted the disparity in commitment within the alliance by addressing the prevalent issue of all NATO countries not adequately investing 2% of their GDP on defense.

Swedish Defence Minister, Pol Jonson, while acknowledging the deep strain on resources, voiced the necessity of strengthening Europe’s defense industrial base for the long term to ensure sustained support to Ukraine.

Despite attempts to accelerate production, the ammunition consumption rate in Ukraine far exceeds the supply capacity of the Western powers, essentially creating a deficit. Aggregate efforts by NATO and EU countries to share expertise, strike joint contracts with defense manufacturers, and subsidize productions have fallen short of meeting the actual need.

This troubling predicament starkly contrasts with Russia’s seeming capability to readily fuel its wartime economy to top up its own ammunition stockpiles.

The crucial lifeline Ukrainian forces currently rely on is the significant ammunition supply courtesy of the United States. The specter of Donald Trump potentially returning to power next term has induced genuine worry among NATO allies, who fear a political settlement between the US and Moscow might jeopardize this critical military aid.

As the conflict rages on, the pressing issue remains: how can Western powers catch up to Ukraine’s ammunition consumption if their very ability to maintain their own stockpiles hangs in the balance?