As EU military ministers gather on March 8 to discuss combined ammunition procurement plans, the EU may be getting closer to making a historic decision to purchase ammunition to support Ukraine and replenish domestic stocks collectively.
The Stockholm Conference should anticipate future needs
EU defense ministers will formally discuss strategies in Stockholm to speed up the supply of 155mm ammunition to Ukraine, which needs additional artillery shells to stave off the Russian incursion.
Oleksiy Reznikov, the defense minister of Ukraine, is anticipated to attend the meeting and update his EU counterparts on the state of the nation’s armed forces.
Further anticipated attendees include European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
According to EU sources, Russian forces are shooting roughly 50,000 rounds per day, compared to up to 7,000 rounds daily used by Ukrainian Army in heavy artillery fire around Bakhmut.
Supporters of Kyiv have stressed in recent weeks that Ukraine is using shells faster than its Western allies can produce them.
Josep Borrell offers his plan
He suggests utilizing an additional €1 billion in common funds as the first step to compel member nations to find and immediately give 155 mm artillery ammunition to Ukraine from their stockpiles.
The funding will come from the European Peace Fund (EPF), which has already allocated €3.6 billion to arming Ukraine since the invasion started in February last year and was supplemented with an additional €2 billion until 2023.
The plan asks member states to concur on a combined purchase of 155 mm ammunition by the bloc’s defense department as the second step, with the first contracts to be inked as soon as next month “for seven years.”
The third step is meant to ensure long-term growth in munitions production in Europe and enhance production in defense sectors to keep supplies continuing.
According to the statement, “like-minded partners may be urged to support these initiatives through voluntary financial donations.”
According to some EU diplomats, the EU is also looking for nations outside the bloc to join its efforts. At least Norway has previously expressed interest, and Canada may be prepared to enter.
The European Commission is investigating which organizations might be utilized to manage EU joint procurement activities.
This could include the Organization for Common Armaments Cooperation (OCCAR), which specializes in joint arms programs and includes several EU countries, or the European Defense Agency (EDA), an intergovernmental organization that promotes defense integration among its 26 member states (excluding Denmark) and the UK, which is not a part of the EU.
The goal is to reach an agreement this month
Following discussions in Stockholm, EU officials hope the proposal will be swiftly accepted at a combined meeting of the bloc’s foreign and defense ministers on March 20 and completed at a second EU summit later that week.
EU leaders are anticipated to “welcome a rapid agreement in the Council to assist the prompt supply of ammunition to Ukraine, including through cooperative procurement and the mobilization of essential funds,” according to the draft conclusions of the early EU summit.
Many will view the decision as a significant change in EU defense procurement policy, despite EU authorities concentrating their joint procurement plans on artillery shells rather than more advanced weapon systems.
Until recently, NATO and the governments of member states primarily controlled this sphere.
Last year, the EU released billions for member states to buy weapons for Ukraine’s armed forces to fend off a Russian invasion, marking a “tipping point” for European defense strategy.
Some who have followed the EU’s actions and in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine for some time believe this could only be the start of a more unified EU military strategy.
After Estonia last month suggested that the EU purchase one million 155mm rounds for Ukraine this year at an estimated cost of €4 billion, the discussion surrounding cooperative procurement gained momentum.
Photo: Workers maneuver the turret from an M1 Abrams tank during maintenance. U.S. Army.