NATO increases ammunition stockpile targets as war depletes reserves
By Sabine Siebold and Andrew Gray
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO said on Monday it would increase targets for stockpiling ammunition as Kiev burns through shells much faster than Western countries can produce them and after a year of conflict in Ukraine allied stockpiles are strong are exhausted.
“Ukraine’s current ammunition spending rate is many times higher than our current production rate,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of a two-day meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels.
NATO plans to increase its ammunition stockpile targets, Stoltenberg said, adding that the alliance had completed an inventory of the remaining stockpiles.
Reuters previously reported, citing a NATO source, that the alliance is expected to stock up.
The West must ramp up production as the waiting time for large caliber ammunition has increased from 12 months to 28 months, Stoltenberg said.
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year, many NATO countries were missing the alliance’s supply targets because wars of attrition with large-scale artillery battles were a thing of the past for officials.
But the pace of supplies to Ukraine, where Kiev’s troops are firing up to 10,000 artillery shells a day, has depleted Western stockpiles and exposed gaps in the efficiency, speed and manpower of supply chains.
“If Europe were to fight Russia, some countries would run out of ammunition within days,” a European diplomat told Reuters.
Stoltenberg said higher ammunition supplies were essential to ensure the alliance could continue to support Ukraine while protecting every inch of its own territory.
“Almost a year after the invasion, President Putin is not preparing peace, he is launching new offensives,” Stoltenberg noted.
“It is clear that we are in a logistical race. Key assets such as ammunition, fuel and spare parts must reach Ukraine before Russia can take the initiative on the battlefield. Speed will save lives.”
Asked if he saw Russia’s recent forays into Ukraine as the start of a major offensive that pundits originally expected back in the spring, Stoltenberg said it was the beginning.
“What we are seeing now is that President Putin is sending thousands and thousands more troops, taking a very high casualty rate, taking huge casualties, but putting pressure on Ukrainians,” he noted.
“What Russia lacks in quality, they are trying to make up for in quantity.”
When NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, they will also launch a discussion on adjusting the alliance’s goal of having its members spend 2% of their GDP on defense.
Several allies believe this target is too low given the war raging in Europe and are pushing for higher military spending, while others like Germany are far from even reaching the 2 percent target.
A decision is expected at the NATO summit in Lithuania in July.
The meeting in Brussels is preceded by a meeting of the so-called Ramstein Group, dozens of countries supplying arms to Kiev. The NATO defense ministers will be joined by their Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Andrew Gray in Brussels and Bart H. Meijer and Charlotte Van Campenhout in Amsterdam; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Shounak Dasgupta and Mike Harrison)