European Union members may agree to pool ammunition purchases as early as next month in a push to secure badly needed firepower for Ukraine.
A proposal circulated by Estonia this week to invest around €4 billion ($4.3 billion) to jointly procure a million rounds of ammunition won tentative support from the Netherlands and Romania. EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the plan when they meet in Brussels on Monday and a final decision could come when the bloc’s leaders meet in March.
“As a thought, it’s very good because ammunition is an issue — Ukraine needs a large amount and we also need to get our stockpiles up, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. “Right now we’re doing it on a national basis, and to do that on a larger scale is something that I would also support and promote.
Dwindling ammunition supplies are a big concern, with Ukrainian and Russian forces burning through tens of thousands of artillery shells each day. And while Ukraine is firing ammunition at a more efficient rate, it’s still using up shells faster than Europe can produce them, officials say.
US and European governments have sought to boost production as a result, both to supply Ukraine and to replenish their own stocks. EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the Estonian plan when they meet in Brussels on Monday, though a decision is not expected until the bloc’s leaders meet in March.
The mechanics of a joint-purchase mechanism can be discussed, but there was little alternative to a common approach to investments and purchases since the market alone wouldn’t be able to sustain a massive scaling up without state assurances, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said at the conference.
“They need to have a certain stability, Reinsalu said in an interview, adding that a number of companies welcomed the proposal. He compared the effort with the EU’s joint vaccine procurement during the pandemic and green investments.
Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu, also in Munich, called the idea “interesting, though said he would need to study the details.
“It’s more efficient to have a joint effort, Aurescu said in an interview.
The effort won backing elsewhere. French President Emmanuel Macron is also considering joint ammunition purchases as part of his call to accelerate weapons deliveries to Kyiv, according to an aide.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Munich that Poland is organizing a coalition, which includes Estonia, to finance the production of munitions for Ukraine.
Opening the conference on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made clear in a live-streamed speech that speeding up deliveries took priority in the nation’s effort to fend of renewed Russian attacks in the country’s east and south.
“It’s up to us to ensure they get an increasing flow, Ollongren said. “The goal cannot be that we continue in the pace that we are now, speed is really of the essence — both for Ukraine and for us.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas raised the need to boost the capacity of the European defense industry.
“Russia is producing in three shifts. Why isn’t the European defense industry doing the same? she asked at an event in Munich. “And they say that this is because of the lack of orders. ‘If we don’t have orders, we cannot make investments’, they say.