BRUSSELS — The EU has sent Ukraine 220,000 rounds of ammunition since pledging in March to get the war-stricken country 1 million shells in 12 months, putting the bloc on track to hit its target, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said Tuesday.
Yet questions remain about whether EU countries can keep up the pace. The ammunition contributed so far is being pulled from existing stockpiles, and EU countries will soon have to switch to jointly purchasing new ammo for Kyiv, while boosting the capacity of defense industries, to continue making donations — a more challenging prospect.
Still, Borrell said, the current totals are promising.
“The latest figures actually are much better than we had just some 10 days ago,” he told reporters after a defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels, adding that EU countries had also sent Ukraine 1,300 missiles since the March pledge.
The total value of the donations is roughly €860 million, according to officials close to the dossier. The EU has vowed to reimburse roughly half of that value and has set aside €1 billion for the effort.
The donation total represents a significant jump from last week, when EU officials said countries had given Ukraine €650 million in supplies under the plan — a mere €50 million more than in April.
The earlier announcement had prompted concern about whether the bloc was meeting its promises to help keep Ukrainian soldiers stocked as they try to keep Russian invaders at bay. Ukraine has consistently warned its ammunition supplies are running low as the war drags on. In April, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged EU countries to speed up their deliveries.
Ultimately, the EU’s plan is to provide Ukraine with ammo and missiles in three phases.
The current phase is to simply donate any supplies that countries can spare. The second phase will then see countries band together and jointly buy new ammunition for Ukraine from defense firms, allowing for larger and less expensive orders. The third phase is aimed at expanding Europe’s overall capacity to produce military supplies.
In addition to the €1 billion set aside for current donation reimbursements, the EU has also earmarked €1 billion for the upcoming joint ammo purchases. But there are financial incentives for all three phases.
The deadline to file for donation reimbursements is the end of May, although officials have stressed that governments have six more weeks to send invoices.
Borrell said it’s not a surprise that receipts are flooding in as the deadline approaches.
“This is normal,” he said. “Often we see that the largest amount [of invoices] comes right at the end.”
And he reiterated: “At this rate, we’ll be able to achieve our target of 1 million” rounds.
Still, some diplomats doubt that Europe’s defense industry has the ability to expand production in time, despite constant reassurances from Brussels. That anxiety was present on Monday as defense ministers arrived for their meeting.
“To achieve 1 million rounds for Ukraine, everyone needs to do more,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur told reporters.
Pevkur’s German counterpart, Boris Pistorius, similarly expressed a degree of skepticism.
“That remains to be seen, that’s something the producers will have to answer,” he said. “That doesn’t ride on whether we want to place orders and pay for them. It only depends on whether and over what time period it can be produced.”
The answers will emerge soon. EU countries say they are running out of supplies to donate, forcing them to soon turn to new purchases.
“We sent Stingers [missiles] to Ukraine even before [the] war started,” Latvian Defense Minister Ināra Mūrniece told reporters. “And quite recently, I have announced that all our Stingers we have left will be sent to Ukraine.”