Ukraine badly short of ammunition as war aid falters

At the root of the problem of funds for Ukraine is the tussle at Capitol Hill

ukraine-repair-reuters Ukrainian servicemen of the 92nd repair a self-propelled howitzer, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region | Reuters

For the first time, a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) ended on Tuesday without committing to any additional aid of war supplies to Ukraine even as the security forces of the war-torn country reel under a severe shortage of ammunition to counter the Russian military.

The main ammunition in this case is the 155 mm artillery shell that Ukraine has used extensively.

On a daily basis, Ukraine uses 6,000 to 8,000 artillery rounds along the 1,200km long frontier with Russia. While the European Union had committed one million artillery rounds by March, there are strong indications it would not be met. Additionally, the cost of these 155 mm rounds has increased three-fold from $1,000-1,500 apiece.

On the other hand, the Russian forces fire about 12,000 and 38,000 rounds per day with a noticeable shift in Russia’s use from the 152 mm fire to 120 mm mortar fire.

In a year, Russia has the capability to produce two million rounds of 122 mm and 152 mm shells. It resulted in a shortfall of 500,000 shells in 2023. Various reports indicate that North Korea may be supplying artillery rounds to Russia.

After the UDCG meeting, urging fund support for Ukraine, US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin said: “We must not waver in our support for Ukraine... If we lose our nerve, if we flinch, if we fail to deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite even more bloodshed and more chaos.”

It was the 18th meeting of the group, comprising more than 50 countries, that coordinates security assistance for Ukraine on a monthly basis. The group has injected about $80 billion in security assistance to Ukraine ever since the beginning of the sudden Russian military operations in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

The money goes towards building Ukraine’s military capabilities especially in the air force, artillery, maritime operations, ground-based air defence demining, and information technology.

The funds crunch will deliver a mortal blow to Ukraine’s war effort at a delicate time in the middle of a harsh winter.

At the root of the problem of funds for Ukraine’s war effort is the tussle at Capitol Hill between Democrats and Republicans with the latter linking the issue of more aid to tougher security measures at the US-Mexico border.

Responding to queries on the issue, Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder said on Tuesday: “The continued lack of funding has forced us to pause drawing down additional items from our inventories, given the implications for our own military readiness. And this, of course, prevents us from meeting Ukraine's most urgent battlefield needs to include things like artillery rounds, anti-tank weapons, air defense interceptors.”

“And so, again, we will continue to work closely with Congress and urge supplemental funding as soon as possible.”

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