Correspondent in Brussels
Correspondent in Brussels
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The Europeans will strongly increase their military support for Ukraine.
They will deliver 1 million shells and missiles within a year, for a total of 2 billion euros.
The agreement was sealed Monday in Brussels during a Council of European Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense.
The head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kuleba, hailed the EU's decision to
“strengthen Ukraine's capabilities on the battlefield”
According to Politico, the EU has delivered 350,000 shells to kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion.
But, in this war of attrition against Russia, Ukraine's needs for artillery ammunition - especially 155mm shells - are enormous.
Even if the shelling seems to have slowed down on the Russian side – the leader of the Wagner militia, Evgueni Prigogine, worries about a
"shortage of ammunition"
-, Ukraine cannot compete with its aggressor.
20,000 shells are fired every day on the Russian side, against only 6,000 to 7,000 on the Ukrainian side.
“We need artillery, ammunition, modern tanks, long-range missiles, modern fighter planes,”
President Zelensky argued in early February during his European tour.
The plan of the Europeans, to which the Twenty-Seven will come back at their weekend summit in Brussels, has three dimensions.
Concretely, it is first a question of guaranteeing rapid deliveries to the country at war.
To do this, the Member States will draw on their reserves of shells – in particular 155 mm caliber – and surface-to-air missiles and/or redirect to Ukraine orders already placed with manufacturers.
Destocking will have to take place by May 31, ie in less than two months.
“Without this deadline, there was a risk that the ammunition would not arrive or not quickly enough.
“says an EU diplomat.
Member States will be reimbursed 50-60% of their deliveries.
To this end, 1 billion euros will be mobilized from the European Peace Facility, the fund now largely devoted to military support for Ukraine.
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To induce them to part with part of their ammunition stocks, the capitals had to be assured that they could replenish their stocks quickly.
This is the objective of the group purchases which will be launched in parallel, more or less on the model of what had been done for vaccines against Covid.
These purchases will also benefit from funding of 1 billion euros from the European Peace Facility.
In detail, they may be coordinated by the European Defense Agency (EDA) or by lead Member States, provided that they manage to convince two other Member States to take part in their order.
A group of 17 member states plus Norway were due to sign a pre-agreement on Monday for joint purchases of 155mm ammunition, piloted by the
EU European Defense Agency.
Germany has already indicated that it will coordinate orders, while participating in EDA calls for tenders.
Even if no decision has been formally taken, France is also considering this lead partner option.
However, tight deadlines were imposed.
Thus, orders must be placed no later than September 30.
And these orders will have to be signed with European or Norwegian manufacturers since this country also participates in this program of deliveries and purchases.
Failing this, no reimbursement can be made on the European Peace Facility.
However, the production capacities of the 15 European companies likely to supply ammunition are insufficient at this stage.
Delivery times for the supply of 155 mm shells are currently just over 12 months.
The objective is to reduce them to 6 to 8 months, by encouraging manufacturers to produce more.
"Given the state of stocks, given Ukrainian needs, we need to create a shock on the offer"
, underlines an EU diplomat.
This is the third part of the Europeans' plan.
Thierry Breton, the commissioner in charge of defense industry in particular, is increasing his travels to encourage manufacturers to speed up.
In a few weeks, the Commission will put on the table a support plan for these companies.
The Europeans are also going to increase the funds of the European Peace Facility.
An extension of 3.5 billion euros has already been advanced.