EU countries are running out of weapons – too much given to Zelenskyi

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Published 27 November 2022 at 14.18

Domestic. Several European military powers – including the Swedish one – have disarmed heavily since the collapse of the Soviet Union and despite that donated large parts of the defense equipment they still have to the government of Ukraine. Now the New York Times warns that several EU countries are running out of weapons.

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– The smaller countries have exceeded their potential, says a NATO source to the New York Times.

At least 20 of the alliance's 30 members have now “more or less run out” of weapons that can be used in the conflict, according to the NATO source.

It is currently unclear whether – and if so to what extent – Sweden has sent its Archer artillery system to Ukraine.

The system is so far only available in about 20 units in Sweden and, despite its small size, constitutes an important protective barrier in the event of a Russian ground attack against Sweden. But according to some media reports, Archer systems are on Ukrainian territory despite the Swedish government denying it.

“In Ukraine, where a European war that was considered unthinkable is going on, the modest stocks of artillery, ammunition are now being chewed up and air defenses for several of the European military powers that NATO sometimes calls Europe's 'bonsai armies', with reference to the Japanese miniature trees,” states the New York Times in an analysis.

“Even the mighty United States has only limited stockpiles of the weapons the Ukrainians want and need, and Washington is reluctant to provide them with crucial weapons that are located in sensitive regions such as Taiwan and Korea, where China and North Korea constantly test the borders,” writes the newspaper further.

And stocks of weapons are used up quickly.

– A day in Ukraine is equivalent to a month or more in Afghanistan, says Camille Grand, military expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a war-oriented think tank run by Carl Bildt and a number of similar people.

During the summer war in Donbass, for example, Ukraine fired between 6,000 and 7,000 artillery projectiles per day, according to a NATO expert.

At the same time, the Russian artillery fired between 40,000 and 50,000 projectiles per day.

As by comparison, the US produces only 15,000 projectiles per month, and most countries in the EU produce no artillery ammunition at all. At the same time, the EU countries are now rapidly running out of their stocks of weapons and ammunition, which are being driven down to the government in Ukraine in a torrent.

The Western powers are now trying to rattle off the former Soviet military equipment that is in old Warsaw Pact countries, which fits Ukrainian systems and which the Ukrainians know how to use.

There are also ongoing discussions within NATO about trying to restart closed factories in the Czech Republic , Slovakia and Bulgaria that produced artillery ammunition in the caliber 152 and 122 millimeters. A caliber suitable for Soviet-era Ukrainian units.

Unlike in the former Soviet Union, the NATO countries' modern artillery pieces, which Ukraine has had sent to them, rarely have the capacity to swallow other NATO countries' artillery ammunition. The weapons manufacturers are commercial actors, in Sweden owned by the Wallenberg family, and therefore take care to make their systems incompatible with each other in order to avoid price competition when they later supply the systems with ammunition, according to the New York Times.

And then there is the problem of legal export controls, which govern whether guns and ammunition sold to one country can be sent to another one at war. This is the reason the Swiss, claiming neutrality, refused Germany permission to export to Ukraine needed antiaircraft ammunition made by Switzerland and sold to Germany. Italy has a similar restriction on arms exports.

Several countries, including Sweden, also have export restrictions that make it forbidden to sell weapons to belligerent countries. Something Germany learned when Switzerland suddenly refused to supply them with projectiles for German-made anti-aircraft pieces going to Ukraine.