US approves emergency weapons sale to Ukraine as ammunition woes deepen 


The US State Department has approved the emergency sale of $138M in military kit for Ukraine to help keep Kyiv’s Hawk air-defence systems online.

Compared to the $75B in assistance the US has already sent, yesterday’s move might seem like a blip. But it’s now one of the few ways (along with transferring seized Iranian arms) that the US can still help Kyiv to defend itself, while a $60B assistance package remains blocked in Congress.

Against that backdrop, Ukraine’s other Western allies have been busy:

  • Estonia has found a million spare shells and rockets, mainly from non-European suppliers
  • The Czechs are leading an initiative to pool funds to buy another 800,000 or more artillery shells for Ukraine, and
  • Germany says it’s delivering another 10,000 shells, with promises of 100,000 more to come, plus 200 military vehicles.

To put that in perspective, Russia is firing around 10,000 shells per day, five times what Ukraine is able to fire back. That ratio is projected to blow out to ten-to-one within weeks.

In terms of production, Russia produces around 250,000 shells per month (and rising), while Ukraine hopes to start its own production of NATO-standard shells later this year. Meanwhile, Europe produces around 50,000 per month, and the US has doubled its own monthly production to around 30,000 since 2022.

So while Ukrainian, European and US military production is all increasing, and Ukrainian drone strikes deep into Russia aim to throw sand into the gears of Moscow’s war machine, the numbers still don’t look great for Ukraine right now.

Over the longer term, NATO ministers are planning for the broader alliance (rather than the US) to play a key coordination role for Kyiv, mulling the creation of a $100B five-year fund to ‘Trump-proof’ support for Ukraine.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fears his country’s dwindling stocks won’t allow it that kind of time. On Monday, he told CNN “Ukraine will lose the war” and millions could die if Congress doesn’t pass the $60B aid package. 

He’s referring in part to expectations that Russia will launch an offensivein the late spring and early summer. Despite staggering losses, Russia has managed to reorganise its war economy, reconstitute its military ranks, and circumvent Western sanctions by sourcing supplies from China, Iran, and North Korea.

So what’s Ukraine asking for? Shells and air defence. As the above numbers suggest, both sides are relying on mass artillery to dislodge their entrenched positions along the 1000km frontline, while denying the other air superiority.

And that’s why, as Kyiv’s allies attempt to scrape weapons packages together, these are still not enough to plug the gap left by the US. Which in turn is why – again – all eyes remain on Congress as it reconvenes this week.

INTRIGUE’S TAKE

One way to think about all this is that – as with NATO spending – Europe is now stepping up to shoulder more of its own defence. And that, in turn, might offer a dash of vindication for those who’ve cited this exact issue when explaining their resistance to US support for Ukraine in the first place.

But looking out at the world right now, with a real risk of deterioration in Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia, you’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe this kind of vindication will end up looking short-sighted, if not Pyrrhic.

Also worth noting:

  • The Ukrainian Parliament just passed a controversial new mobilisation law to, among other things, grant military authorities the power to issue draft notices using an electronic system.
  • 35 or so public figures, including actor Mark Hamill, political scientist Francis Fukuyama, and Chef José Andrés, have signed an open letter calling on Congress to pass the Ukraine aid package.
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