Kyiv is running out of ammunition as Western aid packages hit roadblocks
02/15/2024 // Belle Carter // Views

As the United States and European Union's Ukraine aid packages are stuck and pending release, Kyiv is facing a critical gap in its artillery ammunition that its military needs to continue battling fully-geared Russia.

According to a Financial Times (FT) report, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky's troops have already been struggling to hold back Russia's military along a 1,500km active frontline, with Ukrainian forces rationing stockpiles and firing only about a third of the absolute critical daily minimum requirement to maintain their position, which is 6,000 shells a day.

A senior U.S. military official called the "critical" situation "gap in the hose." "It is a desperate situation on the front lines for the Ukrainians, far worse than they are letting on," another senior NATO diplomat told the news outlet. "The old truism still holds true: The side with the most ammunition to fight usually wins," Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov even wrote to European Union foreign policy head Josep Borrell, lamenting the shortages getting worse by the day. Borrell responded in a speech to Ukraine's parliament this week: "I know that on ammunition your needs are higher than [Europe can provide]. I have been talking with your military staff, and I know that you need more."(Related: Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov tells EU counterparts: Ukraine is OUTGUNNED 3-to-1 by Russia.)

President Joe Biden failed to pass a $60 billion military and financial aid package this month. This only means that most U.S. shipments of ammunition are at an effective pause. The White House bundled the aid package with funding for Israel and the U.S.-Mexico border, which ended up getting stuck in Congress due to domestic political concerns. The foreign aid portion of the bill finally advanced in the Senate earlier this week. Also, the Pentagon's stockpiles of 155mm ammunition ran low, and has remained low, last summer so Biden sent some cluster munitions instead to Zelensky's military. However, this move did not sit well with several NATO allies so they banned their use.

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Meanwhile, the European Union's increase in production has not been fast enough, as per authorities knowledgeable of the matter. It has already fallen far short of its pledge to crank out a million rounds by March 2024 and was only able to send less than half of that number. "It will not be easy for the Europeans to substitute for the U.S. That's not entirely realistic," one senior EU diplomat told FT. "Can [the EU] be enough if the US changes course of its direction? I’m not sure."

Biden agreed that the country was the "essential nation" in the current Ukraine conflict. His national security adviser Jake Sullivan added last week that there was "no alternative" to the scale of resources that the U.S. could offer if Congress authorizes more spending on Ukraine aid.

Ukraine’s frontline people are weak and have low morale

Apart from ammunition shortage, Ukraine’s line of people is also now scarce. Not only that, a Washington Post (WaPo) article indicated that these shortages have been leading to exhaustion and diminished morale on the front line. According to military personnel in the field, manpower deficits are their most critical problem now, as Russia has regained the offensive initiative on the battlefield and is stepping up its attacks. "We have direct trouble with personnel," a deputy commander of an infantry battalion, identified only as Nikita, told the news outlet. "I'm talking with my friends, also officers in other units, and those in infantry; it’s almost the same situation everywhere."

WaPo also interviewed about a dozen officers and soldiers, who concealed their identities. One commander of a battalion in a mechanized brigade said his unit currently had less than 40 infantrymen, compared to 200 when fully staffed. Another battalion commander, identified as Alexander, said his infantry companies were staffed at about 35 percent. His colleague from an assault brigade said this situation was "typical" for combat units.

"The basis of everything is the lack of people," he said. His battalion was sent five replacements over the past five months, so poorly trained that officers had second thoughts about sending them into battle and almost certain death. With no replacements, frontline troops can't be rotated out. "There is no one to replace them, so they sit there more, their morale drops, they get sick or suffer frostbite. They are running out," Alexander added. "The front is cracking. The front is crumbling." Meanwhile, a 41-year-old platoon commander fighting in Avdeevka said most of his men are over 40 and are beginning to feel the strain. "You can feel it; people are exhausted both morally and physically," he said.

Zelensky announced in December that Ukraine would need to mobilize another 500,000 troops, indirectly admitting a far higher death toll than Kyiv has officially acknowledged. The measure has been so unpopular that the parliament has not taken it up until this week, while Zelensky has sought to shift the blame onto his top general, Valery Zaluzhny as he refused to comment. The General Staff also did not respond to a request for feedback.

Proceed to for more updates about the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Sources for this article include:

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