NATO Facing ‘Very Real’ Arms Shortage Due to Ukraine War

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) arms stockpile is dwindling due to the Russia-Ukraine war, according to a US ambassador.

Ambassador Julianne Smith, permanent US representative to NATO, made the comments during an interview Tuesday with Dr. Kathleen McInnis, a senior fellow in the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program.

“This is a very serious challenge, both for NATO allies that are giving serious commitment, significant military assistance/lethal assistance to the Ukrainian military forces, but it is a significant challenge for the Ukrainian military forces themselves that are facing shortfalls and declining stockpiles, ” said Smith, who was appointed in November 2021.

Ukrainian soldiers unload their guns as they arrive at an abandoned building to rest and receive medical treatment after fighting on the front line for two months near Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on April 30. In the inset, FGM-148 Javelins, US-made portable anti -tank missiles, are pictured at Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport on February 11. A US NATO ambassador said Tuesday that the NATO stockpile is decreasing.
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty; Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty

She said there are efforts taking place among myriad entities and organizations to increase stockpiles.

One involves the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG), with efforts led by the United States to coordinate lethal assistance for 50 nations—some of which are not NATO members. Smith said they meet monthly and bring in the arms industry “trying to determine how they can send the right signals to industry to give them the assurance they need to reopen production lines.”

During the third UDCG meeting in June in Brussels, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin touted congressional allocation of $40 billion of security assistance to Ukraine.

In November, Austin and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met virtually with the 50 countries and organizations as part of the UDCG’s seventh meeting.

The meeting included the announcement of additional arms, a $287 million assistance package by Sweden, Hawk missile batteries and missiles from Spain, and $500 million in assistance from Canada.

“We’re going to maintain our momentum throughout the winter so that Ukraine can continue to consolidate gains and seize the initiative on the battlefield,” Austin said. “Ukrainian troops are fighting with even greater tenacity and determination.”

That same month, an anonymous NATO official told Foreign Policy that “everyone is now sufficiently worried” about the dwindling arms stockpile.

“NATO doesn’t really plan to fight wars like this, and by that I mean wars with a super intensive use of artillery systems and lots of tank and gun rounds,” Frederick Kagan, a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, told the publication. “We were never stocked for this kind of war to begin with.”

Smith also said that NATO proper in Brussels and the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) from all 30 NATO member nations are looking at multinational buys and pool purchases, saying, “You want to send industry the strongest signal possible” and have confidence for sustained interest in production lines.

“That effort is focused on declining stockpiles across the NATO alliance for a country like Estonia that has given an enormous amount of security assistance to Ukraine,” she added. “They’re facing some very real shortfalls, and they’re not alone. We see that across the alliance.”

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told Newsweek in an interview last week that NATO allies need to increase arms deliveries to Ukraine to enable a total victory for Kyiv.

“We need to change the course of this war,” Reinsalu said. “The only way in the current context we could manage to do that is to raise significantly—without any caveats—the range of all types of conventional weaponry.”

Pentagon spokesman Garron Garn told Newsweek that Estonia and any other NATO country can speak to their own stockpiles.

“As Secretary Austin has said on several occasions, we will not go below our readiness requirements,” Garn said in an email. “We are working to replenish US inventories and backfill depleted stocks of Allies and partners.

“The Department is working with industry to increase production of certain capabilities to continue meeting the needs of Ukrainian forces, while ensuring the US is ready to defend itself, our partners, and Allies.”

NATO is also in contact with the European Union (EU), Smith said, which has become much more directly engaged in providing lethal assistance as part of its own effort to help EU member states.

“The key here is to find some connective tissue and make sure that the EU and NATO are talking to each other in some of these efforts,” Smith said.

“The good news is that lots of flowers are blooming here as it relates to this particular challenge, and the hope is that in the months ahead these institutions…can work with industry to ensure that they have the confidence to increase production as soon as humanly possible,” she added.

Newsweek reached out to NATO and the EU for comment.

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