The lack of weapons in the whole of Europe could present Ukraine’s allies with a difficult decision about continued support for Kyiv. These nations are also considering the risk of a Russian attack on them if their stockpiles run too low. As a result, some European countries are faced with the dilemma of whether to continue sending their weapons to Ukraine.
The AP, for example, wrote on Sunday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has burdened the already decimated weapons stocks not only in several smaller states but also in some larger NATO countries. The United States and other members of NATO have sent billions of dollars worth of arms and equipment to Ukraine; some allies have provided all of their Soviet-era weapons and are awaiting American replacements.
However, some European countries may find it difficult to quickly replenish supplies, as they no longer have a strong defense sector that can quickly produce the needed weapons and ammunition. Many rely on the dominant U.S. defense industry, which has pushed out some competitors.
Now, according to the AP, these countries face a dilemma: Should they continue to send their weapons stockpiles to Ukraine and potentially increase their own vulnerability to a possible Russian attack? Or should they keep what they have left to protect themselves, which may increase the likelihood of a Russian victory in Ukraine?
After nearly eight months of intense fighting, European allies of Ukraine expect the war to continue for months, possibly years. At the same time, both sides are rapidly using up their weapons stockpiles. The victory may depend on who lasts longer, AP writes.
Russia speeds up production, sent soldiers to factories
European officials have said in comments or interviews that Russia cannot be allowed to win in Ukraine, and their support will continue. However, they emphasized that the issue of domestic defense weighs heavily on them all.
“We guess that Russia will restore its capabilities sooner rather than later because the Russian president may order weapons manufacturers to switch to 24-hour production,” Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said. According to him, Moscow sent some soldiers to factories instead of to the front.
Russia has a track record of rebuilding its military to launch an invasion against its European neighbors every few years, Pevkur said, citing the 2008 war in Georgia, Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, and now the large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Smaller countries, such as Lithuania, as well as some larger states, including Germany, are facing difficulties, AP noted.
“The Bundeswehr’s resources are limited as is the case in other European countries,” the German Ministry of Defense stated. The ministry did not reveal details about its weapons stockpile but said it is working to eliminate gaps.
Stockpiles are low because military spending has become a lower priority for many European countries since the end of the Cold War. American arms companies that applied for European orders also played another role in displacing domestic defense capabilities.
“When the Norwegians use F-16 and F-35 fighters instead of Swedish Gripens, it affects the strength of the European defense market,” said Max Bergmann of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Late increases to defense spending
The United States has long called on other NATO member states to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of GDP — a goal that most states have failed to meet. It was only after the Russian invasion that more European countries committed to significantly increasing defense spending to rapidly rebuild their militaries. In the meantime, they are sending a large part of what they have at their disposal to Ukraine.
Estonia has given Ukraine the equivalent of one-third of its defense budget, Pevkur said. Norway has sent Ukraine more than 45 percent of its stockpile of howitzers, Slovenia almost 40 percent of its tanks, and the Czech Republic about 33 percent of its Salvo Rocket Launchers, according to the IfW institute in Kiel, Germany.
Since February, the U.S. has earmarked more than $17.5 billion for arms and equipment for Ukraine, which raises questions among some members of Congress as to whether they, too, are taking too great a risk. The Pentagon does not provide data on its own stocks.
The Washington-based Stimson Center estimates that the war in Ukraine has reduced the U.S. stockpile of Javelin anti-tank missiles by up to a third and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles by 25 percent. It has also put pressure on artillery stocks, as the M777 howitzer is no longer in production.
Restoring weapons stockpiles and production capacity will be a long process, believes Tom Waldwyn of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. For some countries, he says, this may require more significant investment in infrastructure.
“It will not be cheap. Inflation and supply chain instability have increased costs,” Waldwyn added.