May 27. 2024. 8:48

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EU’s Borrell supports Estonia’s joint arms acquisition proposal

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said on Sunday (19 February) he supported an Estonian proposal for the European Union to buy ammunition on behalf of its member states to provide more military support to Ukraine.

“I completely agree with the Estonian prime minister’s [Kaja Kallas] proposal,” Borrell told the Munich Security Conference, speaking alongside the Estonian leader.

“We are working on that and it will work,” Borrell said, warning that Ukraine’s shortage of ammunition has to be solved quickly, “in a matter of weeks”.

After an EU summit earlier this month, Kallas recommended that the EU should pool resources in a bid to accelerate ammunition production and deliveries to Ukraine, in a mechanism akin to the one used during the COVID-19 pandemic to jointly acquire vaccines.

“Because the Russian military industry is working in three shifts – Russia is firing in a day the monthly European production of artillery shells — the monthly production and the European defence industry hasn’t boosted its production,” Kallas said in Munich.

“So where is the obstacle? Because clearly, if you read the room in terms of the trends that are in Europe, then there is clearly the demand,” she added.

Kallas said armaments makers had complained to her that they did not have large enough orders pending to justify scaling up their production.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss the idea of joint procurement of 155mm artillery shells at their regular meeting in Brussels on Monday (20 February).

EU officials and diplomats say such an approach would be more efficient than member states placing orders individually.

“The first and most urgent thing that a geopolitical Europe has to do is arm Ukraine,” Borrell said.

“As all the European leaders said yesterday that Russia must not win this war, that Ukraine has to prevail, then let’s go from the words to the facts and accelerate our military support to Ukraine – because Ukraine is in a critical situation from the point of view of the ammunition available,” he added.

However, Borrell said he thought Europe should acknowledge it had taken too long to reach some “critical decisions” on military exports, naming the delivery of battle tanks as an example.

With the current issue of ammunition shortages, he said it would not be feasible to wait for the production or procurement of new supplies.

“We have to use what we have,” Borrell said.

“What the member states have, they have to provide for Ukraine a part of their ammunition” while waiting to refill their stocks with new supplies once they have been manufactured.

“Much more has to be done and much more quickly,” Borrell said.

His comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies to speed up their military aid for Ukraine, warning forum attendees on Friday that delays would play into Russia’s hands as the invasion approaches its first anniversary.

The EU’s chief diplomat also warned that the bloc should make more efforts to debunk Russian narratives about the war.

“Traveling around the world, especially to the global south, I see how the Russian narrative that wants to reduce the war in Ukraine to a conflict between the West and Russia is powerful,” Borrell said.

“This is the big challenge in front of us: In the short term, ammunition, in the medium-term, to increase the capacity of your defence industry. and from now, from tomorrow, and for a long time. to look at our partners in the [Global] South in order to make them participate in the world reaction against Russia for the war in Ukraine,” he concluded.