The North Atlantic alliance is running so low on weapons it may be unable to keep supplying Kiev, according to CNN. A high-ranking British defense official said the predicament was created because NATO had no long-term plans for the war in Ukraine.
On Tuesday, CNN reported speaking with a defense official who claimed the US was approaching the point where it could no longer supply Ukraine with weapons. “There is a set level of munitions in US stockpiles around the world, essentially an emergency reserve, that the military is not willing to part ways with. The levels of those stockpiles are classified.” The outlet explained US officials believe “the US has been nearing that red line.”
President Joe Biden said the US had reached that level last week for 155 MM artillery rounds. Biden stated that the US had no more conventional 155 MM shells to send to Ukraine and would begin sending cluster munitions. Cluster bombs spread bomblets with a high dud rate, resulting in civilian casualties for years after the war ends.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Washington has sent Kiev over 2 million 155 MM shells from American stockpiles. At the start of the war, the US produced 15,000 rounds per month. The Pentagon reports that it can now manufacture 30,000 shells per month. However, Ukraine is still firing more shells than the US can produce, around 2,000 – 3,000 every day, a defense official told CNN.
General James Hecker issued a similar warning last week in London during The Chief of the Air Staff’s Global Air & Space Chiefs’ Conference 2023. “Now you add that we’re giving a lot of munitions away to the Ukrainians — which I think is exactly what we need to do — but now we’re getting dangerously low and sometimes, in some cases even too low that we don’t have enough,” he said.
The situation was created because NATO had no long-term plans for Ukraine, UK Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace told CNN last week. NATO was poised early on for a “night one, day one” offensive, “no one had really asked themselves the question, well, what if ‘day one, night one’ becomes ‘week two, week three, week four?’” Wallace said. “How much of our exquisite capabilities have we actually got in stock? And I think that’s been the broader question.”
Gen. Hecker explained it will likely take years for NATO countries to produce ammunition in sufficient quantities. “We need to get industry on board to help us out so we can get this going,” the general explained. “[NATO is] dreadfully below where we need to be. And it’s probably not going to get better — well, it’s not in the short term — but we’ve got to make sure in the long term we have the industrial base that can increase what we have.”
The problem is that there are insufficient incentives for the defense industry, one senior NATO official told CNN. However, American arms makers report record-high orders because of the war in Ukraine. A former Defense Department contract negotiator has warned that weapons makers are exploiting this increased demand, created by the war in Ukraine, to price gouge the Pentagon.