The war with Ukraine will be over unless the EU finds a way in weeks to speed up the provision of ammunition to Ukraine, Josep Borrell, the EU foreign affairs chief, warned on the final day of the Munich security conference.
He said a special meeting of EU defence ministers slated for 8-9 March will provide a chance for countries to offer ammunition from their existing stocks, adding it is taking up to 10 months for European armies to order and receive a single bullet.
“We are in urgent war mode,” he said. “This shortage of ammunition has to be solved quickly; it is a matter of weeks.” He said if it was not the war would be over.
Borrell will also table plans at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday to use the existing €3.6bn (£3.2bn) European peace facility for the EU to procure ammunition jointly on the model of the procurement of vaccines during the Covid crisis, an idea first proposed by the Estonian prime minister, Kaja Kallas.
Borrell said the Estonian idea would work in the medium term, but he believes the urgency of the shortages is such that it requires EU countries to draw on existing stocks. “We have to use what member states have,” he said.
“Much more has to be done and much quicker. There is still a lot to be done. We have to increase and accelerate our military support. It currently takes almost 10 months for the European army to buy a bullet for the calibre of 155mm, almost one year, and almost three years to buy an air-to-air missile. This is not in accordance with the war situation in which we live.”
Kallas, speaking at the same event, said Russia was in a wartime mode, producing ammunition across three shifts, adding there needed to be a similar war footing in Europe. She claimed defence industry executives had told her they had no orders from the EU.
Borrell said the absence of ammunition was because “we forgot about classical wars – we were only engaged with expeditionary forces and technological Blitzkrieg.”
He said some European countries, such as Poland, had doubled their defence budgets, while France was boosting its defence spending by 40%, from €39bn to €59bn.
He pointed out that defence remained a national state competence in the EU, but said if the EU increased defence spending with “everyone in its own corner, we will increase our duplications and not fill in our loopholes”.
He said the war in Ukraine may act as an awakening or incentive to break taboos by increasing defence interoperability across Europe but added that experience showed this would not change overnight, and bewailed a culture of delays that he said weakened the coordinating role of the European Defence Agency.
“We have taken too much time to make critical decisions such as providing battle tanks,” he said, “when everybody knows that in order to win a classical war, a classical war with manoeuvres of heavy arms, you need battle tanks. You will not win this war without this kind of arms.”
He said he was not seeking to militarise Europe, but was arguing for Europe to fulfil its responsibilities so it became a powerful and reliable partner to the US.
Pressed by Ukrainian MPs to set a date for their country’s membership of the EU, Borrell said it was not likely to happen anytime soon. But the Polish MEP Radosław Sikorski suggested reverting to a previous model of EU membership accession whereby Ukraine is granted political membership of the EU quickly, and then has to fulfil the necessary criteria on a step-by-step process, an accession process last used when Spain joined the then European Community in 1986.
Borrell also said the EU needed to do more to convince the global south that Russia was an imperialist power. Many countries in Latin America are anti-imperialist, he said, believing the west supported dictatorships in the past, and there is similar deep resentment in Africa. “People have memories, and people have feelings,” he added.
Russia played on those feelings by attacking the French president, Emmanuel Macron, over remarks suggesting he wanted to see Russia defeated, saying Moscow still remembered the fate of Napoleon Bonaparte and accusing the French president of duplicitous diplomacy with the Kremlin.
Macron told Le Journal du Dimanche France wanted Russia to be defeated in Ukraine but had never wanted to “crush” it.
“About ‘never’: France did not begin with Macron, and the remains of Napoleon, revered at the state level, rest in the centre of Paris. France – and Russia – should understand,” Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the book, Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure: A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and Identity Politics. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.