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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Ukraine’s Spring Success Hinges on Solving One Glaring Problem

Ammunition might be the most glaring predicament for Ukrainian forces as they gear up for a post-winter offensive.

With rapidly diminishing stockpiles for the Ukrainian military, NATO allies have repeatedly supplied the invaded nation with continuous aid in the war against Russia that reached the one-year mark on February 24.

An anonymous NATO official told Reuters in mid-February that stockpiles are not meeting the current rate of production. One unnamed European diplomat said that if all of Europe were to get involved in the war, “some countries would run out of ammunition in days.”

EU foreign affairs and security policy chief Josep Borrell said last month in Brussels that members of the bloc must quickly produce and deliver ammunition, calling it “the most urgent issue. If we fail on that, the result of the war is in danger.”

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Ukrinform around the same time that Ukraine has set up a military and technical supply line with NATO that should ensure assistance in the near future. But he seemed to question whether it will be enough in the long haul.

“In times of war, something is always missing,” Reznikov said. “But it is impossible to say that the situation is critical and we will not have enough [ammunition] to repel the onslaught. We are ready to repel the offensive. But the more ammunition we have, the better, and our partners know this, too.”

The Ukrainian military is firing more than 5,000 artillery rounds each day, while Russia is firing about four times that amount daily, the Financial Times reported.

The most recent US security package includes 232 howitzers and more than 2 million rounds of artillery ammunition, as well as 38 HIMARS (High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) with additional 155-millimeter rounds.

Retired US Marine Corps Colonel Mark Cancian told latestpagenews that HIMARS artillery and “dumb” artillery shells have been most critical to Ukraine’s cause since the war began.

“Whenever armies get stalemated, that really puts a premium on firepower,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing it here, you saw it in World War I. That could change with a Ukrainian offensive, but artillery is the most important [element].”

Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hern├índez, research associate at the Arms Control Association, told latestpagenews that “there is no such thing as wonder weapons in a war.”

However, she said HIMARS and the M270 Multiple Rocket Launch System (MRLS) are providing Ukraine with an extended range to fire behind enemy lines.

“More range due to the guided multiple launch rocket system rockets, particularly, means an increased capability from the Ukrainian side to target weapon depots or concentrations of Russian troops, weakening Russian supply lines in Ukraine with the aid of unprecedented intelligence sharing between Ukraine and its partners,” Hernandez said.

“However, a key element that will likely significantly affect the Ukrainian armed forces on the battlefield in the future is the fact that the West is struggling to meet Ukraine’s demand for ammunition. Ukrainian forces continue to consume high quantities of ammunition that exceed supply. They will continue to do so in the spring.”

Amy Nelson, fellow at the Brookings Institution and research scholar at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told latestpagenews that the US is planning long term to increase production specifically pertaining to howitzers.

As “ammunition is still the name of the game right now,” she said it made sense that the most recent US security package included a “significant portion” of munitions.

“We’re also likely in the thick of the much-anticipated spring offensive,” Nelson said. “Despite its lackluster performance earlier in the war, Russia is learning and making tactical adjustments on the battlefield to attempt to overcome Ukraine’s significant resistance.”

Ukraine is also waiting for US tanks to be delivered, estimated to be a months-long process. But Ukrainian soldiers are already being trained on NATO tanks.

Patriot missile systems were previously approved to go to Ukraine. The systems, described by Nelson as “relevant but incredibly expensive,” are still in the soldier training phase, according to Cancian, and have not entered the conflict.

“With [Russian President Vladimir] Putin playing for time and looking to drag out the war, artillery and the logistical race to get it to the battlefield will likely define the next phase of the war,” Nelson said.

Missiles and high-powered artillery more favorable to Russia’s offensive are also likely running out, she added.

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