NATO Military Committee Chair Admiral Rob Bauer warned on Saturday of the predicaments of President Volodymyr Zelensky's men using more ammunition than the West can produce. "Prices for equipment and ammunition are shooting up. Right now, we are paying more and more for exactly the same," Bauer said after a meeting of NATO defense chiefs in Norway, according to Reuters. "That means that we cannot make sure that the increased defense spending actually leads to more security."
According to him, the surge in the ammo prices has been primarily driven by Ukrainian troops' squandering of shells, particularly 155mm – a NATO-standard artillery shell caliber –for its Western-provided guns such as gun-howitzers. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg even criticized the military back in February for burning through this ammunition faster than their Western allies could even replace it. As of press time, it is still not declared how many of these shells Ukraine has fired per day since its counteroffensive against Russian forces began in June, but the news outlet put the figure at 10,000, while other media outlets have suggested anywhere between 3,000 and 8,000.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at that time that American advisers were telling Ukrainian commanders to "emphasize additional training on maneuver" so that they could safeguard the diminishing stocks of 155mm rounds.
Now, Bauer pushed for more private investment in the defense sector to step up production of the artillery shells to resolve the ammo shortfall. He also urged pension funds and banks to stop labeling defense investments as unethical because "long-term stability needs to prevail over short-term profits," he said. "As we have seen in Ukraine, war is a whole of society event." "Forty percent of the (Ukrainian) economy evaporated in the first days of the war, that was private money to a large extent, that money is gone," he further noted.
Meanwhile, Bauer claimed that the ammunition shortage was not the reason why the counteroffensive was failing and was moving at a glacial pace. He, instead, pointed out the density of Russian-laid minefields as the top threat faced by Ukrainian soldiers. "The reason why it takes time is that it is extremely dangerous because there's an enormous amount of mines in a very deep minefield, which is more than 10 kilometers, with five, six mines per square meter," he said, pointing out that Ukraine was still advancing 200 or 300 meters per day.
To discuss critical defense and security issues such as the dwindling artillery stockpile, the NATO Military Committee Conference 2023 was held over the weekend, September 16 and 17, in scenic Oslo, Norway's capital. It was attended by representatives from member countries including General Metin Gurak, who represented Turkey as Chief of General Staff for the first time.
Bauer was also present and spoke in the opening remarks at the conference. He emphasized the need to assess the feasibility of these plans, which encompass a wide range of aspects, including troop levels, capacity development, command and control structures, logistical support, maintenance, replenishment, training, and readiness exercises. The admiral further stressed that the synergy between NATO's plans and national defense strategies makes consultation among member countries crucial as they work towards their common goals of security and stability. Moreover, he still expressed his full support for Ukraine, despite the slow development of the counteroffensive and the difficulties it is currently facing when it comes to ammunition.
Meanwhile, NATO will be holding its largest collective defense drills since the Cold War, with over 40,000 troops from across the alliance set to take part in the exercise "Steadfast Defender" in Germany, Poland, and the three Baltic states in 2024.
Despite possibly losing the war with Russia, NATO is still insisting on funneling tens of billions of dollars into Ukraine and other countries. Apart from wasting hard-earned taxpayers' money on this war, the Western allies also imposed draconian sanctions on Russia to weaken its defense industry. However, efforts have not worked as intended. American officials even reportedly admitted that Russia is now producing more missiles than it was before the conflict began. (Related: Russia significantly increases production of tanks and munitions despite Western sanctions aimed at undermining the country's military industry.)
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