LUXEMBOURG — Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday implored EU foreign affairs ministers to move faster on their promises to supply Kyiv with ammunition. But his plea came as officials were given new details showing the EU still has a long way to go to meet its lofty pledges.
According to several diplomats, Kuleba — who addressed a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg via video link — was critical of the slow pace of the EU in delivering ammunition and missiles as part of a plan to provide 1 million shells in the next 12 months as Ukraine fights off Russia’s invasion.
The plan has already been endorsed by EU leaders but, when it comes to the technical details, has only been partially agreed upon by member states, which are still discussing the so-called track two of the scheme, which involves the joint purchase of ammunition.
The bone of contention is a legal one about exemptions for companies based outside the EU in the supply chain of the defense companies involved in the plan, but in the background doubts also remain as to whether the EU defense industry can really deliver all of these shells.
Kuleba on Monday “repeated that Ukraine needs desperately the ammunition to stand against the Russian attacks, and also to organize the counterattack,” Margus Tsahkna, the foreign minister of Estonia, which put forward the ammo plan, told POLITICO. “And ammunition is crucial.”
The problem is not only the speed of the EU in delivering the ammo, but also the quantity. The plan is being funded by a pot of money called the European Peace Fund, which partially reimburses the member states for ammo and missiles. That cash, meant to help provide ammunition quickly, comes from the so-called track one of the plan — worth a total of €1 billion — which has already been fully agreed upon. EU top diplomat Josep Borrell, speaking to journalists Monday, said that “we have received requests for reimbursement for €600 million.”
Yet according to three diplomats, not all the material that member states want reimbursing for has actually been delivered. Of the €600 million that Borrell mentioned, €180 million was for the provision of 1,080 missiles (six of which have not yet been reported as delivered) and the rest of the money was for 41,000 pieces of ammunition, of which 28,000 have not been reported as delivered, the diplomats said.
Those numbers are well short of 1 million.
Kuleba stressed “that if there is one priority, and if it’s a single burning issue, this is weapons delivery, in particular ammunition … he also asked for not being hesitant on delivering the aircraft and other modern pieces of military technology,” Slovakia’s foreign minister, Rastislav Káčer, told POLITICO. “He was pushy, politely,” Káčer added.
Borrell tried to offer reassurance on the speed of the EU decision-making process, saying: “There has been some disagreement but the work continues. We are not waiting for the legal document to be finished to start working. The work continues and everything is being prepared,” he said at a press conference after the meeting.
Diplomats reckon it’s a matter of days, likely Wednesday, before track two of the plan will be finalized.
“The truth is that there is not satisfaction about how we’re delivering on track one, in the quantity and the speed,” Káčer said. “We can do more, we can scratch more. Slovakia is trying. We are putting everything we have in the stockpiles.”