No Ammo, No Hope: How Ukraine's Shell Shortage and Manpower Deficit May Change Conflict
Ukraine has come face-to-face with the hard reality of a deficit of 155-mm caliber shells after the beginning of Israel's ground operation in the Gaza Strip. How long can Ukraine hold on?
Volodymyr Zelensky complained to the Western press that deliveries of 155 mm caliber projectiles from NATO had decreased since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
"They really slowed down," the Ukrainian president said. "It's not like the US said: We don't give Ukraine any. No! It's just that everyone is fighting for [stockpiles] themselves."
US publications cite Ukrainian officials as saying that the supply of artillery shells have recently plummeted by "by more than 30%". For their part US defense officials argue that the reduction in ammo deliveries has "absolutely nothing to do with what's happening in Gaza."
"Indeed, there is a sharp decrease in the intensity of fire [in the conflict zone]," Anatoly Matviychuk, military expert and retired colonel, who has experience in combat operations in Afghanistan and Syria, told Sputnik. "After all, Ukraine does not have the capacity to produce Western ammunition. Now they really have a problem. They could have produced Soviet shells, but their industrial capacities have been destroyed by [Russia's] infrastructural attacks. That is, [Zelensky] really has problems with the intensity of fire."
Matviychuk explained that presently Russia uses approximately 25,000 to 50,000 shells of various calibers per day. The Ukrainians now respond with just 7,000-11,000 shells, per the expert. Instead, they have focused more on terrorist activities, they shoot at civilians. The retired colonel noted that while the Ukrainian military is still intensively shelling the residential areas of Donbass, their activity at the front has been steadily diminishing.
"And he does not have superiority in the air," continued the retired colonel. "The firepower of [Ukraine's] artillery and long-range weapons supplied to it by Great Britain, the US and Germany has been declining. I believe that in the near future – especially during the winter frosts – they will begin to suffer defeat in terms of firepower. The losses are already high, [Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor] Konashenkov used to tell us that 100 were killed, 200 were killed, but now the numbers are crazy - 600, 700, 800, 1000. As a military man, I understand that these losses are quite critical."
23 November 2023, 16:57 GMT
Is the US Going to Continue Bankrolling the Proxy War in Ukraine?
To complicate matters further, the Ukrainian funds previously allocated by Washington with congressional approval is already running relatively low. The latest US military aid package of $100 million, announced by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his recent visit to Kiev has come from the existing pot. Meanwhile, Republican congressmen are opposing a new $61 billion aid package for Ukraine requested by US President Joe Biden.
At the beginning of November, the GOP-controlled House passed a Republican-written bill to provide $14.3 billion in military aid for Israel while leaving Ukraine out in the cold. Later, the US Senate blocked the initiative in a bid to force the GOP to consider an Israeli-Ukrainian combined aid package instead.
The debate is continuing, but Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia warned the press that the Republican base would be "furious" if the House greenlights billions in aid for Kiev amid the domestic border security crisis. Per the recent polls, 59% of GOP respondents say the government is spending too much on Ukraine.
"A very dramatic political struggle is going on [in the US]," said Matviychuk. "[The US], of course, will start doing some nasty things against us, but to a lesser extent, because it hoped that Russia would lose after all, and they would get out of the crisis. But they are not getting out, they are burying themselves even deeper in it. And whether Trump comes to power there, or DeSantis, or Biden, it doesn’t matter to [Russia], because they are Americans and their most important task is the prosperity of America. And America's prosperity means making a profit. And making a profit is dependent on the development of the military-industrial complex. That is, in any event they will try to expand the military-industrial complex to supply this [proxy] war, and drag it out as long as they can. Will they be able to do this? Well, let's wait until the elections are over. Because many congressmen and senators begin to say: 'Let’s stop, look, we have debts. We have internal problems, we have a split in society'."
21 November 2023, 14:31 GMT
Will Europe Supply More Ammo to Kiev?
Last week, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius admitted that the EU is unlikely to hit its one-year target of sending a million artillery shells to Ukraine by next March. Meanwhile, the crux of the matter is that Ukraine has been burning through ammo faster than the US and its NATO allies could produce it.
"Now the warehouses are empty or there is a legal minimum that a particular state cannot give you. And this is not enough," Zelensky told the press last week in Kiev.
According to Matviychuk, the drying-up of the EU military's stockpiles is
only part of the problem: the Europeans have doubts about pouring more ammo and money into Ukraine.
"Now in the Netherlands, the new prime minister, who won the elections, has questioned the feasibility of supplying equipment and weapons [to Ukraine]," the expert said. "I think Europe itself is stuck in a rather interesting situation. There is no gas, or gas is very expensive, the economy has begun to crumble. Germans began to see the light, especially the eastern ones, that it appears that the Americans had simply deceived them. So, I think that as this conflict drags on, Europe will begin to distance itself from it, because charity begins at home. They need to solve their own problems, not the problems of Ukraine," he said.
Similarly, Matviychuk doubts that Europe would focus its economy on producing shells and military equipment in the near future to meet Kiev's needs.
"This is not in the interests of Europe, it is in the interests of the United States, since the latter has captured the arms market throughout Europe," the retired colonel underscored. "Europe is accustomed to purchasing everything ready-made. Reorienting their economy for militarization and producing their own [weapons] is not profitable for them. The fact is that no one will let them into the market. And it is not smart to ruin your own economy. I think that even such developed countries as France and Germany are unlikely to begin to adjust their entire economies to military standards. They can improve it a little, increase the production, but they won’t develop the military economy at a frantic pace," he stressed.
Under these circumstances, Matviychuk believes that Russia has to wait. He is expecting some kind of a breakthrough, possible Ukraine's withdrawal from positions, or, probably, even peace talks initiated by Kiev.