Europe vows to rearm in face of Ukraine setbacks

Half a million artillery shells for Ukraine's guns could be shipped within weeks if the Czechs find funding

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Czech President Petr Pavel speak at the Munich Security Conference.
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Czech President Petr Pavel has revealed his country is seeking European funding for a purchase of artillery shells for Ukraine as the country’s officials call on neighbours to build up their military industries.

The development of a war economy in Russia to advance its invasion of Ukraine has granted Moscow an advantage it has not enjoyed in the two-year war.

Officials from across the EU expressed frustration the bloc had not moved as quick to mobilise its resources to rearm in the face of a threat on its fringes.

Mr Pavel, a former general, told an event organised by Yalta European Strategy in Munich on Saturday that the search outside Europe was driven by the shortfall from its production lines.

Russia had been able to use it artillery advantage – in some areas more than 10:1 – to conquer frontline territory. The Kremlin has eyes on Russia’s presidential election this year.

“President [Vladimir] Putin is now working with the direction in order to achieve some visible success before the elections,” Mr Pavel said. “So what we can do is to support Ukraine in deliveries of weapons and ammunition from all sources available.”

He said the rounds could be delivered “within weeks” if we find quickly funding for that activity from countries like the US, Germany and Sweden.

“The aim of this activity is to strengthen the Ukrainian defence [forces] so that they spare their human resources and they cause as much aggression to Russian forces as possible and that they hold the ground they have right now,” he said.

“It is important not to allow Russia to develop any significant success. Because as we know, this war is as much about real world fighting on the battlefield, as it is about psychological warfare.”

Pleas but no progress

Contributions to the Munich Security Conference on Saturday predicted a rapid expansion of European armouries after the failure to deliver half of the promised one million artillery shells to Ukraine last year.

Germany claims it is about to turn a corner. “We don’t do all that it takes,” said Robert Haabeck, the German Vice-Chancellor. “The phrase we have used is as long as it takes. We should do all that we can.”

Christian Lindner, the German Finance Minister, said on Saturday that the country would spend two per cent of its GDP on defence and then go higher. Berlin would also set new conditions for the expansion of the defence industry in Germany.

“The state is a client and customer of the security and defence industry, but the companies still need private investments and financing,” he said.

“That's why a second turning point is necessary that improves the reputation and framework conditions for the industry.”

Ukrainian officials have sought to move away from arguments that the country is a frontline for all of Europe and instead say the battle must be fought by every country.

“The era of peace in Europe is over,” Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukraine Foreign Minister, said on Saturday.

US despair

Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark, a country that has sent its entire artillery stocks to Ukraine, said Ukraine needed air support and other tools of modern warfare.

“Ukraine cannot win a war without weapons - words are not enough,” she said.

Much of the discussion is framed around the impasse in the US to pass a new support package for Ukraine before the House of Representatives went on a recess until the end of the month. The former Democratic speaker said the funds would be released when the legislators come back.

“There is no place for any fatigue in any of this,” said Nancy Pelosi, “We want to vote, we have the votes, over 300 members support this package.”

Updated: February 18, 2024, 4:31 AM