Nato urged to 'close weapons gap' with new system for supplying arms to Ukraine

Tony Blair Institute calls for nations to form a single emergency response team to supply arms

Volunteers train at a Territorial Defence Force centre outside Lviv, Ukraine. Getty
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An international group set up by a former British prime minister is urging Nato to form a single emergency response team to help supply military equipment to Ukraine.

In a report focusing on the weapons being sent to Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change highlights the need for a solitary platform to speed up the process of identifying Ukrainian forces' needs and sourcing equipment and training from allies.

To close the weapons gap, it says the international community needs to take urgent action to supply the right mixture of military equipment to Ukraine, provide logistical support for training, maintenance and repair and improve international co-ordination of supply.

The paper, called Closing Ukraine's Weapons Gap, focuses on the "mismatch between the equipment Ukrainians have and the equipment they need to deploy quickly to match the shifting nature of the conflict".

“Replacing the current state of affairs – with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy having to go country-by-country with a list of equipment needs, and a series of ad hoc bilateral agreements – our recommended approach would see a new grouping, such as an emergency response and assessment team, oversee co-ordination and align Ukraine’s needs more effectively with supply," the report says.

"One such model would see the US, the UK, Germany, France and Ukraine create this single emergency response and assessment team which would be responsible for creating a single co-ordination platform to mobilise military assistance to Ukrainian forces.”

Phil Wilson, a former member of the House of Commons defence committee and political consultant at the Tony Blair Institute, said Nato countries needed to be prepared to help counter Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces.

"His invasion of Ukraine is a wake-up call. This paper shows Nato countries need to move to a state of perpetual readiness, which means having the right military equipment in the right place at the right time," he said.

"It’s not just about the front line, but also about how that front line is supplied by streamlined logistics providing a rapid supply of ammunition and military equipment.”

The report raises concerns that Ukraine is primarily requesting specific, older, Soviet-type weaponry but is receiving newer weapons for which additional training is required.

"There is urgent need for an agreement between Nato and countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus to provide new weapons to these countries if they provide their older, Soviet weapons to Ukraine," it says.

"For example, Slovakia gave Ukraine a Russian-made S-300 air-defence system and in return will receive additional equipment from Nato allies. Similarly, the US and the UK could also fund Ukraine to have Soviet-era equipment repaired in countries such as Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic."

Justin Bronk, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said Ukraine could start to reclaim territory with the right equipment.

"The Russian army has taken catastrophic losses during the first two months of its invasion and has limited regular forces which it can still draw on for reserves," he said.

"If Ukraine can be supplied with enough of the necessary equipment, it can exhaust the Russian army’s capacity for offensive operations and start to take back territory. However, it will have to be a sustained effort and the best time to start was yesterday."

Britain, France, Germany and the US have all made fresh commitments in the past week to provide more military equipment, as well as helping Eastern European countries to furnish Ukraine with Soviet-era equipment.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged an additional £300 million ($376m) of military aid in a video address to Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday.

This will include electronic warfare equipment, GPS jamming hardware, thousands of night vision devices and counter-battery radar systems that detect incoming artillery.

Updated: May 03, 2022, 3:29 PM