War in Ukraine exposes limits to West’s arms production, FT writes

2 December 2022, 08:37 PM
The United States sent to Ukraine a third of its stock of anti-aircraft missiles Stinger (Photo:REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva)

The United States sent to Ukraine a third of its stock of anti-aircraft missiles Stinger (Photo:REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva)

Russia's war against Ukraine has laid bare certain limits to the capacity of Western countries to provide military aid to Kyiv – as their stockpiles are dwindling after nearly 10 months of the invasion, the Financial Times wrote on Dec. 1.

At stake is not only the West's ability to continue to supply Ukraine with the weapons it needs, but also the allies' ability to show adversaries such as China that they have an industrial base capable of producing enough weapons to create a credible defense against a possible attack.

"Ukraine has focused us... on what really matters,” said William LaPlante, head of U.S. Defense Department procurement.

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“What matters is production. Production really matters.”

Having sent more than $40 billion in military aid to Ukraine – mostly from existing stockpiles – NATO members have found that inactive weapons production lines cannot be turned on immediately and with ease.

Increasing capacity requires investment, which, in turn, depends on long-term contracts.

The United States has sent about a third of its stock of Javelin anti-tank missiles and a third of its stock of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, and the Pentagon cannot replace them quickly.

The UK has turned to an unnamed third party to replenish its dwindling stockpile of NLAW anti-tank weapons.

Stockpiles in many European countries are even more strained. When France sent six Caesar self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine in October, it was only able to do so by diverting them from a Danish order.

Western officials say the supplies to Ukraine have not jeopardized their own countries' military readiness, while Russia's arms shortage is far worse. Moscow has to resort to buying artillery shells from North Korea, and drones from Iran.

Despite the fact that there is a consensus in NATO – especially in Europe – on the need to build up its armed forces and defense industry, companies can act only after they get guarantees that government orders are coming.

"Contracts matter. Money ... matters,” LaPlante said.

“Once (defense companies) see that we’re going to put money (into orders) ..., they’ll get it done – that’s their job.”

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