NATO Admits Munitions Race Against Russia as Putin Spring Initiative Begins

The head of NATO admitted that the alliance has been left with depleted stocks in a munitions race with Russia as Vladimir Putin's army launches a fresh offensive in Ukraine.

Member states of the Transatlantic alliance have been supplying Ukraine with high-tech weapons and military aid to help the country in the war against Russia. But the fighting has intensified ahead of the first anniversary of President Vladimir Putin's invasion on February 24, leading to Kyiv using ammunition at an unprecedented rate.

Financial Times reported that the Ukrainian military is estimated to be firing more than 5,000 artillery rounds each day—equal to a smaller European country's orders in an entire year of peacetime. Russia meanwhile, is estimated to be firing four times that amount each day.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was briefing reporters in Brussels on Monday, just before a meeting of defense ministers from the 30 NATO members and 20 allied countries. The meeting was to determine the trajectory for shipping munitions and other resources to Ukraine to use in the war against Russia.

Jens Stoltenberg NATO 1
Above, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to reporters after a meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on November 16, 2022. Stoltenberg said on February 13, 2023, that NATO was in "a race of logistics" with Russia in the war in Ukraine. John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Asked whether Ukraine is at the ceiling of what ammunition can be given by NATO each month, Stoltenberg said: "The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of munitions and depleting allied stockpiles. The current rate of Ukraine's ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production. This puts our defense industries under strain."

He added that NATO members have worked hard to ramp up production and that the industry has the capability to increase production in the short term.

"It is clear that we are in a race of logistics. Key capabilities like ammunition, fuel and spare parts must reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the initiative on the battlefield. Speed will save lives," Stoltenberg said. "If Putin wins in Ukraine the message to him and other authoritarian regimes is force is rewarded. That would make the world more dangerous and all of us more vulnerable.

"NATO stands with Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Stoltenberg said on Monday that Russia's new offensive in eastern Ukraine has started, with Russian troops inching towards capturing the strategic town of Bakhmut in the Donbas region.

"We see no sign whatsoever that President Putin is preparing for peace...What we see is President Putin and Russia still wanting to control Ukraine," Stoltenberg said.

"We see how they are sending more troops, more weapons, more capabilities. The reality is that we are seeing the start [of a new offensive] already."

Putin is sending "thousands and thousands more troops" and accepting "a very high rate of casualties" but putting pressure on the Ukrainians, he added.

"What Russia lacks in quality, they try to compensate in quantity," Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service on Monday claimed the United States military is recruiting "jihadist militants" to carry out terrorist attacks in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.