Earlier in 2023 EU (European Union) leaders assured Ukraine that EU nations could supply with adequate supplies of 155mm artillery shells to deal with the Russian invaders. Ukraine pointed out that they needed about 350,000 shells a month for this and the EU efforts to deliver a promised million shells by early 2024 were faltering and likely to fail. The main problem was that no single EU nation could supply that many shells, or even a significant portion of them. There was not much coordination between EU nations when it came to defense production and the only alternative was the United States. While not an EU member, the Americans were the largest economic component of NATO, which all EU nations belonged to.
The United States has already sent Ukraine over two million 155mm shells and was spending over $3 billion to update and expand production capabilities of the firms that supply the components needed to manufacture 155mm shells. Without a major wartime demand for these munitions, investing in production capabilities is not a priority.
NATO members depend on the United States, which has the largest defense budget and military production capabilities. Collectively, NATO nations spend $1.1 trillion a year on defense, with the Americans accounting for two-thirds of that. While the United States is a single entity, the European NATO and EU countries have a difficult time coordinating their efforts. The Americans have a national government which can make decisions, often after a lot of discussions and debate, and then move forward at the national level. That’s why the many NATO and EU members depend on the Americans for decisive and effective efforts in an emergency.
NATO is a mutual defense organization to protect members from Russian attack. One reason Russia attacked Ukraine was because Ukraine wanted to join NATO. After two years of fighting, NATO has told Ukraine that they could join even while the war with Russian invaders continued. So far, Ukrainians have been doing all the fighting against the Russians, but NATO nations have supplied them with the weapons and economic assistance to keep going. Russian losses have been so heavy that Russia is having problems raising and equipping more troops. The original Russian explanation for their invasion of Ukraine was to protect Russia from NATO aggression. Eventually most Russians realized that NATO was and always has been a defensive organization and in Ukraine, Russians are the invaders.
In 2022 the Russian defense budget was $75 billion. When their initial invasion failed, the defense budget for 2023 rose by a third and will keep increasing until Russia can get itself out of the mess it created in Ukraine. Russian aggression against Ukraine began in 2014 when Russia seized the Ukrainian province of Crimea and portions of two other provinces in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine wants the Russians out of all of Ukraine that it seized in 2014-2015 and 2022-2023. Currently Russia occupies 18 percent of Ukraine, down from 27 percent in 2022. Ukraine’s NATO allies agree that as long as Russia occupies Ukrainian territory, the war will continue.
Russia is a large and wealthy country, with an annual economic (GDP) of $2 trillion. Yet that is half the size of the German economy, and the American GDP is twenty times larger than Russia’s and the U.S. is the supporter of Ukraine when it comes to weapons, munitions and economic assistance. While Ukraine has powerful allies, all Russia has is Iran and North Korea. The Russian government also has a major problem. If the war in Ukraine fails, the Russian government will fall. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is running out of political allies inside Russia and eventually that means a new government. A new government would probably be more practical, because Putin’s risky actions have cost Russia a lot of casualties and the loss of most modern Russian weapons and munitions, particularly the expensive high-tech ones.