July 22, 2024

(Bloomberg) — German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius conceded that the European Union won’t meet a pledge to send Ukraine 1 million artillery shells by the end of March and questioned whether the goal the bloc set itself to help Kyiv beat back Russia’s invasion was always too ambitious.

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“The one million will not be reached, one must assume that,” Pistorius told reporters Tuesday ahead of talks with EU counterparts in Brussels. “It’s the right question if the one million was ever realistic.”

Pistorius said some had urged caution about the goal, saying the money is available but production must also be sufficient. “The warning voices unfortunately were right,” he said, calling on defense contractors to ramp up output.

The comments come after Bloomberg reported that the EU’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, briefed EU diplomats last week that the bloc would likely miss the March 2024 target.

Under plans set out in March this year, the EU pledged to provide the artillery rounds to Ukraine over a 12-month period, first by dipping into existing stocks and then through joint procurement contracts and increasing manufacturing capacity.

The EU is missing its ammunition goal for Ukraine just as the Israel-Hamas war raises questions about whether the US and allies may be distracted from helping the government in Kyiv fend off Russia’s invasion.

Despite vows to maintain support, the bloc is struggling to agree to different pots of funding for Ukraine and plans for a 12th Russian sanctions package have also taken longer than planned.

Asked about the comments from Pistorius, Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner responsible for implementing the ammunition plan, said a goal to produce 1 million shells per year “will be met.”

Read More: Understanding the Roots of Russia’s War in Ukraine: QuickTake

“Now it is up to the member states to make the orders, that is not up to the commission,” Breton told reporters as he arrived at the talks in Brussels.

“They must do it, and they must also verify that this production on their territory is directed in priority to Ukraine,” he added.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said that the problem isn’t a lack of manufacturing capacity.

“About 40% of the production is being exported to third countries,” he told reporters. “So maybe what we have to do is to try to shift this production to the priority one, which is Ukrainians.”

–With assistance from John Follain, Kevin Whitelaw and Alberto Nardelli.

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