(This post in Finnish: https://www.viite.fi/2023/06/15/ukrainan-aseapu-ei-saa-jumiutua-eu-maiden-oman-edun-tavoitteluun/)
The European Union is a peace project. It was born in a Europe destroyed by World War II, based on ideas of freedom, democracy, equality, peace and stability. The project seemed to work excellently. We saw an era of long peace that witnessed no major wars between countries for the first time in European history.
At the latest, permanent peace was revealed to be an illusion when Putin cemented his power in the Kremlin during the millennium’s first decade. Nowadays, it is often written that everything changed on the 24th of February 2022, although Russia had attacked its neighbouring countries already in 2008 and 2014.
The severity of the situation became apparent to anyone when Russia’s full-frontal offensive began. Europe united behind the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians. The collective memory is profound, especially in countries conquered or bordered by the former Soviet Union. The knowledge of what has happened, and could happen again, spurred an immediate willingness to aid. When Ukraine did not collapse, and Russia’s army was stopped at the gates of Kyiv, defence material began to flow to Ukraine at an increasing rate. However, many new donations were delayed because Russia’s reaction to delivering more advanced and efficient arms was being deliberated.
The donations have been mainly bilateral and uncoordinated. This, combined with the fact that defence solutions are national, has led to the situation in which Ukraine has received large quantities of various types of equipment, making logistics and maintenance difficult. For example, while many European countries donate similar tanks, their radios may not be compatible. Not to mention the need for various types of ammo and fuel required by the plethora of tank types.
Bilateral donations to Ukraine as a percentage of GDP.
Ukraine’s successful counterattacks drove Russia’s army and mercenaries away from several areas. The most intense fights are currently fought in Bakhmut, which is often adeptly compared to the battle of Verdun in WWI. This type of war of attrition requires ammunition. The most commonly used example is the 155mm artillery shell, which adheres to the NATO standard. Finland also uses this shell in the towed field artillery, and new K9 Thunder howitzers. 6 000-8 000 rounds are fired in Ukraine daily. Each shell weighs over 40 kilograms and is precision manufactured. Ukraine needs over 280 tonnes of these shells daily and has no production of its own. The US Army plans to use 1.5 billion dollars to add its production capacity to 24 000 shells per month. This amount of shells is sufficient for 3-4 days of consumption in Ukraine.
The European Union is under pressure to solve the issue. During the long peace, the production lines were shut down in many member states – this type of war was not supposed to occur anymore. European countries’ stockpiles are dwindling, and more material is needed. The European Commission has rushed two initiatives to expedite Ukraine’s material support and to support Europe’s defence industry. The first is EDIRPA (European Defence Industry Reinforcement through Common Procurement Act), and the second is aptly named ASAP (Act in Support of Ammunition Production).
The European legislative base or the Commission’s jurisdiction does not apply to defence. This makes things difficult. EDIRPA is a complicated project in which the Commission approves organizations responsible for joint procurements, which then coordinate the actual procurements according to a specific work program. On the other hand, ASAP channels 1 billion euros, 500 million euros of which is EU money, to open critical bottlenecks in production and support the actualization of the highest-level projects. The goal is to fulfil the Council’s declaration that one million artillery shells shall be delivered to Ukraine within a year. As a curiosity, part of the funding to ASAP is meant to be taken from the European Peace Facility, in which Finland participates through its development cooperation budget.
Europe is a peace project, but it is also very strongly a project for its member states to promote their interests. The EU projects and the member states’ reactions to them often have motives and consequences that are difficult to understand. This is highlighted in the defence sector in particular, with the field being protectionistic and political. As the Government’s cover letter to the Parliament (so-called U-letter) on EDIRPA states:
”It should be noted that in the current situation, there is divergence in performance requirements, operational circumstances, defence solutions, and the use of systems between the member states. Therefore, joint procurements will generally happen in large quantities in terms of material (such as ammunition) and often through joint research and development initiatives. Because of this, the possible joint procurements generally increase the volume of special procurement deals so that only the largest European defence industry corporations can participate in competitive tendering and procurements. This is a challenge, especially for Finland, since most of the Finnish defense material industry comprises small and medium-sized enterprises.” (translated by writers of this text)
There are still no government comments on the ASAP project, but it also entails elements of industrial and security policy. Extending the EU’s jurisdiction to an area critical to national security is a matter that must be considered carefully. On the other hand, the Commission cannot be blamed for the obscurity and immediacy of the projects. Since the EU is not built to be a defence alliance, we do not have the legislative basis nor the mechanisms to respond to Russia’s imperialistic attack. The matter is complicated. Ukraine needs ammo, the small and large member states look out for the interests of their industries, the work should be started swiftly, and production capacity needs to be built. It is time for member states to end their petty self-interested politics – ramping up to a war economy should already be ongoing. We will never have procurement deals that are equally fair to everyone. Instead of getting locked into an attempt to achieve that, fairness should be achieved by ascertaining and pursuing the possibility that the member states whose defence industries receive the procurement deals would participate in the funding with a more significant share.
We must hope that the EU and its member states have the wisdom to resolve the issue to achieve a compromise that secures Ukraine’s ammo requirements and accounts for EU member states’ interests and limitations. In Finland, specifically, we must not forget Ukraine’s fight’s decisive impact on our security situation. We must support them as much as we can instead of short-sightedly pursuing the theoretical interest of our defence industry. President Zelenskyy’s immortal statement is still topical: ”I need ammunition, not a ride”.