NATO’s Proxy War in Ukraine Is Depleting Arms Stockpiles

The allies expect a war of attrition, which will last "maybe years," with both sides "rapidly using up weapons supplies"

After eight months of Washington and other NATO members pouring billions of dollars of arms and other military equipment into Ukraine, the proxy war has depleted the allies’ weapons stockpiles, according to the Associated Press. "The allies expect the war will continue for months, maybe years, with both sides rapidly using up weapons supplies. Victory may come down to who can last longer," the report said.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has said the Western policy is to "weaken" Russia. This proxy war of attrition strategy has largely emptied the arms stockpiles of both large and small NATO members. This has led to calls for ramped up production in these nations’ military-industrial complexes. Some countries have sent all of their Soviet-era weapons to Kiev and now await replacements courtesy of the American arms industry on which these European NATO members have long relied.

Tallinn has provided approximately one-third of its defense budget to Ukraine, the stockpile strain comes up "all the time," Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said. The Baltic state, which shares a 183-mile border with Russia, recently passed a 42.5% military budget increase to replenish its stocks. Fueling the war in Ukraine with weapons “is burning through [the] ammunition reserve. Just burning through it,” Dovilė Šakalienė, a member of Lithuania’s Parliament told the AP. "In certain situations, we left ourselves with a bare minimum," she added. Berlin’s Defense Ministry said the "Bundeswehr’s stocks are limited. Just as it is the case in other European countries."

The AP report cites analysis by the Germany-based Kiel Institute which reveals "Norway has provided more than 45% of its stock of howitzers, Slovenia has committed nearly 40% of its tanks and the Czech Republic had sent about 33% of its multiple launch rocket systems." At a recent NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels, Austin implored alliance members to "dig deep and provide additional capability" to Ukraine.

In pursuit of Russia’s "strategic defeat," Washington has pledged more than $67 billion to Kiev’s war effort. That figure is larger than Moscow’s entire 2021 military budget. Members of both parties in Congress are reportedly planning another massive aid package for Ukraine that is said to cost at least $50 billion, which would bring total spending on the war to more than $115 billion.

So far, U.S. military aid provided to Ukraine, since the war began, totals over $17.5 billion. A now-redacted CBS report, which included on the ground sources, exposed that potentially 60-70% of the weapons being shipped never reach the front lines. Washington’s massive funding of the proxy war has reportedly left US artillery stockpiles “uncomfortably low.” However, the Pentagon will not produce data on its stockpiles.

"The Washington-based Stimson Center research group estimates the Ukraine war has reduced the US stockpiles of Javelin anti-tank weapons by as much as one-third and Stinger missile inventories by 25%. It’s also put pressure on artillery supplies because the U.S.-manufactured M777 Howitzer is no longer in production," the AP report said. 

Before becoming Secretary of Defense, Austin sat on the board of Raytheon. Stingers are made by Raytheon, Javelins are jointly manufactured by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. Last month, the German parliamentary budget committee approved a 560 million euro ($548 million) contract for 600 Navy guided missiles produced by Raytheon. Berlin is also developing long-term contracts for high grade munitions including Stingers.

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.