Ukraine Needs Its Own Defense Manufacturing Base

Ukraine Needs Its Own Defense Manufacturing Base
A Ukrainian soldier carries a 155mm shell for use in a Ukrainian-made Bohdana howitzer firing on Russian positions near Bakhmut, Ukraine, July 7, 2023 (AP photo by Evgeniy Maloletka).

Two days after Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy famously responded to a U.S. offer to evacuate him from Kyiv by saying, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” For Ukraine, that response rings as true today as it did two years ago. Though U.S. military aid is once again flowing, earlier this year deliveries of desperately needed ammunition were delayed for months by political infighting in Washington, resulting in Ukrainian losses on the battlefield.

Given the uncertainty regarding the United States’ continued commitment to Ukraine’s defense, particularly in the context of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, Ukraine must begin to reduce its dependency on foreign aid for its war effort. Instead, Kyiv should work with its international partners to create a domestic defense industrial base capable of producing the ammunition and defense equipment it needs to defend itself against Russia’s aggression.

The costs of the delayed U.S. security assistance were clear in lives and land lost, including the fall of Avdiivka in February along with 165 square miles of territory ceded to the Russians. Ukraine’s failed defense of Avdiivka was due in large part to extensive shortfalls in ammunition and weapons stockpiles, which restricted its ability to counter Russia’s advancing mass. Ukraine requires somewhere between 6,600 to 8,300 artillery shells per day to support its offensive and defensive operations, but was limited to firing 2,000 per day due to the delays in U.S. security assistance. To make matters worse, the European Union’s 2023 initiative to provide Ukraine with 1.4 million artillery shells by the spring only reached half of that target.

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