EU urges members to work together to renew weapons stocks

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Wednesday urged member countries to quickly replenish their depleted stocks of ammunition and military equipment, and offered financial incentives to those willing to work together to replace materiel sent to Ukraine.

Many of the EU’s 27 members have sent equipment to help Ukrainian troops since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. At first it was mostly ammunition, but now includes portable missiles to destroy warplanes and tanks, as well as heavier equipment.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, is offering a fund of 500 million euros ($526 million) over two years to countries willing to work in groups of at least three to replenish their stocks. Officials declined to say, for security reasons, exactly what kinds of shortages nations have.

The commission is also ready to provide incentives to encourage countries to replace their Soviet-era stocks of battle tanks, heavy artillery and armored vehicles. Some have already been supplying these to Ukraine, whose troops are trained to use them, and want to replace the equipment.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed important gaps in European military thinking and equipment. Brussels wants to encourage EU countries to bolster their air and missile defense systems, which have been widely used in Ukraine.

The commission also aims to rapidly establish a task force to work with countries to establish exactly what their military needs are and ensure that they are not working at cross purposes when buying equipment in the short term as they respond to the security crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Longer term, it believes that countries should develop more drones and air-to-air refueling systems, upgrade Europe’s tank and fighting vehicle armory, strengthen naval capacity and bolster the bloc’s cyber defense abilities.

“Since the euro (currency) crisis in 2008, Europe has gone through a kind of silent process of disarmament. We’ve been stripping ourselves of arms without saying it. We’ve reduced our military assets between 2008 and 2014 in a very shocking way,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

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