Salm: NATO allies' low ammunition stocks result of 'irresponsible' neglect

Kusti Salm
Kusti Salm Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

NATO allies' low ammunition stocks are the results of decades of neglect and could even be called "irresponsible", Kusti Salm, the Ministry of Defense's general secretary told the UK's The Times newspaper.

Commenting on the allies' ammunition shortages, especially shells which have been sent to Ukraine as military aid, Salm called the situation "dramatic".

"The past two decades in the national defense of NATO allies have been very much focused on the out-of-area operations where the ammunition requirements are not as large, which has translated into very low ammunition stocks," Salm told The Times, in an article published on Friday.

"It's clearly unfortunate, in Estonia's view, given the much more conventional threats. We would also call it irresponsible. But now it's not really time to play the blame game. Now it's time to find solutions."

Just about every significant variety of ammunition is scarce, including 155mm shells used by modern western artillery guns, such as German Panzerhaubitze 2000 and American howitzers, the paper reported.

Estonian, NATO, EU and Ukrainian flags flying in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

One of the main reasons for this is that "manufacturing capabilities have been ramped down and are very, very low", Salm was quoted as saying.

The Ukrainian military is using artillery ammunition faster than Europe can produce it creating shortages. It will not be enough to simply make more shells, he said, new factories need to be built which will not happen overnight.

The official told the paper: "The realistic expectation is that if we start moving very fast now the problem will be solved in 2025 or later, which is already a very dramatic situation. But every single day we wait, the timeline will just slip more."

The situation is so bad, there are concerns about "Europe's ability to keep up the flow of armaments to the Ukrainian armed forces over the months ahead at the same time as rearming for a possible future land war of its own", The Times wrote.

Germany is in "particular trouble" due to decades of underinvestment.

Joint Estonian-German exercise, involving EDF coastal defense conscripts, at Tallinn's mine harbor (Miinisadam) in 2022. Source: Kristo Sepp

Estonian experts have said Russia is unlikely to run out of conventional munitions anytime soon.

Estonia has sent almost €300 million worth of military aid to Ukraine since the start of the year, although it has not specified exactly what, and denied its own stockpiles are low. It has also started to train Ukrainian soldiers.

On Thursday, ERR reported that Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) wants to strengthen Estonia's defense industry and increase its export potential in the coming years.

Last month, Salm rejected criticism of Germany's perceived unwillingness to provide military aid to Ukraine calling it unjust. He said the country was stepping up with NATO on the alliance's eastern flank.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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