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6 Dec, 2023 16:42

EU state will have to fight with stones – retired general

Belgium would run out of ammunition after “just a few hours” of modern combat, former army commander Marc Thys has claimed
EU state will have to fight with stones – retired general

Ammunition shortages mean the Belgian military “will have to start throwing stones” if war breaks out, retired General Marc Thys warned on Tuesday. According to Thys, Belgium would need to boost its ammo budget by at least 33 times to be able to fight for a month.

Speaking to VRT TV about a hypothetical Russian attack on Western Europe, Thys explained that the threadbare Belgian army would be in no position to resist such an opponent.

“If war breaks out here today, the Belgian army will have to start throwing stones after just a few hours, because we will have run out of ammunition,” Thys told VRT TV. Thys, who commanded Belgium’s ground forces between 2017 and 2019 and served as a lieutenant general until November, said that he “had 15 million euros [$16 million] a year with which to buy ammunition.”

“In the meantime this has been increased to 150 million euros [$161 million]. If we want to be able to fight for 30 to 60 days, we need 5 to 7 billion euros [$5.4-7.5 billion],” he claimed.

Belgium increased its military spending by 15% last year, although this brought the country’s defense expenditure to a still modest €4.2 billion ($4.5 billion), less than the minimum amount that Thys says it needs for ammunition alone. Belgium spent 1.2% of its GDP on defense last year, falling considerably below the 2% required by NATO. 

Belgium has given Ukraine €290 million ($313 million) worth of military aid since Russia launched its military operation last February. According to the Belgian Defense Ministry, this aid has included weapons, ammunition, and non-lethal equipment like generators, fuel, and vehicle parts.

Despite the EU’s 27 member states spending a record €58 billion ($68.1 billion) on their armed forces in 2022, Belgium is not the only member of the bloc that would be unable to fight a conflict as intense as the one raging in Ukraine. Germany would have enough ammunition to fight for two days, lawmaker Johann Wadephul said last month, while France would last several weeks and Italy less than a weekend, according to media reports.

The UK – which is a member of NATO but not the EU – would be empty after less than a day, a retired general told Sky News earlier this year.

In the cases of Germany, Italy, and the UK, the diversion of ammo and equipment to Ukraine has directly eaten into national stockpiles, according to multiple media reports. German artillery troops, for example, reportedly lack 155mm shells and guns with which to fire them, since these weapons were donated to Kiev.