Ukraine now a battle of logistics NATO chief

Russia is currently winning the race for ammunition, Jens Stoltenberg has said

With the conflict in Ukraine becoming a "war of attrition," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cautioned that the West should "not underestimate" Russia’s firepower advantage. Stoltenberg claimed that the Western bloc is stepping up ammo production, but was unable to define its end goal in Ukraine.

Speaking to CNN’s Christine Amanpour at the Munich Security Conference last weekend, Stoltenberg said that Russia has thus far been able to bring more ammunition and manpower to the frontline than Ukraine.

Ukraine’s ammo consumption is "higher than [NATO’s] total production," he continued, adding that this situation "cannot continue."

"So far we have depleted our stocks, but at some stage we need to get more ammunition produced," he told Amanpour.

Despite Ukraine receiving tens of millions of dollars worth of Western weapons — including nearly 1.5 million artillery shells from the US alone, Russia has held a firepower advantage since the start of its military operation last February. The Ukrainian side is currently firing between 5,000 and 6,000 artillery rounds per day, according to most Western assessments, while estimates of Russian fire have varied hugely from anywhere between 5,000 and 60,000 shells per day.

Stoltenberg has repeatedly called on NATO members to step up their ammunition production to close the gap, as have other Western leaders. The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Sunday that Ukraine’s backers need to resolve the ammunition shortage within "a matter of weeks" if Kiev is to have any chance of success on the battlefield.

Since last fall, the conflict in Ukraine has "moved into a war of attrition," Stoltenberg said, adding that a "war of attrition is a battle of logistics; as in how do you get enough stuff — materiel, spare parts, ammunition, fuel — to the front lines."

While Stoltenberg was clear about the need for NATO to step up arms production, he was vague about how the US-led alliance wants the conflict to end. He told Amanpour that "nobody knows how and when this war will end," and that it will "maybe" be resolved at the negotiating table.

Stoltenberg said that NATO will allow Ukraine to define what "winning" would look like, but would not directly say that he endorses Kiev’s stated goal of seizing the Russian territory of Crimea.