Math Doesn’t Lie
Wars are expensive endeavors which is why countries who lose them tend to do so because of financial issues rather than military issues. In WWII, the United States was able to outspend everyone combined(including our own allies). We didn’t just outfit and supply our own armies and navies, but also provided the food, steel, fuel, tanks, planes, trucks, and even bullets to keep our allies in the war as well.
The numbers and the math of war cannot lie, they are things set in concrete and then embedded in steel frames. Wars are won by the side that can bring the greatest amount of financial resources quickly to bear on an enemy. Germany had outstanding tanks and very well-trained crews in WWII, but they were beaten on the Western front by inferior tanks with inexperienced crews because the US could make 50,000 Sherman tanks in three years while the Germans struggled to make a little more than 6,500 Panthers in that same time period.
President Trump had this same problem with the EU over paying to support Ukraine in its desire to arm itself to defend against further Russian aggression. At one point President Trump withheld $250 million in aid to Ukraine until Europe stepped up and agreed to pay its fair share as well. Under the Obama administration, the US was loath to provide actual weapons to Ukraine(it would upset Putin) and instead sent blankets and other non-lethal aid to the tune of just $53 million in 2014 after the country had been invaded.
Currently, Europe is quite happy to send a few bits and pieces here and there to Ukraine but let “Uncle Sugar”(that’s us) pay 80% of the bill to protect a European country in another European war that will have the greatest impact on Europe itself. President Biden seems happy to do this since the war pretty much started over a disastrous foreign policy decision that believed the mere threat of sanctions could deter Putin from invading Ukraine.
Europe is Talking Big, but Shirking Again
Looking at the numbers now, it’s becoming obvious that Europe’s contribution to Ukraine in its existential war against Russia amounts to peanuts. According to numbers compiled by Statista, while the US has pledged or actually transferred some $4.7 billion dollars in weapons to Ukraine since the war began barely two months ago, the sum total of Europe’s contribution has been a paltry $1.1 billion.
$1.1 Billion Doesn’t Buy Much
If we take that number and turn it into actual weapons it doesn’t buy much at all. At a price tag of nearly $6 million a copy, $1.1 billion dollars would buy you about 183 German Leopard 2A tanks. It would buy less than 9 Eurofighter aircraft. It would buy more in terms of artillery and rockets, but not enough to take on a Russian army with some 12,000 tanks(fewer now) and nearly 1,200 fighter jets.
When we look further into the numbers related to loan guarantees and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Europe looks even more stingy. According to the Ukraine War Tracker found at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy(IFW), the total pledge of support by the US including military and humanitarian assistance gets close to 7.7 billion Euros while Europe is coming in at a cheap 1.5 billion Euros. In the case of France, Italy, and Poland, their major contribution has been agreeing to loan Ukraine money that it has to pay back, with interest.
That is not a gift.
You will note the conspicuous absence of Germany on the IFW chart below. This is because their contribution so far is too small to even register on the chart at all.
It’s not as if Europe doesn’t have the money or the arms industry to do more. The EU member states combined have $15.5 trillion in GDP, which is roughly 10 times the size of Russia’s GDP. It also has an arms and weaponry manufacturing industry that dwarves Russia’s as well.
The EU has six times the number of serving weapons systems as the US. The EU makes 17 different kinds of main battle tanks, 27 different howitzer systems, 20 different kinds of infantry fighting vehicles as well as aircraft carriers, destroyers, and even nuclear-powered submarines. The US has just 30 major weapons systems.
Europe has 178.
Europe is also a major arms exporter to the world, led by exports from France and Germany. Everything Ukraine could possibly need to defend itself is made in Europe in great abundance. At the last reporting, EU member nations had 168 billion Euros out in arms contracts to more than 100 countries around the world.
You are going to love this part. Guess who Europe was selling weapons to?
The 2014 invasion of Ukraine by Russia, marked the imposition of the EU of an arms “embargo” against member nations selling weapons to Putin. This embargo was passed in 2015, but a very large loophole allowed them to fulfill contracts made before the embargo or to keep to ancillary agreements to the original contracts. This allowed France and Germany to fulfill orders of nearly 300 million Euros worth of weapons to Russia since the ban. In anticipation of the embargo being passed in 2015, Russia went on a buying spree. In 2014, French arms sales to Russia were about 22 million Euros, just before the embargo was imposed those exempted contracts for weapons sales jumped to over 900 million Euros.
France has nearly a billion dollars in pending weapons sales to Putin right now. Germany is not any better.
More than anything else, this probably explains why the EU has been throwing Ukraine peanuts as it tries to hold off the Russian invaders. Russia has been a very good arms customer for Europe and the EU is in the rather awkward position of arming both sides in another European war.
Somewhere in Brussels, EU bureaucrats have probably done some math and figured giving away weapons to Ukraine doesn’t make sense when Russia is willing to pay cash for them. As I said at the top of this piece, math doesn’t lie.
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