Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the NATO supreme allied commander, answers a question Jan. 18, 2024, at a news conference in Brussels.

Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, the NATO supreme allied commander, answers a question Jan. 18, 2024, at a news conference in Brussels. (NATO)

WASHINGTON — The commander of U.S. forces in Europe warned Wednesday that Ukraine will be outgunned 10 to one by Russia in weeks if the U.S. fails to approve additional funding for military aid that has stalled in Congress.

Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, who leads U.S. European Command and is NATO supreme allied commander, told the House Armed Services Committee that Russia’s artillery advantage over Ukraine will soon double, allowing Ukraine to only fire back one shell in response to 10 Russian ones.

“The situation is extremely serious,” he said. “The biggest killer on the battlefield is artillery … and should Ukraine run out, they would run out because we stopped supplying.”

The U.S. provides the “lion’s share” of 155mm caliber artillery shells to Ukraine and is also the main supplier of the country’s ground-based air defense — “the most critical things on the battlefield,” Cavoli said.

Russia’s frequent large-scale missile attacks on Ukraine are expected to become more devastating as Ukraine’s supply of interceptors for air defense dwindle, he said.

“Those attacks would absolutely cripple the economy and the civil society as well as the military of Ukraine if they were not defended against,” Cavoli said. “Without U.S. provision of interceptors, that will happen.”

Cavoli offered his assessment of the two-year war as a $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel that passed the Senate in February continued to languish in the House. The White House requested the funds in October.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has indicated he will bring the supplemental bill to the floor for a vote, but the slow pace has infuriated many lawmakers and has prompted efforts to force a vote without Johnson’s approval.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., said Wednesday that one tool to circumvent Johnson, a discharge petition, is only a few members short of the 218 member signatures necessary to trigger action in the House.

In the meantime, Ukrainian soldiers are rationing their artillery shells in anticipation of the supply running out, Cavoli said. They are now being out-shot by the Russians five-to-one.

European countries are attempting to fill the artillery gap by increasing their production rates, but the 11,000 shells that they are producing per year are not enough, and Ukraine will remain “really dependent” on the U.S. in 2024, according to Cavoli.

“The [necessary] production level is not in sight right now. We think it’s at least months away, and that is why this is such an important time right now,” he said.

Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said the U.S. has had to get creative to continue to help Ukraine without additional funding from Congress. The Pentagon announced Tuesday that it sent Ukraine thousands of Iranian-made weapons that had been seized en route to Houthi militants in Yemen.

The delay in American weapons support has already given Russia the upper hand, according to Wallander. Russian forces have made advances as Ukrainians are forced to decide what to defend, and Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure are “really harming” the country’s electricity grid.

“We are already seeing the effects of the failure to pass the supplemental,” she said.

Cavoli said he was optimistic that Ukraine this year will be able to hold onto the territory it currently controls but only if the U.S. and other allies maintain a steady flow of supplies.

“Ukraine remains almost entirely dependent on external support to stay in this fight,” he said. “The severity of this moment cannot be overstated. If we do not continue to support Ukraine, Ukraine could lose.”

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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