On 18 January, the artillery coalition to aid Ukraine will officially launch in Paris. The initiative, jointly led by the US and France, consists of 23 countries and is part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (“Ramstein”) which unites over 50 of Kyiv’s allies.
The coalition was set up to provide for Ukraine’s short-term and long-term defense needs amidst hesitancy from the West over further support for Ukraine, with €50 billion stuck in EU bureaucracy and $60 billion held up in the US Congress.
Ukraine Defense Minister Rustem Umerov was set to represent Ukraine at the ceremony but canceled his trip at the last minute, citing unspecified “security concerns”.
During what would have been his visit, Umerov was to tour CAESAR-manufacturer Nexter and missile-maker MBDA facilities alongside French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu. Umerov will now participate remotely via video conference instead.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu announced that France will manufacture 78 Caesar howitzers for Ukraine.
“There are currently 49 in Ukraine, which have enabled tactical successes on the ground. We plan to produce 78 Caesar cannons in 2024 and encourage our European partners to help share the costs,” Lecornu added.
Citing France’s Defense Ministry, AFP reports the first 6 howitzers will be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks, with the remaining 72 by year’s end. The initial 6 guns were ordered by Ukraine directly from manufacturer Nexter last September.
The artillery coalition’s launch comes one day after French President Emmanuel Macron pledged a new shipment of around 40 long-range SCALP cruise missiles as well as “several hundred” missiles to Ukraine.
Macron also declared Europe’s priority should be “not letting Russia win” and announced plans to visit Kyiv later this year to discuss a bilateral security agreement between Paris and Kyiv, similar to the one recently agreed between London and Kyiv.