Ukraine War
Ukraine WarReuters

The Pentagon is tapping into a vast but little-known stockpile of American ammunition in Israel to help meet Ukraine’s dire need for artillery shells in the war with Russia, American and Israeli officials told The New York Times, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The stockpile provides arms and ammunition for the Pentagon to use in Middle East conflicts. The United States has also allowed Israel to access the supplies in emergencies, according to the report.

The report noted that Israel, which has consistently refused to supply weapons to Ukraine out of fear of damaging relations with Moscow, initially expressed concerns about appearing complicit in arming Ukraine if the Pentagon drew its munitions from the stockpile. About half of the 300,000 rounds destined for Ukraine have already been shipped to Europe and will eventually be delivered through Poland, Israeli and American officials told The New York Times.

Arming the Ukrainian military with enough artillery ammunition is part of a larger American-led effort to increase its overall combat power by also providing more precision long-range weapons, Western tanks and armored fighting vehicles, and combined arms training.

The United States has so far sent or pledged to send Ukraine just over one million 155-millimeter shells. A sizable portion of that — though less than half — has come from the stockpiles in Israel and South Korea, a senior US official told the newspaper.

Other Western countries, including Germany, Canada, Estonia and Italy, have sent 155-millimeter shells to Ukraine.

Pentagon officials say they must ensure that even as they arm Ukraine, American stockpiles do not dip to dangerously low levels. Two senior Israeli officials told The Times that the United States has promised Israel that it will replenish what it takes from the warehouses in its territory and would immediately ship ammunition in a severe emergency.

As the war dragged on, the Pentagon and the Israelis reached an agreement to move about 300,000 155-millimeter shells, Israeli and American officials said.

The American desire to move the munitions was officially submitted in an encrypted phone conversation between US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, and then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, according to an Israeli official who was briefed on the details of the conversation.

Gantz brought the issue to the Israeli cabinet. The officials asked to hear the opinion of the defense establishment, whose representatives recommended accepting the plan to avoid tension with the United States, in part because the ammunition was American property. Then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the request at the end of the discussion.

The Israeli officials said that Israel had not changed its policy of not providing Ukraine with lethal weapons and rather was acceding to an American decision to use its own ammunition as it saw fit.

“Based on a US request, certain equipment was transferred to the US DOD from its stockpiles” in Israel, a spokesman for the IDF said in a statement, referring to the Department of Defense.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was critical of the previous Israeli government due to its refusal to send advanced weapons to his country, and denounced the lack of aid from Israel during the war with Russia, saying his country got “nothing” from Israel.

He later reversed course and said he sees a "positive trend" in Kyiv's relations with Israel after the two countries shared intelligence about Russia's purported use of hundreds of Iranian drones in the war in Ukraine.

Israel’s new government has said it would reassess its policy on Ukraine. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen suggested when he took office that Jerusalem will “speak less” on the war and later held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, said last week those comments were “not very promising” to his country, but nevertheless added his country would give Israel’s new government a chance.