(Bloomberg) -- As Ukraine’s ammunition stocks dwindle, some of the country’s biggest allies are expressing concern that Kyiv may not be able to defend itself for much longer against President Vladimir Putin’s forces. 

Group of Seven foreign ministers gathering on the Italian island of Capri will call for stronger support, with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock saying Ukraine needs more air defense urgently. Halfway around the world, in Dallas, US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns called the situation dire and said Ukraine could lose by the end of the year.

“There is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024 or at least put Putin in a position where he could essentially dictate the terms of a political settlement,” Burns said at the George W. Bush Center’s 2024 Forum on Leadership. 

Ukraine is struggling to fend off military pressure from Russia in the face of a lack of ammunition and with a $61 billion US aid package stuck in Congress. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been calling for more air defense systems to be sent to Ukraine as Kremlin troops exploit the country’s weakness to step up missile attacks on power stations, electricity grids and residential areas across the country. 

“Western countries, Japan, Canada, the US, Europe, have to take quicker decisions in order to support Ukraine more because we cannot afford Putin’s victory,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the G-7. “Concrete decisions have to be taken in order to send Ukraine more air defense.”

Group of 7 leaders had intensive discussions Thursday about boosting Ukraine’s air defenses, a senior US official told reporters. In a meeting with Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared a list of countries he’s talking to that might be able to help. Kuleba also identified countries that he thought the US could help persuade to send weapons, the official said.

Blinken also shared with his G7 counterparts the US assessment that Chinese companies have given information that helped Russia rebuild and expand its defense industrial base in support of its war on Ukraine, the official said. That included analysis of shell fragments on the battlefield and critical technology components derived from Chinese companies.

In a positive sign, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday EU leaders are planning to send seven additional Patriot air-defense systems to Ukraine as Russia escalates missile and drone strikes.

The G-7 ministers will agree to step up shipments of military equipment to Kyiv and will reaffirm their “unwavering determination” to support Ukraine as it defends itself, according to a draft statement from the meeting seen by Bloomberg.

“We express our resolve in particular to bolster Ukraine’s air defense capabilities as this is the best way to save lives and protect critical infrastructure,” according to the draft, which could still change. “We will also work with partners toward this end.”

Elsewhere in Europe, at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, some were voicing impatience at what they saw as a widening gulf between rhetoric and action. “If all the words that were said in the last years here in Brussels about common defense could be changed into bullets and rocket launchers,” posted Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk to the social media site X, “Europe would have become the strongest power in the world.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has echoed the sense of impatience, saying Ukraine won’t be able to defend itself unless the members of the alliance step up their efforts. 

He was speaking a day after a Russian missile strike on Chernihiv, about 127 kilometers (79 miles) north of Kyiv, killed at least 18 people and left more than 77 wounded. It was one of the deadliest strikes on a residential area since the invasion began more than two years ago as Vladimir Putin’s forces increase their shelling deeper into Ukrainian territory.

“We cannot continue to be in the situation where Russia is outgunning Ukraine in the way they are doing now,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Capri. “Russians are shooting and shooting, and the Ukrainians have limited resources to shoot back.”

Hopeful Sign

Still, officials expressed optimism on the news that US House Speaker Mike Johnson would move ahead with new assistance for Ukraine, which has long been held up by Congress. The plan is an attempt to break a six-month-long Republican blockade of aid that has left Ukraine increasingly vulnerable to Russian assaults.

“In these stormy times, it’s a hopeful sign that there are now signals from the US, from the Republicans, that support for Ukraine can be continued intensively,“ Baerbock said.

Zelenskiy has for months urged partners to replenish the depleting stocks of munitions his country needs to repel attacks from Russia, which now outguns it on the battlefield 10-to-one. NATO defense ministers will meet virtually with Zelenskiy on Friday at the Ukrainian president’s request to discuss protecting Ukraine’s airspace and supplying badly needed systems. 

Germany, which pledged to donate an additional Patriot system after Ukrainian officials renewed their pleas for more equipment, launched an appeal to collect Patriots for Ukraine and other air defense systems, including Samp/Ts, Nasams, Hawks and Iris-Ts.

In a letter sent to NATO allies this week and seen by Bloomberg, Baerbock and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that recent Russian attacks on vital energy infrastructure have caused greater destruction than in the winter of 2022. “Given the situation that Ukraine is faced with, they are a matter of great urgency,” they said of the aid.

Kuleba called on American lawmakers “to support the supplemental that will literally without exaggeration help save Ukrainians from Russian missile slaughter.” 

The same issue was also being discussed at the meeting in Brussels, where the mood was equally dire. 

“The situation is very, very grave and we have to send them what they ask for, which is ammunition and air defense,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters at the summit on Thursday. “We just can’t afford that Ukraine is losing the war or the whole security situation in Europe is in grave danger.”

--With assistance from Piotr Skolimowski and Peter Martin.

(Updates with CIA director comments in second paragraph.)

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