While the failure of the US Senate to come up with a Ukraine aid deal drew much of the media attention, at another level, a series of meetings last week between key Ukrainian and American officials was a silver lining for Kyiv.
The signed memorandum on co-production and technical data exchange sets up a path for co-production of air defense systems, repair and technical support, and production of critical ammunition for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the White House stated.
“For us, the issue of survival is the creation of a military industry that matches the scale of the enemy's industrial capabilities. We need a powerful Industrial Coalition to join efforts in fighting against Russian terror,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said at the conference in Washington.
“This is an opportunity to quickly increase production capacity,” Ukraine’s Minister of Strategic Industries Olexander Kamyshin said, “because in Ukraine the regulation of the defense industry is the most favorable for the manufacturer. The opportunity to improve your products and ensure their effectiveness in real combat conditions, using the experience of Ukrainian engineers and the Armed Forces. The opportunity to open new markets – because in addition to replenishing the NATO countries' stocks, after our victory, Ukrainian manufacturers who have experience in transitioning from Soviet-style weapons to NATO-standard weapons will be able to share this experience with those countries of the Global South that currently depend on the supply of weapons from Russia.”
The US has created an interagency Ukraine Deal Team including representatives of the Department of State, the Pentagon, and the Department of Commerce. “The group is going to support Ukrainian and other partners for potential deals and export requirements for the defense-industrial complex of Ukraine,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova said.
She stated that The Pentagon and industry partners have provided Ukraine with technical data to start local production of individual projects like the FrankenSAM systems. The parallel production of these air defense systems in Ukraine and the US will speed up their deployment and allow Ukraine to significantly strengthen the defense of its skies she said.
Markarova also said that the Department of State along with Congress aim to strengthen cooperation with the Ministry for Strategic Industries of Ukraine to support and accelerate Ukraine’s transition to interoperable military forces, implement reforms, and attract foreign investors to key industries.
In Washington, Ukraine asked its partners for new weapons
Meanwhile, during a closed-door session of the Dec. 5-6 defense conference, the Ukrainian side presented its American allies with a “list of armaments to meet the needs of defense forces of Ukraine,” Reuters reported.
The list includes various weapons ‘Ukraine already has in stock, like Abrams tanks and 155-millimeter artillery, as well some weaponry such as F-16s, drones and long-range ATACMS missiles that it has asked for in the past.”
The new request also has “a few surprises” including big-ticket items like C-17 Globemaster and the C-130 Super Hercules, Apache and Black Hawk attack helicopters, F-18 “Hornet” fighter jets, three types of General Atomics drones, including the MQ-9B Sky Guardian and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) air defense system.
More than 350 participants from Ukraine, the US and European countries
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined the event via video call and addressed some 350 participants, including government representatives and defense companies in Ukraine, the US, and European countries.
Zelensky said that the free world coming together helped Ukraine to liberate 50 percent of the territories that Russia occupied following its February 2022 full-scale invasion, and that with Western aid, Ukraine scored a historic victory over Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Despite the war, Ukraine is showing economic growth, Zelensky said.
“Our defense productions are working: Ukrainian missiles, Ukrainian drones, artillery produced in Ukraine, ammunition – they are being delivered to the front line. Moreover, we are increasing production together with our partners,” he said.
The conference on joint production of weapons with the US resulted from an agreement reached in September between Zelensky and US President Joseph Biden. Biden said that launching joint defense projects that will be important for the security of the whole of Europe.
“We are interested in joint production with you of the full spectrum of weapons necessary for modern warfare – artillery, armored vehicles, drones,” Zelensky said. “Maintenance and service of equipment… Security on land, in the sky, and at sea. Ukraine does not want to depend only on partners – Ukraine aims and really can become a donor of security for all our neighbors once it can guarantee its own safety. We really can do this.”
From the Ukrainian side, along with Umerov, Markarova, and Kamyshin, the US-Ukraine Defense Industrial Base Conference forum was joined by the Head of the President's Office Andriy Yermak and the Speaker of Urkaine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, Ruslan Stefanchuk.
As Ukrainian Ministry of Defense stated, on the American side, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, as well as Special Representative for Ukraine's Economic Recovery Penny Pritzker attended.
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