Arming Ukraine, when Ukraine could be (partly) arming itselfFebruary 10, 2015
Over the next few days the decision to arm Ukraine – or not – will be made by the USA. Should it decide to do so, and the wind is certainly blowing in that direction should nothing come of the “Normandy Format” meeting in Minsk tomorrow, others will certainly follow – Lithuania, Poland, Romania etc.
However, a quick look at the UkrOboronProm website, the Ukrainian State weapons manufacturer, displays an in-house ability to produce some, although not all, advanced defensive weaponry requested from its allies. Ukraine does not need basic, unsophisticated weaponry – of that it has an abundance.
The problem being that Ukraine has always produced this weaponry for export, not for kitting out its own military. Thus it has the ability to produce guided anti-armour missiles, guided air defence missiles, and indeed it has produced such missiles for those customers willing to buy them – it’s just that Ukraine itself has not been a buyer (in any meaningful quantitative way). There are not domestic stockpiles of advanced weaponry laying around in warehouses to be distributed in times of war – like now.
There is other equipment, such as electronic warfare equipment, hi-tech drones, secure communications equipment and such that it doesn’t produce, or has only just started to produce since the war with Russia commenced. There are significant gaps between what it can produce,domestically, what it actually has, and what it needs. Thus the advanced weaponry it could produce for itself, it hasn’t – and whatever it doesn’t produce, it has never bought.
That said, even if Ukraine thought it had manufactured large amounts of its own advanced weaponry for its own use according to official procurement documentation, undoubtedly if warehouse doors were opened, they would be empty as the State will have paid for what it never received – due to years of rampant corruption and abysmal procurement bureaucracy/policy.
Either way, the cupboards would be (more or less) bare.
We therefore arrive at reliance upon decisions of friendly nations to arm Ukraine – or not – with some advanced weaponry that it can, and has, produced for others.
It will take months of 24/7 production to produce ample supplies of the advanced weaponry that Ukraine can produce for itself – assuming the still rampant defence related corruption and woeful bureaucracy/procurement policies are dealt with even in part. Looking to the future, allies of Ukraine may be advised to continually – and bluntly – remind Ukraine of what it is capable of producing itself, and insisting that it does so for domestic defensive purposes. Perhaps allies may even insist upon, and assist in, the construction of new facilities to mass produce more such advanced weaponry in which Ukraine has expertise.
As things stand today, even if decisions are made to arm Ukraine, any meaningful delivery in serious quantities, perhaps not even withstanding any related training, will not be accomplished within a couple of weeks. A few months would seem more realistic – by which time any such act may be somewhat academic to the survival of Ukraine as it exists today by way of territory held.
Ultimately any western advanced defensive arms assistance should be little more than filling the immediate short term gap, in as large a quantity as is feasible and/or necessary in the areas where Ukraine clearly has the experience and capabilities to produce advanced defensive arms for itself. Dependency upon advanced arms from friendly nations, sensibly, should be limited to what Ukraine cannot produce itself.
On the long list of Ukrainian reforms – it may be wise for NATO and/or certain NATO members advising Ukraine on numerous military and civilian matters, to put the reform of the Ukrainian defence industry/military industrial complex on the agenda – somewhere very near the top. When all is said and done, the threats it faces today, will be the same threats it faces a decade from now – if it can retain its independence.
Geopolitics 101 – Be grateful for being in a good neighbourhood. If you’re in a hostile neighbourhood, make sure you are tooled up enough, and self-reliant enough, to be a challenge – or acquiesce.