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The UAE-Ukraine Defence Deal

February 26, 2015

Yesterday Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that the United Arab Emirates and Ukraine had reached a deal whereby the Arab State would cooperate militarily – thus theoretically paving the way for the UAE to send arms to Ukraine.

President Poroshenko making sure to keep strictly to the script of defensive weaponry only stated – “I want to stress that we increase the defensive capabilities of the Ukrainian army only for better defend our territory – to keep our independence, to keep our territorial integrity, to keep our sovereignty. I do not have any plans to attack anybody. I am a president of peace, and we are a country of peace. But to keep the peace, we should have an ability to defend ourselves.”

Thus far there has been no public comment by the UAE – despite acknowledgement that President Poroshenko and Crown-Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan held a “one to one” for more than an hour.  The Ukrainian side stating during which “very important negotiations” occurred regarding the facilitation of the United Arab Emirates investment in the Ukraine, and that that the two “signed a very important memorandum about military and technical cooperation.

Thus if the Crown-Prince of the UAE ever arrives in Kyiv, be sure it is because the UAE has found something it wants to invest in somewhere in Ukraine – he won’t be coming otherwise.

Quite what, if any, weaponry UAE can or will supply Ukraine remains unknown.  It prompted a rather sarcastic tweet yesterday:

However, sarcasm aside, it is perhaps worthy of taking a look at what the UAE does produce – particularly as Tawazun Holding, Mubadala Development and Emirates Advanced Investment Group (EAIG) have finalised the formation of Emirates Defence Industries Company (Edic).

Thus Edic comprises of 14 companies from the subsidiaries of Mubadala, Tawazun and EAIG – including Al Taif Technical Services, Tawazun Dynamics and Global Aerospace Logistics.  Edic for want of a better term, an umbrella company for almost all of the UAEs defence manufacturers.  Whether Edic was formed with the Golf Cooperation Council (GCC) market in mind, rather than Ukraine and the global market, perhaps matters not in the circumstances.

(In case you are wondering a list of the 14 companies is as follows; Al Taif Technical Services, Bayanat for Mapping & Surveying Services, Horizon International Flight Academy, NIMR Automotive, Tawazun Dynamics, Tawazun Precision Industries, C4 Advanced Solutions, Global Aerospace Logistics, Naval Advanced Solutions, Secure Communications, Thales Advanced Solutions, Caracal, Abu Dhabi Autonomous Systems Investment (ADASI) and AMMROC.)

However, these companies do not exist in a bubble.  For example Tawazun produces a laser guided missile called the TALON – together with Raytheon.  It also has a joint venture with Denel – South Africas’a largest weapons manufacturer.  Indeed Ukraine has just struck a deal between Motor Sich and South Africa’s Paramount Group to develop the Superhind Mi 24 helicopter.

That raises questions of Ukrainian domestic economics and internal suppliers/partners – and/or having time to create them – or perhaps pursing the option of external partners with ready technology to try and keep the internal thievery to a minimum?  A necessary spreading of investment costs and/or technical know-how?

According to Nadiia Stechyshyna, an advisor to the UkrOboronProm CEO, “Roughly 70 percent of armored car parts that Ukraine imported from Russia have been replaced, a very tough job, and the very heavy lifting has been done in the last few months.”  However,  she stated it was also also seeking foreign partners, like the Paramount Group, with ready technology and production facilities for access to new markets.

So will the war with Russia in eastern Ukraine recalibrate the manufacturing and defense capabilities internally of Ukraine – with any economic boost that may provide – or not?  Will one foreign supplier simply be replaced with another, rather than expanding, retooling, and investing in the existing Ukrainian MIC?

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.

The opaque and all too often grubby world of weaponry, arms sales, relationships, and all that.

All things considered, that the equivalent of the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) – page 42 – which became an actor in the Serbian-Bosnian conflict, and had Arab connections, has yet to appear as a nefarious and shadowy intermediary is both a little surprising and perhaps a blessing.  Prima facie, a nation to nation agreement such as that purported between UAE and Ukraine is at least a little more transparent – though transparency and weapons supply rarely have linkage to anything that can be taken “prima facie”.

Thus, quite what, who produces what, and ultimately who supplies and pays for what, that may arrive in Ukraine from the UAE is likely only to be answered once it arrives – and it may well be that the UAE act deniably as something of a facilitator for other nations – or not. If so, what it gains and from whom in return is not likely to be advertised across the Middle-East. The UAE certainly can supply domestically produced drones and secure communications, both of which Ukraine requires.

That the UAE would volunteer its services is perhaps unsurprising considering the umbrage it takes at Kremlin meddling in Syria and Yemen – not to mention a weaponsing relationship with Iran.  It could, perhaps, be argued that the OPEC nations in part lowered oil prices to refocus US attention on the region that had started to drift toward the Asia-Pacific.  This agreement with Ukraine further keeping the region on the US radar.

Whatever the case, UAE motivation currently matters little to Ukraine.  What matters is how much Ukraine has to spend (aside from any military aid it may or may not receive externally, lethal or otherwise).

According to Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, the nation will dedicate $3 billion to fund both the fighting in eastern Ukraine and realignment of the Ukrainian MIC this year – quite rightly, as has already been written.  Within that $3 billion figure, $110 million has been allocated for buying foreign weaponry.

It has to be said, $110 million doesn’t buy much in the global arms markets, and Ukraine is in need of EW equipment, secure communications, and advanced defensive weaponry in the short to medium term.  None of that comes cheap in the quantities required.

Artillery shells such as “Excalibur”, a GPS guided round with +/- 2 meter accuracy at $76,000 a shot may well be desirable, and such precision ordnance much needed to prevent the needless loss of life and injury commonly referred to as “collateral damage” – but they are clearly not affordable given other priorities (even if the US would sell them to Ukraine).

Thus we shall have to wait and see what, if anything, the military cooperation deal with the UAE actually amounts to.

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