In Digest, Ukraine

Sputnik News, Wednesday Feb. 26, 2015

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has returned home from the IDEX-2015 arms expo in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), where he was reported to have signed nearly 20 contracts for the supply of weapons with various suppliers. But the details of Ukraine’s purchases remain murky, and experts have questioned the timing and necessity of the purchases.

Ukraine military, photo by Efrem Lukatsky, AP

Ukraine military, photo by Efrem Lukatsky, AP

Following his tour of the weapons showroom and shortly before leaving for home, Poroshenko told reporters that “over the course of the exhibition, Ukraine has signed about 20 contracts for the supply of arms; agreements have been signed on the provision of weaponry to Ukraine by European, American and Middle Eastern companies.”

Focusing on the much-discussed contract with the United Arab Emirates announced yesterday, Poroshenko noted that Ukraine and the UAE already have an established history of arms cooperation, explaining that the UAE “were the first to sell the Cougar, the Spartan, and other armored vehicles to Ukraine.” The APCs in question, numbering a few dozen units, “have been effectively used by our armed forces in the combat area,” according to Poroshenko.

The president noted that “today we have significantly expanded the range of deliveries,” without going into any more specifics.

Weapons manufacturers believed to be involved in deals with Ukraine have thus far avoided providing any further details on the contracts, but the Russian business newspaper Kommersant noted, citing unnamed sources, that Ukraine had been looking into stocking up on armored vehicles, mortars, and anti-tank systems.

Experts question timing and necessity of weapons purchases

Military observer Vladislav Shurigin is skeptical about the Ukrainian-Emirati deal, telling Radio Sputnik that ultimately, “it is unclear what Poroshenko managed to acquire while in the Emirates, and whether he acquired anything at all.  “First off, Ukraine’s treasury is empty. Secondly, the Emirates themselves do not produce weaponry, but serve only as a platform to demonstrate military equipment. Thirdly, we need to find out who sold Kiev what, if anything. I do not rule out this this was all a PR stunt.”

Shurigin notes that the biggest problem for the Ukrainian armed forces at present is their lack of cash. He noted that while the army “is without question in need of rearmament, as the saying goes, [they need to do it] ‘on the cheap’.

“Previously, Ukraine received much of its modern equipment for free from its partners, the US and some European countries, the Poles in particular. They purchased ammunition with American money. But Ukraine itself did not actually buy much of anything.”

Discussing what the army really needs, Shurigin notes that it “is in need of almost everything; it has spent most of the stocks that it had. The country needs modern artillery, modern means of reconnaissance, anti-tank weapons, small arms. One of the challenges faced by those planning to arm Ukraine lies in the fact that it will be necessary to virtually recreate it entirely from the ground up, based on the principles of a new army. The Ukrainian army as it exists today is, at best, an army of the mid-20th century.”

Without proper training and motivation, new hardware will remain a useless heap of metal

Military expert Alexandr Goltz agrees with Shurigin on the need to build up a new army, but disagrees about the need to purchase new weapons from the Emiratis. Goltz told Ukrainian news site Gordon that “when it comes to ‘smashing the enemy’, Ukraine can forget about it for at least 5 years, until it rebuilds its armed forces. Without this, whatever new weaponry is bought, it will be a heap of metal. Ukraine needs to create a new, motivated, well-paid army,”

Goltz adds that it is doubtful what real assistance a country like the UAE can provide to Ukraine, noting that the country has “no serious military industry comparable to that of Ukraine’s, for example.”

Andriy Parubiy, photo ny news.liga.netOn Wednesday, Ukrainian parliamentary representative Andriy Parubiy, who is on a visit to the U.S., was reported to have presented U.S. officials with a list of weaponry the country may need, including everything from radars, drones and radio communications equipment to anti-tank complexes. Parubiy has handed the list over to the Obama Administration officials and to other officials “directly related to the decision-making”. Parubiy stated that in his view, “the U.S. plays a deciding factor”.

He told Voice of America’s Ukrainian-language service,  “The position of the United States will be decisiveAfter the United States, the leaders of European countries and Canada will support this initiative and will more actively begin to assist Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that the question of providing Ukraine with weaponry is still under discussion.

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