Ukraine may be allowed to make British arms under licence, says paper

Published February 13, 2023
Kramatorsk (Ukraine): Church members distribute food to local residents after a mass at the Ark of Salvation Church on Sunday.—AFP
Kramatorsk (Ukraine): Church members distribute food to local residents after a mass at the Ark of Salvation Church on Sunday.—AFP

LONDON: British arms and military vehicles could be manufactured in Ukraine under licence, easing the country’s dependence on supplies of arms from Western allies, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday.

The report said British defence industry executives had travelled to Kyiv to discuss plans to set up joint ventures to manufacture weapons and vehicles locally.

Manufacturers from other European countries were also in discussions with Ukraine, it said, citing one executive saying there was a race to put Britain “at the front of the queue”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy travelled to London and Paris on Wednesday to appeal for more Western arms to repeal the Russian invasion, including modern fighter jets and heavy long range weapons.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told him that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to supplying Ukraine with jets to fight Russia, after he announced a plan to start training Ukrainian pilots to fly Nato-standard fighter jets.

Western countries, however, have so far stopped short of providing jets or weapons that can strike deep inside Russia.

In response, news agency TASS cited Russia’s embassy to Britain as warning that any delivery of British fighter jets to Ukraine would have serious military and political ramifications.

Any joint venture between a defence manufacturer and Ukraine would likely need British government sign-off, and such a move would further antagonise Moscow, the report said.

Sunak’s press office at Number 10 Downing Street declined to comment on the report. The Ministry of Defence also declined to comment.

A fellow of British defence think tank and former Nato army officer, Ed Arnold said that “Industry cooperation drives closeness in international relations. This might be initially billed as commercial, but it will need tacit political approval at least.”

He added that a deal on military equipment would “point to future long term cooperation, deepening ties between Britain and Ukraine to a level they haven’t been yet”. He said a deal of this kind would bring Ukraine “closer towards Nato and European security structures”.

“A deal seeing a Western power manufacture heavy arms in Ukraine would be a first because the country has little history of industrial co-operation, a US security think thank expert at Rand Corporation, James Black has said.

“The Ukrainian defence industry has been primarily focused on producing and maintaining Soviet-era or indigenous technologies, and since independence it has suffered from several decades from underinvestment, stalled reforms, corruption issues, and other challenges”, he added.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2023

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