The trade in defense products from Ukrainian factories to the Russian military is an old trade. Ukrainian factories do billions in business with Russia. 23 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and experts estimate that 70% of Ukraine’s defense exports flow through Russia.
“How can you work with your enemy? This is gobbledygook,” said a senior Ukrainian security official, speaking anonymously about a sensitive topic.
Understandably, Ukrainian government officials are less than happy that Ukrainian factories continue to manufacture goods which supply the Russian military. From gears to targeting systems, engines to missiles, Ukraine has been a core Russian supplier. Despite Russian declarations and “crash plans” to wean itself off Ukrainian supplies Ukraine remains the world’s eighth-largest arms exporter. In the former Soviet Union, Ukraine is second only to Russia.
With the conflict in eastern Ukraine teetering toward war, Ukraine is in a bind. Although in June Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued an order to stop such exports to Russia, as the Washington Post reports, little has changed on the ground. Factories remain open and no one has been told to halt shipments.
The stalling is unsurprising. The same unnamed Ukrainian official calling working with the enemy “gobbledygook” also said,
“This decision will mean the death of factories and enterprises.”
It is not shocking that the belief that economic integration lessens the possibility of full-scale armed conflict persists. Money is a powerful motivator and economic stability a trump card. Certainly, there is some truth to the thought that neighbors deeply invested in each other’s economic well-being won’t ruin it all for a war. But the situation between Russia and Ukraine is not so simple.
Ukraine needs those factories open, and the revenue they generate, far more than Russia needs gears for its machines of war.
Go read about Ukraine’s factories and arms industry:
- Ukraine factories equip Russian military despite support for rebels, Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post, 15 August 2014
- Ukraine’s Arms Industry is Both Prize and Problem for Putin, Kateryna Choursina & James M. Gomez Bloomberg, 7 May 2014
- SIPRI, 2013
- Saving Ukraine’s Defense Industry, Alexandra McLees, Eugene Rumer, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace., 30 July 2014.