The talks between the Ukrspetsexport state arms sales firm and Nuri Shaveiz, Secretary General of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, during his official visit to Kyiv were held behind closed doors, of course. Ukraine, like most world weapons market operators, is not keen on publicity in this field of endeavor.
On the other hand, there were political as well as economic preconditions for furthering Ukrainian-Iraqi military-technological cooperation. To begin with, Iraq certainly appreciates the Ukrainian military’s role, so there is nothing coincidental about Baghdad asking to prolong the Ukrainian contingent’s deployment. Second, the Iraqi military has long been accustomed to using Soviet armaments that are easy to use and quite reliable, considering that Western mat О riel would cost too much under the circumstances, and that mastering it would cause additional problems. Let’s face it: Iraq cannot afford to spend vast sums of money to build up its military muscle. Besides, this muscle is needed more for solving domestic problems. Last but not least, Ukraine appears to be a rather attractive partner, demanding no political clauses while negotiating an arms supply deal.
Ukraine can profit a great deal from its deliveries to Iraq. First, military products can pave the way for civilian companies. Ukraine is known to be interested in helping to rebuild Iraqi airports and starting cargo and passenger flights. Second, a large amount of obsolete mat О riel is being discarded in the process of upgrading the Ukrainian armed forces. Selling such mat О riel at a reasonable price now apparently makes better sense than having to rack one’s brains over getting rid of it five or six years later, or recycling it. Third, Iraq’s solvency may register a sharp increase due to shifts in the regional geopolitical situation, especially considering that President George Bush has made it clear that the US has already declared its readiness to grant trade benefits to Iraq. In that case Iraq will need more modern and more expensive technologies and defense systems. In this context, strengthening Ukrainian-Iraqi military-technological cooperation seems very relevant and supplying KrAZ heavy-duty trucks may well prove to be only one of many accomplishments.
The current situation shows that Iraq badly needs combat ground matйriel. Jordan recently donated automatic rifles, machine guns, and 150 armored personnel carriers to the new Iraqi army. Among other things, Iraq received some fifty BTR-90 armored personnel carriers manufactured in Arzamas, which were previously used by the Jordanian armed forces and then discarded after the government purchased some 200 South African Ratel-20 advanced versions. In fact, Amman is now considering Baghdad’s request for fifty tanks. Under the circumstances, the Ukrainian-Polish T-72 modernization project may turn out to be a very real opportunity. Several days before the Iraqi visit, Polish Ambassador Marek Ziolkowski stated that his government “regards [this project] as a long-term prospect that is opening up after the conclusion of our troops’ stabilization mission in Iraq.” In fact, Ukraine may double its gains from this project. At one time Poland and Malaysia signed a contract for the delivery of several dozen Polish tanks. Later, problems arose, which Ukrainian tank manufacturers could have coped with much more effectively. It was at this time that Polish and Ukrainian tank manufacturers began to cooperate, and this collaboration would eventually provide them with access to the Iraqi market. Ukraine, however, has nothing against entering the Malaysian market.
There is little doubt that the armored supply topic was broached during the Iraqi visit to Ukraine. Kyiv can offer Baghdad a diversified assortment of arms, including gunships, crew/cargo helicopters, and basic weapons. Another thing that deserves special mention is the possibility of Iraqi servicemen being trained by Ukrainian military colleges and academies. This is a traditional favor on the part of Ukraine, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to encounter Iraqi cadets one day. Of course, it’s too early to rejoice, considering that Western countries will certainly try to build and reinforce their spheres of influence in Iraq. A team of fifty-seven NATO officers recently began training the Iraqi security forces. Nor is there anything coincidental about Russia declaring that it is ready and willing to help Iraq with its military training in every way, as President Vladimir Putin stated not so long ago. The fact remains that victories in the military-technological sphere are gained the hard way.
Another promising possibility may stem from the visit by the Iraqi military to the holding company Ukrspetstekhnika. This business entity made its name by developing a new series of millimeter-range radar stations. Iraqi security forces may find that Ukraine’s Borsuk [Badger] and Lysytsia [Fox] come in very handy. Both systems (incidentally purchased by the national border guard agency) can detect manpower and materiel movements at a distance of 3-10 km. More importantly, however, such acquisitions would mark Ukraine’s first supplies of military high-tech equipment to Iraq.