KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine hosted an international defense industry conference as part of a government effort to ramp up weapons production within the country to repel Russia’s full-scale invasion and reduce foreign dependence on arms deliveries.
The event marked a new development in support of Ukraine, with the previous focus being on the delivery of weapons, repair of damaged equipment and military training of Ukrainian soldiers.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at the opening of the International Defense Industries Forum, said that around 250 defense companies from more than 30 countries had gathered Friday in Kyiv. Defense ministers and representatives of several countries also attended the event.
“Heroism alone cannot intercept missiles. Ukraine needs capabilities, high quality, high quantity, and quickly. There is no defense without industry,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who spoke by video link during the forum on the day after his visit to Kyiv.
Stoltenberg said that Wendy Gilmour, who is NATO’s assistant secretary general for defense investments, was representing the trans-Atlantic alliance at the event.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that many allies have significantly depleted their stocks in order to support Ukraine. “This was the right thing to do, but now we need to ramp up production, both to meet Ukraine´s needs and to ensure our own deterrence in events,” he said.
Zelenskyy disclosed the details of his recent trip to Washington, where he agreed with U.S. President Joe Biden on “the establishment of a new industrial ecosystem that will strengthen both Ukraine and all the partners.” Zelenskyy described it as “one of the key outcomes” of his negotiations with Biden in Washington.
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said that there will be meetings soon with representatives from the U.S. “to determine the road map of cooperation with the partners about localization of production, specifically in Ukraine.”
During the forum, Zelenskyy announced the creation of the Defense Industries Alliance and added that 13 defense companies have already signed the corresponding declaration.
To support the cooperation and develop an industry complex, Ukraine plans to establish a special fund, which will be paid into through dividends from state defense resources and profits from the sale of confiscated Russian assets, Zelenskyy said.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the first talks about joint production with allies began last fall. “At first, we were talking about repairs within Ukraine, and then about joint production. And now, this topic is prevalent everywhere,” said Kuleba.
According to Kuleba, in discussions with the partners, there is also a tremendous interest in the experience and production capabilities of Ukrainian businesses.
“Just as we have benefited from Western weapons, Western arms manufacturers also gain unique advantages in the market to improve their models and create even more powerful weapons,” Kuleba said.
Ukraine’s recently appointed Defense Minister, Rustem Umerov, said the country must do everything possible to produce all the necessary military services and products in Ukraine for the needs of its army. The other priority is the development of defense technologies that now play an important role on the battlefield.
“Our vision is to develop world-class military products,” Umerov said.