Arms traders benefit from Ukraine conflict

More than a year of conflict has taken a toll on Ukraine and Russia, but it has provided an opportunity to promote products to the global arms dealer.

The war in Ukraine has entered its second year and shows no sign of ending. The bloody skirmishes have taken a heavy toll on both warring sides, but at the same time fueled the global arms trade, as many countries increase their need for arms to prevent conflict.

That trend was evident last month at the International Defense Exhibition (IDEX), the biennial arms fair in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The organizers say IDEX 2023 is the largest event in 30 years, with the participation of 1,350 defense companies, 350 delegations and about 130,000 attendees from 65 countries. They bring to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center a variety of weapons, from armored vehicles, fighter jets to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The exhibition takes place at a time when European countries are significantly increasing their defense spending, as they seek to both maintain domestic reserves and continue to support Ukraine with weapons. The German government has also pledged more than $100 billion to bolster the country’s armed forces after years of defense budget cuts.

In Asia, Japan and South Korea have also increased their military spending in response to security threats in the region. China recently announced its budget for military operations in 2023 is more than 1.5 trillion yuan (nearly $225 billion), up 7.2% year-on-year.

This reverses the trend before the Ukraine conflict, when countries poured money into environmental protection, social and economic development, instead of promoting the defense industry, according to Kevin Craven, head of ADS Group, Trade organization representing UK aerospace, defense, security and space companies.

“In a year when the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, countries suddenly realized that their first task was to protect their people and politics, which required strong military and defense industry capabilities.” Craven said.

Armored vehicles on display at the International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, UAE in February. Photo: AFP.

Armored vehicles on display at the International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, UAE in February. Photo: AFP.

He added that Britain’s strong support for Ukraine has fueled interest in potential arms items. Britain is the second largest military aid to Ukraine after the United States, providing anti-tank missiles, artillery, armor and tanks to the country.

UAE officials emphasized that the exhibition is only for commercial purposes, not containing geopolitical elements. Visiting the event, King Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan said IDEX shows the UAE’s goal of being “a bridge of communication and cooperation” to bring “peace, stability and a better future to mankind”. .

One sign of that is the increasingly close military relationship between the UAE and Israel, which has no less than 60 booths at this year’s show. The two countries embarked on arms development cooperation after establishing full diplomatic relations less than three years ago. At IDEX, UAE defense group Edge unveiled an unmanned boat, which it collaborated with Israeli aircraft maker Aerospace Industries.

The war in Ukraine has made defense cooperation between countries with Russia more difficult due to a series of Western sanctions. The UAE, America’s top ally in the region, risks a backlash if it joins defense deals with Russia.

Washington sent Treasury officials to the UAE in January to warn Abu Dhabi that the US “will continue to enforce sanctions” against Russian individuals and entities, and said the companies violated may lose access to the US and European markets. Last month, Washington imposed sanctions on a new Russian bank licensed by the UAE.

Despite such international sanctions, leading Russian defense companies still send representatives to Abu Dhabi. However, their booths are located away from the Ukrainian and American exhibition grounds.

At the Russian showroom, four female employees invited visitors to see civilian versions of the helicopter manufacturers Mil and Kamov. Next to it is an exhibition area dedicated to Russian defense companies such as Kalashnikov, Rosoboronexport and Almaz-Antey, with more than 200 samples of weapons, military equipment and ammunition, many of which are deployed in the country. Ukraine.

Dozens of potential customers peruse the Grad rocket launchers or browse the shelves lined with infantry weapons that Russia brings to the show.

“We can say with confidence that Russian weapons are still highly valued and in great demand. That’s why we are here to maintain relations with our partners,” said Alexander Mikheev, managing director of Rosoboronexport. , said.

Weapons on display at IDEX also show how the conflict in Ukraine has prompted countries to develop a series of suicide drones, explosive weapons that can monitor the battlefield from above and then plunge down to attack targets. In recent months, Russia has deployed several suicide drones to attack Ukraine’s power grid and infrastructure.

“The entire product line of our group is very expensive, but the top priority right now is the UAV,” said Alan Lushnikov, president of the Kalashnikov group, adding that the KUB suicide UAV is the company’s best-selling product. Surname. “The number of orders has increased significantly.”

Faisal Bannai, head of the Edge group, said the Ukraine conflict has demonstrated how essential electronic warfare and automated systems are to many countries. “This is the potential market, the future of the arms industry,” Bannai said.

Bahadir Ozer, business development manager for Turkish UAV manufacturer Baykar, agrees that the war in Ukraine has contributed to the global promotion of weapons products.

Before the conflict began, the Baykar company supplied Kiev with a number of Bayraktar TB2 UAVs, a cheap weapon that has been effectively deployed in conflicts in Libya or Syria. In the early stages of the war, the Bayraktar TB2 was considered a very dangerous weapon for Russian armored forces in Ukraine.

“The TB2s have worked well for a long time, and now we have interest in the West with this product,” Ozer said, adding that Poland and 28 other NATO members had already ordered it. TB2. “They have proven their ability to fight in Ukraine and that’s the bottom line.”

A Russian weapons booth at the International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, UAE in February. Photo: AFP.

A Russian arms booth at the International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, UAE in February. Photo: AFP.

Ukrainian companies also attended the event in Abu Dhabi, despite the conflict at home. Stanislav Shyldskyi, business development director of UAV manufacturer Ukrspec, said that most of what Ukrainian companies are producing is for domestic needs, but their presence at the IDEX arms show is still very important. important.

“It was a good opportunity for us to show the world that we live, work and make great products. The war made people know about Ukraine. It wasn’t the best, but they cared. more,” he said.

Not far from the booth of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia’s ally, has a rather large exhibition area at this year’s exhibition. A representative of Belarus said the sanctions did not affect their trade much.

“Our product gets more interest after the sanctions. If they want to punish you, that proves you’re strong,” he said, adding that the bans only made it difficult for the first two months. after the conflict in Ukraine broke out. “We expect business to be tougher, but when customers care, there’s always a way to stay in business.”

Thanh Tam (Theo LA Times)

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