SPEAKING FREELY Ukraine: A military-industrial complex to die for
By Gregory J Moore
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click hereif you are interested in contributing.
It seems that one of the most important dimensions of Russia's fixation on Ukraine is one little discussed in the mainstream media. That dimension, namely the importance to Moscow of Ukraine's surprisingly well developed military industrial complex, is a key reason Russian President Vladimir Putin won't let go of Ukraine. Moreover, the bulk of Ukraine's military industrial
complex is in Ukraine's south and east, which adds clarity to Russia's focus on those parts of Ukraine.
Readers may remember the apocalyptic Hollywood thriller, 2012, and the Russian tycoon who owned an enormous jet loaded with exotic sports cars, boasting of the plane, "It's Russian". Well, the truth is, it wasn't Russian. It was Ukrainian. It was an Antonov AN225, the world's largest airplane. Antonov, based near Kiev, also designed and manufactures a medium-size transport plane, the AN70, a series of gliders like the AN15, a regional jet (the AN148), and a series of advanced jet engines. In fact, the Russian president's office owns two AN148-100Es.
Ukraine is also home to Motor-Sich, a firm that designs and manufactures aircraft and helicopter engines, as well as turbine engines for pumps for gas, oil and other applications including power-generation. Basically all of Russia's military helicopters use engines made by Motor-Sich. The firm also makes the engines for Russia's Yak 160 fighter/trainer. Russian military analyst Vladimir Voronov says Russia has an ambitious plan to add 1,000 attack helicopters to its armed forces, but this would be almost impossible without Motor Sich's provision of engines.
Ukraine also boasts an advanced space rocket and missile design and production industry, one of the few nations in the world that has a mature space rocket production complex. Located in south-eastern Ukraine's Dnepropetrovsk, it produced many of the rockets in the early Soviet space program, as well as parts for many missiles and rockets such as Russia's famous Soyuz, and components for the International Space Station. It also designed, manufactured and today still services Russia's main intercontinental ballistic missile, the deadly SS18.
Ukraine is also home to what at its high tide accounted for 30% of the Soviet Union's shipbuilding industry (Global Security), and it continues to provide shipbuilding services for many nations, including China for whom it provided the Varyag, which the Chinese finished and turned into their first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which recently entered service.
Voronov has reported on a recent Russian military campaign to expand ship production, but that Russia's own shipyards are failing to meet capacity so Russia has increasingly sought Ukrainian help. Ukraine is also a major producer of ships' engines. Voronov concludes that of the 54 surface warships acquisitions the Russian navy has currently planned, 31 would have Ukrainian engines in them, though of course all of this is in question with the recent decision by Ukraine's government to halt all arms deals with Russia because of Russia's aggression in Crimea, etc.
Ukraine is also a major producer of armored personnel carriers and tanks (its Kharkiv facilities designed and manufactured the T34, T54, T64, and T80 tanks, and its T84 is as good or better than Russia's best tanks presently, some experts argue), air to air missiles for fighter planes (Kiev's Razumov Center says Russia gets half of these from Ukraine), surface-to-air missiles, cruise missiles, and is home to a vibrant parts and systems design and manufacturing industry that services many sectors of Russia's military, including Russia's newest Su50 PAK/FA fighter aircraft.
For Moscow, the loss of Ukraine to the EU (or worse, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as well), would mean the potential loss of all of this capacity, and the need to replace it rapidly, not to mention the loss of military secrets that could help competitors of the Russian military industrial complex.
Ukrainian scientists and engineers know many of Russia's deepest military secrets, and in fact fathered some of them. Moreover, a quick look at a map and the realization that Ukraine's tank/armor industry is in eastern Ukraine's Kharkiv, its shipbuilding industry is in the south's Mykolaiv, its space/rocket/missile industry is in Dnepropetrovsk and its Motor Sich is in Zaporizhia, both in southeastern Ukraine, and it may be clear why it is these same regions of Ukraine that are experiencing the worst (Russian-instigated) anti-Kiev violence at present.
The value and importance of Ukraine's military industrial complex to Russia is an important reason Moscow will not let go of eastern and southern Ukraine, and consequently it may be that sanctions alone will not be enough to make Putin back down.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Gregory J Moore is Associate Professor of International Relations, Political Science Department, School of Public Affairs, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. He is the author/editor of North Korean Nuclear Operationality: Regional Security and Nonproliferation (Johns Hopkins), and author of many articles on international relations.