Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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France and Germany are leading the effort to produce weapons in Ukraine.


French and German defense corporations are establishing local branches in Ukraine to provide maintenance services for weapons, marking the initial phase towards producing arms within the nation.

This week, the German Federal Cartel Office approved a planned partnership between Rheinmetall, a German weapons manufacturer, and Ukrainian Defense Industry, a state-owned Ukrainian defense group.

This week, France’s Minister of Armed Forces, Sébastien Lecornu, visited Kyiv accompanied by approximately 20 French defense companies to help establish collaborations with Ukrainian authorities.

The Defense Industries Forum, a trade show for arms, was held in the Ukrainian capital on Friday. It was attended by 165 defense companies from 26 countries.

During the event, Ukrainian officials directly engaged with defense companies to finalize agreements without involving Western governments. They also discussed possibilities for collaboration in production and offered specific insights on their requirements in the fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s complete invasion.

The objective is to enhance collaborative efforts and promote unity in order to reinforce Ukraine and its alliances, as stated by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba earlier this week.

The arms fair is taking place as Western armies, especially in Europe, are reaching the limit of what they can give to Ukraine from their own stocks. For the past few months, Ukraine has sought to ramp up its own arms industry, in part because U.S. elections in 2024 could mean a return of Donald Trump as president. The former leader has hinted at not providing much support to Kyiv if he wins a second term.

As Kyiv makes preparations for an extended period of war, cities like Paris are attempting to transition from providing donations to forming contracts and collaborating with the private sector.

French pivot

Over the course of the previous week, French authorities have begun emphasizing a new statement: France is unable to continue providing arms to Ukraine and will instead integrate Ukrainian officials into the country’s defense sector.

In 2022, a government report revealed that France provided weapons worth €640.5 million to Ukraine. The shipment included 704 missile launchers, portable anti-tank rocket launchers, 562 12.7mm machine guns, 118 missiles and missile launchers, and 60 armored fighting vehicles at no cost.

Lecornu stated on French TV that it would be detrimental to our defense capabilities and the proficiency of our troops if we continuously deplete resources from our military without limit.

Ukrainian servicemen ride on a T-64 tank during a military training exercise in Kyiv region | Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

Two days after his statement, he informed legislators that fostering connections between Ukrainian officials and French businesses would result in a stronger and more structured partnership for the supply of ammunition and maintenance services in the long run.

This week in Kyiv, French defense companies signed agreements with Ukraine for artillery, armored vehicles, drones, and mine clearance. These deals also include cooperation in the war-torn country.

Le Figaro reports that Arquus, a French company, has signed a preliminary agreement to maintain armored personnel carriers on the ground. There is also potential for a production facility to be established in the future. Nicolas Chamussy, CEO of Nexter (the manufacturer of the Caesar self-propelled howitzer), stated to Le Figaro that they are seeking a local partner to form a joint venture for maintenance purposes.

According to La Croix, Vistory, a startup from France, plans to construct two factories for 3D printing in order to manufacture spare parts.

Germany, Sweden and UK

France’s change follows recent announcements from BAE Systems and the Swedish government regarding similar intentions.

In August, representatives from Kyiv and Stockholm signed a declaration to strengthen collaboration in the areas of production, operation, training, and maintenance of the Combat Vehicle 90 (CV90) platform. The CV90 is manufactured by a Swedish branch of BAE Systems. Shortly after, BAE Systems revealed plans to establish a local branch in order to increase production of 105mm light artillery guns.

The decision made by the German competition authority this week to approve Rheinmetall’s collaboration with the Ukrainian Defense Industry in Kyiv, exclusively for operations in Ukraine, allows for a partnership focused on the maintenance and servicing of military vehicles. This partnership will also involve activities such as assembly, production, and development of military vehicles.

Both sides also have the goal of collaborating on military systems in the future, with the potential for exporting them from Ukraine.

The CEO of Rheinmetall, Armin Papperger, stated that he hopes to produce the company’s next Panther tank in Ukraine at a rate of 400 per year. This tank, which is still in the prototype stage, would replace the company’s current Leopard 2 main battle tank.

Laura Kayali wrote from Paris. Caleb Larson wrote from Berlin.