Ukraine and the United States are close to signing new defense agreements enabling Kyiv to purchase more defensive U.S. military equipment and play a role in manufacturing such equipment, a Ukrainian defense executive said on June 30.
The agreements were announced during Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's June 20 visit to Washington, but details are still being negotiated. They are aimed at facilitating military sales and promoting joint research and development, and will be signed soon, said Denys Hurak, an executive at Ukroboronprom, a Ukrainian defense conglomerate.
Ukraine needs equipment such as radar systems, drones, and secure communications as it battles Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014.
The first agreement aims to free up Ukraine's access to the U.S. defense market as well as make it easier for Ukraine to sell its own defense equipment to the United States.
The agreements do not contemplate the sale of U.S.-made lethal weapons to Ukraine. But Ukraine anticipates receiving U.S. funding to develop new military technologies under the second joint research agreement, which would also pave the way for some U.S. Army equipment to be partly manufactured in Ukraine, Hurak said.
The agreements "will show that we are a strategic partner for America in the defense complex," Hurak told Reuters.
"We are asking for help, but we are also ready to be America's partner and we have something to offer -- namely, production capacity, outsourcing production, [and] cheaper production of components for them."
Hurak told Reuters that he has negotiated with U.S. companies about setting up facilities in Ukraine to manufacture, for example, radio and communications gear.
He told Interfax that the agreements are intended to "implement the initiatives the U.S. announced in 2014 to compensate for losses to the Ukrainian defense-industrial complex from the break-off of its military-technical cooperation with Russia."
Ukrainian factories were once an integral part of Russia's military-industrial complex, but Moscow recently announced that it has found replacement sources for most weapons parts formerly manufactured in Ukraine.
Poroshenko earlier said that U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is expected to visit Ukraine in the coming months to sign the defense agreements.
"These are absolutely clear and concrete agreements, unprecedented ones. Ukraine has never had such agreements in its relations with the United States," Poroshenko said.
With reporting by Reuters and Interfax