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Ukraine: Arms dealing in a truly presidential style

February 25, 2015, 18:42 UTC+3 Litovkin Viktor
Petro Poroshenko at the arms show

Petro Poroshenko at the arms show

© AP Photo/ Mikhail Palinchak, pool

MOSCOW, February 25. /TASS/. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has made a blitz visit to the United Arab Emirates where his main target venue was the IDEX international weaponry show.

He had a tour of a number of expositions there. Executives of the Turkish corporation Rokestan showed him new missile projects. Otokar company, also from Turkey, demonstrated a Cobra armored car while the Emirates Defense Industries Company did a presentation on the Russian AU-220M artillery mount on a chassis of Arab manufacturing.

In addition, he saw a model of a South Korean tank produced by Hyundai Rotem and an artillery mount built by International Golden Group of the UA. On top of that, he had a meeting with the Crown Prince of the Abu Dhabi emirate and a deputy commander-in-chief of the Emirates Armed Forces.

As suggested by reports from IDEX, the sides might be discussing deliveries of nonlethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.

Still the very fact a president visited an arms exhibition looks rather unusual. Aerospace shows and combat weaponry displays are meant for specialists in the first place whose business is to study everything that is new, to search for partners, and to hold talks on contracts. On the face of it, Poroshenko is trying to project the image of a father of the nation at a tragic moment of war with "a treacherous aggressor".

And to attain a victory, the Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief (that is Poroshenko, since the Ukrainian President is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces) can do whatever he finds suitable or possible. Hence his solemn report on the signing of twenty agreements on arms supplies with European, American and Middle East companies.

The truth of the situation, however, is that genuine contracts are not signed at exhibitions, contrary to vociferous claims, even if TV channels do direct coverage of the signing of "contract documents" of some sort. In reality, most of the documents signed there are protocols of intentions or memorandums of understanding which do not invoke mandatory practical steps in any way.

Genuine contracts and especially the ones pertaining to weaponry supplies take months or even years to draft and finalize. Contract documentation is embodied in thick folios of confidential legally binding documents - something that Poroshenko who is accustomed to demonstrating bullet-perforated trolleybus covers did not show anyone in Abu Dhabi.

This does not mean, however, that no agreements were reached. They were, of course, but on a far more modest scale.

One more intriguing nuance: there is practically no defence industry in the UAE, unless you consider small companies assembling armored vehicles and mortars out of component parts from across the world as such. In any case, there is no batch production there.

So what kind of equipment is Petro Poroshenko going to obtain in the Middle East? Any weaponry that large Western companies cannot supply to his war-torn homeland officially.

To handle supplies of this sort, a variety of half-licit schemes is available. For instance, a chain of intermediaries that processes transactions with foreign states without declaring or registering them with the UN.

Well-informed sources say some intermediary companies of this genre do exist in the Emirates and sources among the expert community make hints that Poroshenko, who claimed fairly recently the Ukrainian defence industry was producing everything the country needed, visited one of these companies at IDEX.

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