Ukraine Holds Firm As A Top World Arms Exporter, But Lags Far Behind Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine, one of the world’s top 10 arms exporting countries, earned some $750 million through weaponry sales to 19 countries in 2006, with exports to Azerbaijan and China leading the way, according to the country’s annual report to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

Ukrainian T-72 tank is popular with third world countries.

Azerbaijan received 17 battle tanks, while 20 were bought by the Congo and one was purchased by the United States.

Ukraine has reported the transfer of more than 720 tanks to 11 different countries since the country joined the voluntary reporting mechanism established by the UN nearly 15 years ago.

Azerbaijan and the Congo also purchased 23 armored combat vehicles, while 50 armored combat vehicles (ACV) were delivered to Iraq and 10 to Nigeria.

Earlier this month, Ukraine won a contract to supply 96 ACVs for $117 million to Thailand, which will take two years to complete.

In addition, Azerbaijan acquired 13 units of large-caliber artillery, according to the report published this month.

Ukraine also exported 17 combat aircraft to Azerbaijan, 12 to Yemen, six to Belarus, five to Vietnam, four to Sri Lanka, three to the US, two to Great Britain, and one airplane each to Estonia, Lithuania, New Zealand, South Africa, the Czech Republic and Uganda, for a total of 55 aircraft in 2006.

Algiers imported 32 missiles and mobile missile launch systems from Ukraine, while Kazakhstan received 12.

The most Ukrainian missile systems were acquired by China – 590 in 2006. The US increased its purchases of parts of Ukrainian “mobile zenith rocket complexes” to 295 units, which include rockets and mobile launch systems.

In 2005, Ukraine shipped only six launch mechanisms and 29 rockets for the Holka zenith launch system to the US. In 2003, the US acquired 10 launch mechanisms and 29 rockets.

In the past five years, Ukraine has increased its world arms market share from 4 percent to 10 percent, earning the country $750 million annually, according to Serhiy Zhurets of the Center for Army Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

By way of comparison, Russia, earns $5-7 billion annually. Zhurets pointed out that the UN registry does not cover all military exports, like radar equipment and firearms.

“The arms export business will never be fully transparent and open in any country,” said Zhurets.

He said that in addition to the UN registry, efforts to tabulate data on exports are conducted by the US Congress and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which pegged Ukraine’s arms exports for last year at only $118 million.

He said that the US Congress six-year estimate for Ukraine’s weapons exports stood at more than $2 billion.

Like Ukraine, Russia reported no conventional arms imports for last year. For 2006, Russia reported selling 30 battle tanks to Algeria, a total of 114 ACVs to Bangladesh, Colombia, Kazakhstan and Uruguay and 100 large-caliber artillery systems to Myanmar.

In terms of the sea, Russia sold two warships to China, which was also the destination for 944 missiles and missile launchers.

By contrast, Ukraine has reported shipping more than 1,000 missile and launch systems to China since 2000.

Export data from Ukraine and Russia are among the few open sources available to the international community regarding Chinese military imports and exports.

China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, stopped participating in the voluntary reporting program more than 10 years ago, after the US included arms exports to Taiwan in its 1995 and 1996 reports.

Meanwhile, Russia’s South American ally Venezuela was empowered with four combat aircraft and 14 attack helicopters in 2006, according to the UN’s disarmament website.

Ukraine delivered 320 T-80UD tanks to Pakistan during 1996-1999 in a deal that was reportedly worth $550 million.

The UN’s Register of Conventional Arms is a voluntary reporting mechanism established in 1992 aimed at promoting transparency in the international arms trade.

On average, more than 115 of 192 UN member states have reported each year since 2000.

In the late 1990s, a governmental investigation found that the military equipment inherited by Ukraine after the demise of the Soviet Union was worth nearly $90 billion.

Source: Kyiv Post