IDEF 2021: a Prominent Display of Ukraine-Turkey Partnership in Defense Technology Development and Production. Part 1

Relations between Ukraine and Turkey are being developed in keeping with the principles of mutual trust, good neighborliness and strategic partnership
Relations between Ukraine and Turkey are being developed in keeping with the principles of mutual trust, good neighborliness and strategic partnership

Military-technology cooperation (MTC) between Ukraine and Turkey has gained momentum over the two years that passed between the IDEF 2019 and IDEF 2021 defense industry fairs. This is not surprising since value-creating cooperation, driven personally by presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, is beneficial to the strategic interests of both countries

August 17, 2021 saw the first day of the 15th International Defense Industry Fair and Exhibition, the IDEF-2021, which opened in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ukraine is represented at the event by a high-level official delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister/ Minister for Strategic Industries Oleh Urusky.

Read more: Twenty-three Ukrainian Companies to Exhibit at the Upcoming IDEF-2021 Defense Industry Fair

Ukrainian display is showcasing 23 companies, both from State and Private Sectors, exhibiting their latest high-tech security and defense products and technologies.

The event is expected to give a fresh boost to Ukraine-Turkey partnership aimed to synergistically bolster their defense ad technological capabilities.

In this context, Defense Express found it appropriate to give a brief review of the current status and prospects for development of Ukraine-Turkey defense and industrial technology cooperation.

Ukroboronprom's pavillion at IDEF-2021
Partnership that benefits both parties

Relations between Ukraine and Turkey, aimed at ensuring support and mutually beneficial cooperation and establishing security and stability in the Black Sea region, are being developed in keeping with the principles of mutual trust, good neighborliness and strategic partnership. In particular, the National Security Strategy of Ukraine that was enacted into law by the President of Ukraine in September 2020, identifies the Republic of Turkey as one of the countries with which Ukraine is willing to develop a strategic partnership to protect its national interest and to bolster regional security and stability.

Coperation between Ukraine and Turkey has been driven personally by Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey

Bilateral engagement between the two countries gained a special impetus by the Joint Ukraine-Turkey Declaration on the establishment of a High-Level Strategic Council, signed on January 25, 2011. This declaration establishes a strategic partnership between the two countries and sets up a mechanism for its implementation. Since then, meetings of the Strategic Council have been held annually, and, since 2018, with the participation of the heads of state of Ukraine and Turkey.

Last year, in the wake a working visit to Turkey paid by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on October 16, 2020, the parties had significantly intensified security cooperation in the Black Sea region by having agreed to set up a new platform for political and security consultations, the "Quadriga" (2 + 2), involving ministers for defense and foreign affairs of Ukraine and Turkey. On December 18, 2020, Kyiv hosted the inaugural meeting in the new platform format. The purpose of the Quadriga, which will meet annually, is to discuss the most pressing security policy and regional security issues and to coordinate joint effort and collaboration in the political, security, and economic areas and in the defense industrial sectors.

In December 2020, Kyiv hosted the inaugural gathering of "Quadriga" (2 + 2), a new platform for Ukrainian-Turkish political and security consultations involving ministers for defense and foreign affairs of Ukraine and Turkey

In addition, a significant role in the formulation and implementation of bilateral collaboration belongs to the bilateral commission on defense-industrial cooperation. This is a working body for cooperation that identifies specific steps to be taken to implement collaborative projects in the field of arms production. Its meetings, co-chaired by Deputies Minister of Defense of Ukraine and Turkey, are held on a regular basis by agreement of the Parties. The legal framework that underlies the commission’s activities and regulates bilateral MTC relations as a whole is based on the Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Turkey on Defense-Industrial Cooperation, signed September 18, 2008.

Bilateral agreements seen being signed in a ceremony attended by Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during Zekenskyy’s Turkish visit paid in October 2020 / Photo courtesy of the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office

It should be noted that Ukraine-Turkey engagement has shown significant boost since the 2014 outset of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. At the time, there was set up a joint contact group involving officials from Ukroboronprom, Ukrainian government’s arms-trading agents, the Embassy of Ukraine in Turkey, as well as Turkey’s Defense Industries Presidency (SSB).

The lucrative cooperation between the two countries is governed by the respect for the interests of partners and for the international law. Since the time of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine in 2014, the sitting government in Ankara has been very consistent in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Turkey had condemned the fake "referendum" in Crimea held in March 2014, and the country co-authored UN General Assembly draft resolutions on territorial Integrity of Ukraine (2014) and the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (2014-2019), as well as resolutions on the Russian militarization of the Crimea and the Black and Azov Seas (2018-2019).

MTC as a prominent example of strategic partnership

Historically, Ukraine and Turkey have been countries with differing technological and defense industrial capacities, which were formed at different times. They are thus differing in technological and manufacturing competencies and could therefore effectively complement each other when it comes to arms development and production. This factor, along with the shared position the two countries adopted on a number of international and military policy issues, is crucial in building up bilateral MTC in different areas.

The August 2020 visit to Turkey by a large official delegation of Ukrainian industries, led by Deputy Prime Minister/ Minister for Strategic Industries Oleh Urusky had given another strong impetus to the dynamics of cooperation between the defense industries of the two countries.

A team of Ukrainian industry officials visited Turkey in August 2020 to talk over the potentialities for growth of bilateral cooperation in arms production and aviation and in space exploration / Photo courtesy of the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers Press Office

The importance of this visit was marked by the fact that the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan met and talked personally with members of the Ukrainian delegation who could see firsthand that the Turkish leader is extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of bilateral MTC. The constructive nature of the dialogue was additionally enhanced due to the substantive meetings the Ukrainian delegation held with the Republic of Turkey Ministers of National Defense Hulusi Akar and Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank, attended by officials of the Turkish State-owned gun and ammunition manufacturer MKEK.

Turkish-supplied UAS vehicles have served as essential force multipliers for the Ukrainian military since 2019

The Ukrainian delegation held productive talks with the president of SSB Ismail Demir and the heads of Turkey’s top-leading defense manufacturers Aselsan, BMC, Havelsan, Roketsan, Sarsilmaz, and TAI. The meeting ended with the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Ukrainian Ministry for Strategic Industries and the Turkish Defense Industries Presidency.

A Turkish visit paid in October 2020 by a Ukrainian delegation led by President Zelenskyy, of which Minister of Defense Andrii Taran was a member among other high-level officials, marked a major breakthrough in Ukraine-Turkey MTC. The visit ended with the signing of a number of bilateral documents. Thus, in particular, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Andriy Taran and the head of the Turkish Defense Industries Presidency Ismail Demir signed a Memorandum of Intent regarding defense-industrial collaboration on warships, UAVs and gas turbine engines.

The Ukrainian Navy accepted delivery of its first Bayraktar TB2 UCAV system in early July 2021 / Defense Express photo

Further, the Ukraine Minister of Defense Andrii Taran and the Republic of Turkey Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar signed a framework defense cooperation Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Turkey.

Commenting on this development, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the signing of these documents offers new potentialities for further growth and expansion of bilateral cooperation in defense and arms production.

"Defense-industrial cooperation is crucial for the development of our strategic partnership, and I am very happy that today, we have made it even stronger," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, in early July 2021, gave its nod to a bill on ratifying the framework agreement on defense cooperation with Turkey, which is now awaiting adoption by Ukrainian Parliament, the Verkhova Rada. The Agreement identifies 21 areas for defense cooperation between Kyiv and Ankara. These include, but are not limited to military training, arms development and production, the exchange of classified military information, peacekeeping operations, countering piracy, as well as defense-related R&D and production. Ukrainian and Turkish expert communities share a common view that this deal is establishing "a base for cooperation that offers great potentialities for both countries”.

The Istanbul summit meeting held on this April 10 between the Ukrainian and Turkish leaders provided a fresh impetus to the bilateral engagement between the two nations. Following the meeting, the leaders of the two countries declared their commitment to further boosting bilateral cooperation in defense-industrial production and technology development through the implementation of ongoing projects and launching new ones. Among the topics discussed by the two presidents were the launch of local production of Turkish-developed combat-capable UAVs Bayraktar in Ukraine and setting up an industrial partnership for production of Antonov An-188 military transport aircraft.

In 2019-20, Ukrspecexport accomplished in a successful and timely manner a contract to deliver an upgraded and refurbished S-125 SAM system to the Turkish Armed Forces

IDEF-21 Defense Industry Fair is being held from 17th to 20th August at TÜYAP Fair Convention and Congress Center, Istanbul, under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, hosted by Ministry of National Defense, under the management and responsibility of the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation. The exhibition features displays of 1,236 companies, including 536 exhibitors from Turkey. Attendees include 154 official delegations from 79 countries.

Defense Express, an information partner for the IDEF DAILY news bulletin, will provide a coverage of the event generally and Ukrainian exhibitors’ performance specifically.

Read more: Turkey Seeking Deeper Engagement with Ukraine in its ATAK II Gunship Helicopter Project