Ukraine looks to Israeli model for defense industry improvements

"We are trying to be like Israel", says Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's defense minister.

 Tanks of the Ukrainian armed forces are parked on the roadside during a withdrawal near the village of Nyzhnje in Luhansk region, Ukraine, October 5, 2015. (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
Tanks of the Ukrainian armed forces are parked on the roadside during a withdrawal near the village of Nyzhnje in Luhansk region, Ukraine, October 5, 2015.
(photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

Ukraine plans to build up a powerful military and defense industry including an "army of drones," and this week's state takeovers of privately-held stakes in strategic companies are part of that drive, Ukraine's defense minister said.

Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters Ukraine was looking at making NATO-caliber Ukrainian artillery and needed to manufacture drone jamming capabilities and its own air, underwater and land drones, which he called "the future of war on the planet."

Ukraine, he said, was already in the process of making an "army of drones" to resist Russia's invasion, in which Moscow has unleashed waves of Iranian-made "kamikaze" drones to hit vital Ukrainian infrastructure in recent weeks.

"We are trying to be like Israel - more independent during the next years," he said in an interview in the heavily-guarded government district in central Kyiv on November 10.

"I think the best answer (can be seen) in Israel ... developing their national industry for their armed forces. It made them independent."

"I think the best answer (can be seen) in Israel ... developing their national industry for their armed forces. It made them independent. "

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's defense minister
Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends tactical exercises, which are conducted by the Ukrainian National Guard, Armed Forces, in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine February 4, 2022.  (credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov attends tactical exercises, which are conducted by the Ukrainian National Guard, Armed Forces, in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Ukraine February 4, 2022. (credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)

Ukraine has been heavily reliant on advanced Western weapons systems throughout the Russian invasion that began in February, and has used multiple rocket launchers like HIMARS to wreak havoc on Russian supply lines and command posts in the south.

The former Soviet republic of 41 million people that declared independence in 1991 applied for NATO membership this year, but still has an array of Soviet-era artillery weaponry that has a different caliber to the NATO standard.

Moscow, which has accused the West of dangerously "pumping" Ukraine with arms, is certain to be deeply hostile to the plans. But they also signal how the Russian invasion has galvanized Ukraine into radically hardening its security posture.

"We understood that (by) using Soviet weapon systems ... we are not independent. And it is better to have new systems with new ammunition of a NATO standard," Reznikov said.

"We have an idea to also have Ukrainian 155mm systems," Reznikov said, referring to a standard caliber of NATO artillery.

State takeovers

Ukraine said on Monday it had invoked wartime laws to seize control of stakes in top engine-maker Motor Sich, two oil producers Ukrnafta and Ukrtatnafta, truck producer AvtoKrAZ and Zaporizhtransformator, which makes transformers.

The stakes were taken from some of the country's richest men for defense needs, the government said, the first time it had applied martial law in that way.

Ukraine possessed a vast military-industrial sector in the Soviet era but it went into decline amid the economic turmoil of the post-independence 1990s.

Many of the largest producers then lost their biggest customers, Russian defense firms, after relations between Kyiv and Moscow became openly hostile after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In his interview, Reznikov said the takeover of stakes in key strategic companies was part of Kyiv's broader defense push. He suggested creating joint ventures, privatizations or corporatizations.

"We are absolutely open to any suggestions from the partners whom we trust. I think the next stage of this development (there will be) guests from the biggest companies of the world in Ukraine, and they will build new factories in Ukraine."

"We are absolutely open to any suggestions from the partners whom we trust. I think the next stage of this development (there will be) guests from the biggest companies of the world in Ukraine, and they will build new factories in Ukraine."

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's defense minister

He added that Ukraine was already effectively a key part of NATO's defense on the Western alliance's eastern flank and that Ukraine was discussing with foreign partners how to develop systems and joint ventures.

"It doesn't matter when we become a member of the NATO alliance de jure. We have become a NATO partner de facto right now. That's why we need to develop our military industry together," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promoted a national crowdfunding campaign on Friday to raise funds for what he said was the world's first fleet of naval drones.

Russian warships dominate the Black Sea where Moscow's naval fleet operates out of the southern tip of the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.