|June 10, 2011 – Ethiopia has signed a $100 million deal with Ukraine to buy more than 200 tanks. UKRINFORM news agency reports that Ukrspecexport SC signed the deal with the Ethiopian Defense Ministry to supply 200 T-72 tanks.
The upgraded version of T-72, the T-20 tanks are equipped with modern technology. The company claims that the tanks are equipped with upgraded guided weapons, reactive armor system for improved battlefield survival, and modernized propulsion system. This is the eighth largest contract signed by Ukrainian’s state-controlled arms exporter in 15 years since its establishment following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The tanks were originally manufactured in the Soviet Union in the 1970s before its collapse. These tanks were known as Soviet Union’s premier weapons systems and had high demand in the Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations.
The arms exporter expects that one of its biggest deals will have a great social and economic impact in Ukraine and that the contract would be a harbinger of attracting new orders for the country’s defense establishment. It is likely to boost capacity of Ukrainian businesses, increase revenues, and generate jobs. Further, under the deal, Ukrspecexport will be responsible for the repairs and upgrades of the tanks supplied to Ethiopia, which will further boost Ukrainian businesses.
This is the second such military deals Ethiopia has signed in the recent past. Earlier, it signed a contract with Israel for the supply of unmanned aerial vehicles. The deal also includes Israeli manufacturer BlueBird’s help in setting up maintenance facilities for UAVs.
Due to its fragile borders and active neighbors like Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, the need for securing borders becomes intense. Ethiopia often accuses Eritrea of sponsoring violence in the country. Skirmishes and small violence incidents are a common occurrence on the Ethiopia-Eritrean border. Ethiopia and Eritrea were engaged in a border war between 1998 and 2000, which claimed more than 70,000 lives. Since then, Ethiopia has been engaged in securing its borders.
Government critics find fault with the administration’s military deals, saying that expenditure on procuring weapons is not rational for a country dependent on foreign aid and fighting poverty.
Ukraine and Military Supplies
After the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, important military production infrastructure was left in Ukraine. The country continues to supply tanks, aircraft, and other important Soviet military hardware at low cost to other countries. Under deepening economic crisis, the country looks forward to military hardware sales to revive its condition and create employment.
The relations between Ukraine and Russia seem to be getting strained as a result of Ukraine’s further integration into the EU. Ukraine-Russia relations were at the lowest ebb during the earlier Yushchenko regime. Ukraine even went to support Georgia against Russia over South Ossetia. Even Russia stopped supplying gas to Ukraine. However, with the return of Viktor Yanukovych to power, the relations improved. But the people of Ukraine are divided over their ties with Moscow. The industrially developed West Ukraine looks for integration with EU while the agricultural east favors stronger bonds with Russia. Political leaders are also divided on the subject and there is no consensus in the country over its foreign relations. Integration with EU is looked at by political leaders as a more important option to save the country from an impending economic disaster.